Try It, You Might Like It!

Cross-posted to

How many of you can name the ad where “Try it, you might like it'” was used?  I hope I am not alone here with this catchy phrase.

Once again, I am going to discuss how wonderful Khan Academy is. The saying “Try it…” is so appropriate for this amazing class tool.

This nine weeks, I made Khan Academy a requirement in my math classes. (Both the parents and the students had to sign a contract acknowledging that they understood the tasks.)   Both the fourth and fifth graders must spend at least sixty minutes on KA to earn a “B” and 120 minutes to earn an “A” on their report card this grading period.

At first the students were “freaking out” about the amount of time that was required, but as the days went on, they realized that it wasn’t that much.  As a matter of fact, most of them completed the requirement within two weeks and have continued to do much more than the minimum amount.

This has not only been a great exercise helping the students review for the upcoming ITBS test, but it has helped me enormously because I am able to see EACH student’s strength and weakness.  I receive a detailed report on a weekly basis about every student. (In order to do this, the teacher, or parent must sign up as the child’s coach. You can sign up the entire class too.) The report shows the time spent on activities, skills mastered, skills that are being practice, skills that need more practice, and skills where the student is struggling.  Once I review the report, I can make recommendations for every student based on the information. I can even put a due date for my recommendations.

The reports have proved beneficial to me. I have seen that in both of my classes, there are problems with the skills of subtraction with borrowing and multiplying with two or more digits.  Even my “top” students are having trouble with these skills.  So now I know that reteaching is in order before standardized testing.

One other great aspect of KA is that the students are awarded badges for such things as mastering skills, time spent on the site, etc.  The students love this and, best of all,  it goes along with my use of badges for other learning activities.

Please, please, give this wonderful site a try!  You will not believe how it opens your eyes to the needs of all of your students. Most of all, the students love it to the point that several times I have had to tell them to log off KA because we had to do something else.

PS-the videos on KA are great for those of us who have forgotten certain skills in math. The narrator speaks in everyday language so that ALL can understand.

First Badges are Posted!

Cross-posted to Teacher-Twenty-One

Created by Jack H.

This week was a monumental week for my classes, at least it was in my mind!  Both the fourth and the fifth graders made a new page on their blogfolios appropriately titled “My Badge Backpack” . (Karin, our Media Specialist, is also doing reading badges, and she thought that all of the students should title the badge page the same.) Then, the kids proudly inserted their first badge(s) for math.  The fifth graders were awarded a badge for knowing all of the division facts 1-12 and the fourth graders received badges for knowing all of the multiplication and division facts 1-12.  As a side note, all of the fifth graders received a badge; however not all of the fourth graders completed the division facts. I set a date for completion and several still did not master all of the facts.  As I was “giving out” badges the other day in Fourth Grade, the students who did not receive both badges realized that others had more.  It is my hope that those students will show initiative and ask to finish the timed tests.  This will be an interesting observation because these students are not my most motivated.

At the end of March, I will be rewarding badges for the activities that the students have been working on for the last few weeks.  I have ask the students to make digital badges that I can use. (We have been using or Pixie to build the badges.)  This has been a voluntary assignment, but Fourth Grade has been phenomenal!  They have taken it seriously and created some wonderful designs.

Julia D. created this badge using Pixie. (All images on Pixie are able to be used on blogs.)

So far, the use of badges as a reward has been amazing.  Most every student has been working hard on their two activities and the work that has been turned in so far is high quality.  The best thing has been the amount of learning going on this nine weeks.  ALL students are participating and they are being challenged.  The most important thing I have learned is that when doing enrichment activities, I must include ALL of the students, not just the top group.  All students can be challenged to do “just a little more”.

I also want to thank my wonderful Fifth Grade assistant, Michelle.  She has taken it upon herself to create a badge for each activity.  This is no easy task because there are so many activities.  I truly appreciate her helpfulness and perseverance.  I did not ask her to do this, she just did it!

Created by Michelle L. (on

Implementing Badge Activities

Last Friday, I handed out the contracts for math and I allowed the students to browse through the badge activity booklets that I put together.

The contracts were no surprise to them because I had discussed my “new” requirements with them previously.  (I now have requirements for the grades of “A” and “B”.)

I also added in a requirement for time on Khan Academy.  I have blogged about this website in the past.  This is a great site for reinforcement and enrichment activities not only for the 4th and 5th graders but ALL grade levels.  The great thing is that they like going on KA because they earn badges here too which is such a good fit for what I am doing with my own badge activities!

After I handed out the contracts, I let the students look through the notebooks that I had filled with the badge activities.  I was so glad that the students were enthused. They quickly chose their two activities and BEGAN the work without me asking them to do it.

Another thing that I noticed was that for the most part, the more talented math students chose the harder activities.  It has been really interesting to see the students delve into the projects.  They all require some sort of research ranging from costs of things to the finding out information about the tallest buildings in the world.

The only negative that I heard from one parent is that she thought the activities weren’t “grade appropriate”.  I chose activities that span from third through fifth grade and I explained this to her. I also told her that students have the option of “trading in” an activity for another if they find it too difficult.

I feel this is going to be the best way for me to challenge and enrich ALL of my students and have ALL of the students involved, not just a few.

Tutorials for Parents

This week, my fourth graders were studying the skill, order of operations.  I have taught this skill many times in the past, but this year seemed especially challenging, so much so that after Monday’s class, I was ready to “call out sick” for a few days just to recuperate.  I felt like I was in the movie The Blackboard Jungle,  MJGDS version.  (Some of you are too young to remember this classic so take a look at the movie trailer.  If you need a good chuckle, this will provide one.)  I had students crying and yelling that they didn’t understand.  I had students pacing back and forth chanting, “I don’t get it!” over and over again almost like a yoga mantra.  And that was just a few things that went on during that class.

I decided that I needed to do something before the students went home and attempted to complete their homework and a blast of parental emails headed my way, so I made a quick tutorial on the app Showme and sent it to all of the parents and, voila, no complaints that night! (I actually got some thank you emails!)

I went back the next day, refreshed and ready to teach again and had a much better and productive class than the day before (Thank G-d).

The students are still struggling with the skill, but at least I know the parents understand it!

The Value of Tutorials as Assessments

As I searched and pondered for ways to use the iPad and not rely so much on textbooks, I finally gave in to the nudging of my past and present coaches to have the students create tutorials to prove their knowledge of the material that I have taught.  I don’t know why, but I am always very apprehensive to try new things, so I had to make myself do this.

Much to my surprise, I was the only anxious one.  The students didn’t complain or question the assignment at all.  They just did it and the results were amazing.

In Social Studies class, we began with a class discussion.  I asked the students to help me list the different topics that we had studied the first nine weeks.  Then I told them to choose one (or more if they were really motivated) and created a slideshow using Pixie to show their knowledge of the topic(s).  I assigned this as homework and I gave them approximately a week to complete the task.

The day they were due, the students shared their final products.  It was clear to me who had the best grasp of the topics and who lacked some understanding.  As the slideshows were critiqued, not one student was rude or mean to the students who made mistakes.  (Latitude and longitude were one of the skills and, as you can imagine, this confused some of the kids.)  At the end of the presentations the students all clapped and told each other that they had done a good job.

There was no test, but the amount of effort and knowledge of the topics was evident to me.

In Math, I had the students create a tutorial explaining multiplication with large numbers the “Singapore Way”. Once again, it was an eye-opener.  I had the students share their tutorials, but when they introduced the problem, I paused the video and had the class also solve the problem.  This gave them a little more reinforcement with the skill.  Most students did a great job, only one had given the wrong answer in their tutorial, but he immediately, saw his problem. Ironically, he is one of my “top” students. We also discussed what makes a good tutorial. The students who illustrated each step, realized that they had done a great job explaining the process.  The students who only gave the answers to each step realized that they needed to add more next time.

The most amazing thing about the tutorials was that the student’s personalities really shined through.  Two of my most reserved students did a terrific job with their projects.  Not only did they do a great job explaining the process of multiplying, but their sense of humor was very apparent, so much so that after the tutorials were over, the class begged to see them again because they were so enjoyable.

I really think that this is one of the best forms of assessment that I have ever used.  Not only did I SEE what the students know, but I “SAW into each student” which is something that doesn’t happen when I give a multiple choice test!

View tutorials: (and YES I know the word “digit” was misspelled, but the skill of multiplying is there!)




In math this week, we studied the “distributive property” which can be a little confusing to say the least.

In order to reinforce what was taught in class, the students played a game of “Memory”, which is also known a “Concentration”. (This really showed my age because none of the students, including our wonderful teaching assistant had ever heard of this game!)  The point of the game is to match two cards together that are examples of the same number sentence, one being an example of the distributive property. The twist is all of the cards are face down and players can only turn over two cards at a time trying to make a match.  Players have to memorize where the cards are which is a skill in itself.

After the first round of “Memory” the students could make up their own game using the cards.  It was great to see all of the students brainstorming and working so well together to come up with different ideas.


Authentic Assessments

Ok, so Silvia was right (again). Even though she is not physically here, I still hear her words of wisdom in my head, “Creating is a high level of learning and one of the best assessments.”

Yesterday, I wanted the students to practice using Pixie so I had them create a brief tutorial.  The students were asked to write any equation and illustrate how to solve it.  Some of them chose to do a basic multiplication fact. When they had a chance to share their creations, I realized that some of them do not understand the concept of multiplication.  For example, for 5×2 they were illustrating five circles and two circles, not two groups of five circles or vice versa.  I suddenly realized that it is great when my class can “parrot back” their math facts, but if they don’t understand the concept, what good is it? Isn’t that the main goal of Singapore Math, understand the “why”?

If it had not been for the ”creation” level I would have never realized this was a problem.


June 2017
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