Monday, October 27, 2014

Throw Out Those Clickers and Use Plickers!

Are you tired of having to change the batteries in your clickers or having to fork out thousands of dollars for interactive response systems? Are you getting frustrated with hooking up cords to your computer or waiting for students to logon to a personal device for assessment?  Well, let Plickers help make your formative assessment in your classroom a breeze with absolutely no cost to you.

I have been using Plickers in my classroom for about a month now and the students get very excited about bringing out their Plicker cards and "showing what they know".  It is a fantastic way of gathering formative assessment to guide your teaching and student learning.  I encourage you to give Plickers a try.  You and your students will be glad you did!

What are Plickers? 
Plickers is an app that can be downloaded onto an Android or iOS device.  With only one device and some printed cards, teachers can quickly assess or poll their students by asking multiple choice or true/false questions.  The students hold up their cards a certain way (see below) to submit their answers while the teachers stands at the front and scans the class therefore receiving their responses.

Why use Plickers?

  • easy to use and setup
  • completely free (except for printing the cards)
  • excellent formative assessment tool or for polling students
  • students love it! (speaking from experience)
  • inclusive for all - no personal or electronic devices needed for students (only one teacher device)
  • no batteries to replace or expensive equipment to purchase

What do I need for Plickers? 
  • 1 Electronic Wifi device with the Plickers app installed (Android or iOS)
  • 1 Plicker card for each student in your class (Plicker Cards)
  • 1 projecting device for questions (although you could have questions printed or written on the board)
  • registration for a free account on
How do Plickers work?
  1. Create a class on your Plickers account (each student you add gets a Plicker card assigned to them).
  2. Create questions from the "Library" tab on your account and assign these questions to your class plan.  You can have multiple classes and the questions can be assigned to each class.
  3. Print out student Plicker cards, cut them out, and hand to the assigned student.  Each card has a number which corresponds to the student that you added when creating a class.
  4. Log into your computer and your device from the website.  Click on "Live Class" from your computer and choose the question you would like to ask from your device.
  5. The question will be displayed from the projector and the students hold up their card a specific way to show their answer (more on that in the "How do students answer?" section)
  6. The teacher then clicks on the "camera" image on their mobile device and then scans the classroom.  As the teacher scans the classroom, the camera recognizes the student's answers and records them.  The students will also see on the screen that their card has been scanned by having a check mark beside their name.
  7. The teacher can then share the results on the screen with the students in the form of a bar graph.
The following quick video shows how the teacher collects responses. 

How do students use the paper clickers?

The Plicker cards are really simple and easy to use. You can download the Plicker cards here.  Take a look at the Plicker card below.

Tips for Plicker cards
  • Plicker cards can be used for multiple classes.
  • Print the clicker cards on card stock or glue them onto heavy cardboard.
  • If you laminate the cards, use a matte film as it could be difficult for the mobile device to scan the card due to glare.
  • Train your students to hold the cards straight up and down and not diagonal.  They should also be taught not to bend the cards or have their fingers in front of the image as the mobile device will not be able to read it.
  • Paste the card on both sides so the student does not have to look at the front of the card.
  • I put Velcro on the Plicker cards so the students can attach them to the front of their desk and easily find them when needed.
  • Teach your students to ensure that nobody is blocking their card.
Here is what my classroom Plicker cards look like.
Printed on very heavy card stock
Attached with Velcro on front of desk

How do I create classes and add students?

Please watch the very short video tutorial I created showing how you can easily create classes and add students.

How do I add questions?

Below is a quick tutorial showing how to create questions and then assign them to a class or classes.

Give Plickers a try in your classroom and let us know how it went in the comment section below.

Monday, October 20, 2014

5 Great Division One Language Arts Sites

There are many wonderful websites out there to support the Alberta language arts curriculum. Sometimes they are a site that is for one curriculum outcome. For example, Fly By is a great quick game with instant feedback for reviewing contractions.

There are, however, a few sites that have a plethora of great material for the division one language arts teacher. Here are five of my favourites: 
  1. Starfall 
    This is definitely for younger division one students. It is easy for younger students to navigate. It is mostly free (there are premium features). It is also great for English Language Learners.
  2. BookFlix
    This is an often forgotten about online literacy resource available through LearnAlberta (Online Reference Centre). The online books are divided into categories. Then within each categories there are different topics. Each topic has a fictional video storybook paired with a non-fiction eBook. It initially takes some time to teach students how to access the resource but once they learn you will have a harder time getting them off BookFlix.
  3. SpellingCity
    SpellingCity is a mostly free resource (there are premium features). Users can create their own spelling lists for free. Students can then play games and do practice activities based on the words chosen by their teacher. However, there are also many pre-made lists to choose from as well. Read my review for more information.
  4. Read Write Think
    This is a wonderful resource. Unlike the previous three websites, this has resources for a wider variety of grade levels. Their about page says it all: Here at ReadWriteThink, our mission is to provide educators, parents, and afterschool professionals with access to the highest quality practices in reading and language arts instruction by offering the very best in free materials.
  5. RAZKids
    While this is a subscription based service, it is great for the division one classroom and worth the investment. It provides eBooks for students to read/listen to and there is a quiz that goes with each book. It allows the teacher to both assign books and reading levels as well as track students' progress. The books themselves are average in terms of reading material. You will not find any classics here.  
What are your favourite websites for language arts?