Category Archives: Student Response

Take Your Pick with Plickers

Sample screen shot of Plickers app in action
Sample screen shot of Plickers app in action

I love getting informal feedback from my students during lessons, and usually use the Socrative app for this in my classroom.  Socrative is wonderful, and works on practically any device, but it certainly works better if you have more than one device in your classroom.  Obviously, not everyone has this luxury.  So, I was very intrigued when I ran across a post about a student response system that works quite simply with just one piece of electronic equipment required – Plickers.

I read about Plickers on a “Who’s Who and Who’s New” post by Debbie.  She does an awesome job of detailing the use of the app, so please head over to her post if this brief summary piques your interest.

Basically, you set up a free account with Plickers (either online or in the app; the app is Android or iOS), and then set up a class.  You can set up multiple classes if you choose.  Then, you give each of your students in the current class a card with a barcode.  You can print your own from their site, or order a set from Amazon. The barcodes are numbered, so you can be sure that the same student always receives the same one.  If you look carefully at each card, you will see that each side of the barcode has a letter: A, B, C, or D.  When you ask the students a question, they hold the card in front of them with the letter of their choice on top.  Using the app, the teacher scans the room, and the app records the responses on a graph.  The scanning takes seconds, and the teacher can see with a glance who understands the concept or feels a certain way about any multiple choice question.

For a free service, this is a pretty slick little app. It does not have all of the options that you will find in Socrative, but it certainly beats having your students do the old “thumbs up, thumbs down” response to help you get a feel for their understanding of a topic.  And, it requires only one piece of technology. (Unless you want to count the printer used for the bar codes and the laminator you will probably want to utilize if you plan to use these on a regular basis.)

I tried this with my 4th grade class yesterday, and they loved it!  Some of them are already planning to incorporate it into their Genius Hour presentations – along with the Free Game Show Soundboard app that I threw in just to make things even more exciting.

I’m not a big fan of using multiple choice questions frequently, but Plickers doesn’t have to be used just to quiz students on facts.  You can have the students rate their feelings about something or vote quickly with their cards, too.  Plickers are a great, inexpensive way to give students another alternative for showing what they know.

Sample Plickers Card
Sample Plickers Card

When Was the Last Time You Saw a Mountain Lion on YOUR Playground?

image from Alba on
image from Alba on

One of the sessions I attended at TCEA 2014 in Austin last week was called, “Global Collaboration in Elementary.”  It was presented by Matt Gomez (@mattBgomez), and largely featured Twitter interactions his kindergarten students had experienced with other classes around the world.

That’s right – Kindergarten.

I work with gifted students in K-5, and I have to say that it would not have occurred to me to try using Twitter with my Kinders.  But, then again, I didn’t see a use for Twitter for myself until about nine months ago.

Matt did an outstanding presentation on the value of social media tools like Twitter for students.  (Here is the link to his presentation handout.) By using a private account, and choosing other like-minded educators to follow and be followed on Twitter, Matt connects his students to children in very diverse regions.  Through regular Tweets, the students have learned about their differences and similarities.  For example, one thing that many schools have in common is recess.  And, sometimes children may suffer the crushing disappointment of being forced to endure indoor recess.  But indoor recess in Texas is generally not the result of a mountain lion being loose on the playground, as a class in Montana tweeted to Matt’s students.  Surprising tweets like these have generated interesting conversations.  The experience has promoted tolerance, geographic awareness, and research skills.

Another unexpected side-effect of the Twitter project, as Matt explained, was the development of empathy in the students.  They care about their “Twitter friends”, and are more aware of global events and their effects.  Matt’s school is in Dallas, and they received Tweets from their partners inquiring about their safety, recently, when Dallas was reported to have several tornadoes.

Matt’s class has also connected with experts through Twitter, such as astronaut Chris Hadfield and local weather reporters.  These experiences have also given the students some inside knowledge about careers that they probably would not find in library books.

The nice thing about Twitter is being able to view a stream of responses, as opposed to using e-mail or other written communication.  Also, it does not have to be “real-time”, as Skype or other types of video chats need to be.  You can set aside a time each day to check out the stream as a class and discuss the comments and questions the students may have.  It’s also a good way to summarize your day before the school day ends.

As a result of Matt’s session, I’ve decided that I definitely would like to try this with my first grade class.  In this class, my students are researching different countries, and I would love to have them connect with classes around the world.  If you are a classroom teacher reading this, are interested in joining our classes on Twitter, and live outside of the USA, please contact me at or @terrieichholz on Twitter to see if we can connect!

UPDATE:  Here is a link from Drew Frank (@ugafrank) with over 270 classes who are active on Twitter and interested in connecting.  You can also fill out the form on this page to add your class to the list!

UPDATE 2:  Here is another link from Kathy Cassidy (via @MattBGomez) of Primary classes that tweet.  For more Twitter resources, check out her page here.

Use Socrative as a Back Channel for Genius Hour

A few years ago, I was introduced to the concept of the “Back Channel” during a technology conference.  For those of you who have not used this before, it’s basically an online account where audiences can post questions and comments during a presentation instead of interrupting the speaker.  Every once in awhile, the speaker can refer to the back channel, and speak to the points brought up by the audience.

Today’s Meet is a common web application used for this purpose.  When I tried it a few years ago, it was blocked by my district.  There are others (some people use Twitter, Edmodo, or Google Drive)  that I’ve tried since then, but I gave up for awhile, frustrated with technical issues I kept encountering.  Plus, I don’t really lecture a lot, so it seemed unnecessary.

We had a parent visit my 5th grade GT class the other day to present Google Glass.  He had come to the 4th grade class a few weeks before, and the students seemed to have a hard time giving him a chance to speak.  So, I thought about trying the “Back Channel” concept one more time.

This time, I decided to use Socrative.  Socrative has been a free student response tool that I’ve used for several years, and it never lets me down.  There are apps available for the teacher and student, but you can also use the web-based version.  I generally use Socrative for exit tickets or quick quizzes ( the students absolutely LOVE the Space Race option!).  But there is also a Single Question, Short Answer option that I decided to try out as a Back Channel.

Before the Google Glass presentation, I explained to the students that we would be using Socrative for their questions and comments, and that we would periodically pause to hear our guest’s responses.

I loved how this worked.  With a few scheduled pauses, we could glance at the list of questions, and see which ones had already been answered, which ones were common or unique, and address any misconceptions.  The only thing I didn’t like was that one student got silly with her comments (and subsequently got her iPad taken away).

I’m planning to start using this for Genius Hour presentations.  It seems counterintuitive to have the kids typing while someone is speaking, but it actually appears to keep them more engaged, as most of them are genuinely interested in coming up with good questions and comments.  It’s also nice that Socrative allows you to download or e-mail yourself a record of the responses.  Copies could be given to the presenters to help them with a reflection about their project.

Socrative has a new 2.0 beta version, which is much more visually appealing here.  (I used it when it first came out, but there were a couple of glitches.  They have probably been resolved since then, but I haven’t had a chance to test it out recently.

If you plan to try Socrative for the first time, here are a few “housekeeping” tips:

  • Sign up for an account here.
  • Either download the student app or add a desktop shortcut to the web app on each student device.
  • Show the students how to access the student page, and to input the room number.  Younger students may need help figuring out how to get to the numbers on the keyboard!
  • Have your students enter just first names or initials when prompted.
  • If you are doing a Single Question, Short Answer activity for a Back Channel, be sure to choose unlimited Student Responses, and request their names (this provides accountability).
  • Make sure students log out when the activity is finished, so students who use the device the next time don’t get confused.

Of course, not every classroom has one to one devices.  You can have them pair up, pass a device around at tables, or have recorders who type in questions or comments that students have written down.  (This way, all questions/comments can be in the same document, instead of various pieces of paper.)  If you are really low on tech, Jared Stevenson (@eduk8r_Jared) mentioned during the #txed Twitter chat last night that he once saw a teacher who used a special spot in the room for students to post their questions.

The point, as always, is to give students a meaningful voice.  Socrative is just one way to do this that I’ve found to be very efficient and to enhance our learning.

Genius Hour – Don’t Forget to Reflect


Update:  *As of 1/2/14, you can now download all of my current Genius Hour resources in a bundle on Teachers Pay Teachers for $5.  Or, you can still download them separately (for free) by clicking on the Genius Hour Resource Page

While discussing Genius Hour with some colleagues last week, we all agreed on the value of reflection at the end of each Genius Hour period.  It is vital to guide the students through an evaluation of their work during that time, and to discuss any obstacles  or room for improvement.  It is also important to make goals for the next Genius Hour.

This can get tedious if you don’t “mix it up.”  I offered a Genius Hour reflection page that I plan to incorporate this year, called, “Genius Hour Mission Log,” in my recent post, “Blast off to Genius Hour.”  But, I would not recommend that you use the entire page after every session – otherwise your mission may have a mutiny.

My colleagues and I brainstormed some other ways to do the reflection piece – and these, of course, could be used for many other activities besides Genius Hour.  Some are:

  • Choose One – The students choose one (or a combination of a few) of the statements for response.
  • Turn and Talk (also known as “Think, Pair, Share”)
  • Socrative – Use Socrative, Padlet (formerly Wallwisher), or another student response system as an Exit Ticket.
  • Twitter – Have students compose a tweet (whether real or “faux”) about Genius Hour.
  • Blog Post – The class, or select students, could compose a short blog post about progress made during the hour.

I did some more thinking about it,  and thought of some other possibilities:

  • E-portfolio – If you are using eduClip or Blendspace (formerly known as Edcanvas), then you can have the students select something to represent their work to put in their portfolios.
  • Photo Discussion – If you are taking pics during Genius Hour, then you could go through a slide show of the pics afterward (or Instagram account), and ask the students in each pic if they can talk about what was happening at that time.
  • Mind Map/Sketch – Have students do a mind map or sketch that shows their activity/learning during Genius Hour time.
  • Do a “4 Corners” activity – Ask students to go to different corners in the room that represent their learning, difficulty, engagement, or surprises encountered on a scale of 1-4.  Have them briefly discuss in their corners.

And don’t forget to model.  No, you don’t have to walk down a runway with your fancy clothes on 🙂  – unless you want to.  But, make sure you also give students examples of yourself doing a reflection – perhaps on some learning that you are doing outside of school.  Maybe you’ve been teaching yourself how to refinish a chair, or how to use Google Drive.  Let them hear you talk about problems you encountered or things you realized you could improve.  If you have a group like mine, then it runs the gamut from students who think their work is always perfect to students who think their work is never good enough.  Hearing you do your own, well-balanced reflection can help the kids on those extreme ends to learn what it’s all about.

If you really want to blow their minds, then try reflecting on their reflections some time.  You know, with all of that extra time you have during the school day…



Questimate is a free mathematics app available for the iPad on iTunes.  The free version only allows you to reach a certain point, offering in-app purchases that allow you to purchase more “quests.”  There is also a Pro version that is $7.99 on the app store, but $3.99 for educators.  If you visit this page, you can get information for requesting a sample of the Pro version.

I first saw Questimate on the Technology Tidbits blog, and downloaded it immediately so I could try it later.  I do this a lot – and then I forget that I downloaded the app.  Then my daughter, who gets all of the apps I download on my personal device on her device as well, will say, “Hey, mom, what’s this app for?”  And then I (instead of admitting I have no idea) use my best teacher voice to say, “Well, why don’t you try it to see what happens?”  It doesn’t take very long for her to tell me if the app is a waste of time.

That didn’t happen with Questimate.  I started playing it by myself, and after I cheered a couple of times when I got something right, my husband drifted over to see what was going on.  Then my daughter entered the room, and pretty soon we were all giving input.  That’s when I decided that I definitely needed to feature Questimate for Fun Friday this week!

Questimate allows you to design your own estimation questions using their supplied options.  I’ve loaded a sequence of pictures below in a slideshow to show you the process for one question.  Once you create a question, you are given a screen for making your guess.  In this example, you use the number-line to choose.  Some of the other questions have you type in a number or actually resize pictures to show the general comparison between two objects.

You have 3 lives in a quest, and your estimate has to be within a certain target range of the correct answer in order to not “lose a life.”  You can earn points that can be used for various helpful hints during the game.

Questimate is fun, offers choice, and is educational.  It can be played in “Solo”, “Pass & Play”, and “Game Center”  versions.  Variations to choose from, even the Free version of the game should keep you engaged for quite a long time.

Questimate would be great as a center activity or as a fun game to project for the whole class.  It’s pretty good for family entertainment, too!

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Quotes with QR Codes

QR Code Poster from Tony Vincent's "Learning in Hand" blog
QR Code Poster from Tony Vincent’s “Learning in Hand” blog

I absolutely love this idea from Tony Vincent’s “Learning in Hand” blog.  He has taken a series of quotes, and used QR quotes to cover up parts of the quotes.  If you go to this link, you can see 20 examples.  He also offers a link to a video explaining QR codes.  Tony hangs up the posters for people to take a look at during breaks at workshops, but I could certainly see bringing this idea to the classroom, as well.  What I might do is have my students use Socrative to input their own guesses as to what words would complete the quote, then let them scan the code to see if the general idea is the same.  Here is a link to my Pinterest board that is chock full of inspirational quotations.

Socrative (Reblog)

For the summer, I have decided to use my Tuesday and Thursday posts to reblog some of my favorite posts that some of my readers may have missed the first time around.

Socrative is a student response system that pretty allows you to use any device with internet access, instead of having to purchase expensive separate hand-helds.  Once registered (and it is free), the teacher can create quizzes, exercises, and quick exit tickets.  It could be used in “real time” by students who each have an iPod Touch/iPad or laptop, teams of students who share an internet enabled device, or even by students at home or rotating through one computer in a classroom center.  I used this on a regular basis with my students last year, and they loved it.  I appreciated getting instant feedback on what they knew or how they felt about a topic.  They enjoyed making it into a game with the “Space Race” feature that showed their team rockets moving forward on our classroom screen as they answered questions correctly.  The teacher can have a spreadsheet with the results sent by an e-mail when the quizzes are completed, and graphs can be viewed by the entire class of the results.  Many of these things can be done using Google Forms, but Socrative makes it easier and more fun for the students.

UPDATE:  Socrative can be used as a web-based program, but now also has an app for  Android and iDevices available (also for free).