Tag Archives: common core standards

Have you Heard about Plickers?

8th April 2015


A great friend of mine recently told me about a new whole-class polling and grading system called Plickers. At first, it sounded complex; however, it actually user friendly and the students were pretty amazed by it.

With the new AzMerit exam that is rolling out this year in Arizona, I felt the need to try and prepare my students as best as possible (even though we all really don’t know how this new test is going to go or what it is going to end up counting for as this changes on the daily). We accessed the practice test online and a colleague typed it up in a Word document for all of us to be able to copy (shout out to Erika).

I made a class set of the practice exam and had my students work in groups to read the test and talk through what they thought were the answers. They put their answers down on a group answer document and turned it it when they were finished. It was awesome to hear them really discuss the answer options and finally end up on a consensus of which one they thought was correct. It took the entire hour and I thought this helped not only the students feel more comfortable with this newly formatted test but also, gave them the confidence they needed that they can do this test and that it really isn’t that bad.

The next day, I had my students pick up their ungraded answer documents from the back table. They were a bit perplexed and asked why I didn’t grade them. I told them that I was trying out a new grading system today (i.e. Plickers) because I wanted to see the class averages on each question and be able to see which questions the they all missed and be able to help talk to them through those questions so they know why their answers were incorrect. I told them for every question they missed as a group, they needed to do test corrections (basically take notes as I talked through the right and wrong answers).

Then, they sat at their table to find the class set of the tests with the questions (for reference) and these beauties below ready for them and were even more confused. It was great. Sometimes I just like to surprise them as it keeps the classroom environment “fresh”.



Basically, you print and then cut one of the above scanner codes for each table (or each student, yes they have up to 40 different version on their website so next year I am so doing this for every kid). Depending on what the student answered, they turn the scanner code a certain way (A, B, C, D) as noted on all four sides of the scanner code. You need to download the Plickers App on  your phone before class.

I opened the app, chose the question (that you need to make ahead of time through the website) and asked the groups to hold up their answer using the scanner code. Then I just used my phone (the app) to scan the codes across the room (not having to move from the front of the room at all) and TADA, a beautiful bar graph displayed on my screen in REAL TIME as I scanned to show me the data and data is what I needed! Check it out – – –


The students loved seeing their answers register as I scanned the room and also loved when I revealed the correct answer when they were split between two different answers. It was really fun and I was able to get a gauge on the class’ progress. I am happy to report that the lowest class average was an 82% and the highest was a 92%. They were all feeling pretty good about themselves but they were also able to really ask me questions about the questions and answers and I was able to help them through it.

I am already thinking about ways to use this awesome app/system with coming assignments or even warm-up practice questions, grammar review, ACT prep…the list goes on.

XO. Brit


The Weirdo, Jerk, and Good Friend

15th January 2015

One of the main pushes with Arizona College and Career Readiness Standards is for students to be able to synthesize sources as evidence to back up their own argumentative claim. This concept is difficult for students to understand as they haven’t really had to use sources in this way before. In the past, my students would research their own source evidence about a topic they chose or I chose for them and would write an explanatory paper about it. Synthesis takes sources from a variety of perspectives on a certain topic and provides those to the students. The student must then “join the conversation” of the sources, come up with their own original stance on the topic (cannot be the same claim that the sources have already said), and the use the sources to back up or support their original claim. Synthesis is more argumentative than the research paper a sophomore in high school typically engages in (not to say research papers cannot be argumentative).

wierdo To make the process of synthesis make sense to my students, I use the analogy of a conversation happening at a lunch table. I tell my students to pretend they are at lunch with their friends and they are all talking about cheese. One friend likes Cheddar, the other Swiss, a third maybe Parmesan and all of a sudden their friend walks up and sits down at the table and decides to start recording them with their phone (doesn’t contribute just records the cheese conversation) and when asked what their opinion is, they just smile and play back the recording of their peer’s conversation. I ask the students how they feel about this, and they all say things like “awkward” or “weird” and I say EXACTLY! You don’t want to be “the weirdo.” In your synthesis essay, you don’t want to be the student who just restates what the sources have already said because then you are not original, you are just “the weirdo”.

images Then, I have them imagine the same scenario above but instead, replace the weirdo with a friend that sits down and interrupts the cheese conversation, is abrasive, and just switches the topic of conversation with something that is slightly related to cheese but really is about condiments on a sandwich. The students usually laugh at this, but when I ask them how they would feel about it they say “that kid is rude” and I said, YEP! You don’t want to be “the jerk.” In your synthesis essay, you don’t want to completely disregard or misuse the sources as they may lead you away from the prompt, your claim must be original but must be on topic, otherwise you are “the jerk.”

good friend Finally, I say to them now, what does a “good” friend look like in comparison to “the weirdo” or “the jerk?” I let them discuss at their tables for a moment and then solicit responses. Usually one table comes to the right conclusion: You want to be the “good friend” that sits down, listens to the conversation, and then adds in your own opinion taking the other opinions into consideration and using them to support why really, Gouda is the best. This is what you do with synthesis. If every source in your packet is a friend talking at the lunch table, what parts of that conversation best support your position on that same topic of conversation?

Once my students understand their role in the synthesis conversation, writing their paper gets a little easier. I hope that this helps you in explaining synthesis to your students.

XO. Brit