Simplify Grading with GradeCam

Grading is one of my least favorite tasks as a teacher. If done correctly it can take hours to grade, item analysis, be reflective on the assessment, and if needed, reteach the material. Assessment this past year was a breeze because of GradeCam. This new form of grading will REVOLUTIONIZE the classroom and help teachers focus more time on their students and less time on grading!

GradeCam is a WONDERFUL program that saves valuable time for teachers and district resources when grading tests, projects, and essays. Students use specially designed GradeCam forms that can be printed from any copy machine. No more ordering expensive scantron forms! When grading all you have to do is display the answer sheet in front of a webcam, document camera, or scanner. The data is uploaded, automatically graded, and can easily be imported into your grade book. No more waiting in long lines at the scantron machine or hearing those painful beeps as your students get answers wrong.

GradeCam was developed by teachers, with the idea to minimize grading time, easily managing student performance/assessment, offering students instant feedback, and correlating to state/national standards. Students and teachers can get instant reports to monitor student progress such as item or class analysis. It is affordable, easy-to-use, and after it corrects every assignment, the results are put into your grade book. GradeCam blows the old-school Scantron out of the water!

 

Ways you can use GradeCam in the classroom:

  • This past spring I had my students scan their own tests. They enjoyed the instant feedback during the same class period! I had them go back and look at their incorrect answers. One of my students said, “GradeCam makes grading much easier for the teacher and we get our results quickly.” Another student said, “I liked it because it showed you what you got right away so I know how my grade will be affected as soon as I’m done with the test.”
  • You can easily transfer scores from GradeCam to your electronic grade book.
  • You can even generate standards-based reports in order to monitor student progress.
  • You can share assessments with other teachers/administrators and generate item-analysis results by question, student, or class.
  • You can use GradeCam with essays, classroom assignments, homework, behavior analysis, etc. Just attach a GradeCam form to any assignment and then enjoy free time without added  stress of grading.

 

Check it out today! It will change the way you monitor student assessment.

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Evernote as a Portfolio: Promotes Lifelong Learning!

Thanks to Justin Stallings, my blog has featured a bunch Evernote blog posts (see the previous posts listed below). Evernote is by  FAR one of the best tools I use on a daily basis in my classroom: from lesson plans, to file sharing, to assignments, to bookmarking…. the ideas are endless. After co-hosting #sschat a follower asked me to explain how I had my students create digital portfolios using Evernote.

Why a portfolio? 

A portfolio is really useful way to store projects, writing samples, and student-centered learning. It can be used by students, parents, and teachers to document progress and learning in the classroom. Portfolios allow students to reflect, share, and document their own learning. This summer I planned a really awesome senior project where my students took a problem with the government, researched it, conducted their own research, and presented a solution. The cumulative project was a portfolio documenting their progress: including a research paper and a documentary film about their topic.  You can view the project here. This summer I transitioned from the idea of doing a paper portfolio to a digital one using Evernote as the primarily system for creating portfolios in my classroom.

 

Why Evernote?

As I was researching options to create digital portfolios Evernote naturally came to mind due to its ability to sync with any device,  as well as be accessed from any internet browser. The Evernote app allows students to easily capture and document their portfolios from any device including iPods, iPads, or their mobile device.  Evernote is free, has an app for every device, and is easy to use. Check out Evernote.

 

How do you use Evernote as a digital portfolio?

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Evernote as a Lifelong Learning Tool

One of the best features of using Evernote is that it allows students to take their portfolios and share them with the world! Evernote allows the student to be in control of their own learning in terms of sharing, documentation, and ultimately reflection. Instead of digging out files from a basement, my students will be able to digitally carry their milestones and accomplishments with them. They can watch as they progress into lifelong learners and the ownership placed on the student. It is a very valuable process to observe and as a teacher it is so rewarding to see your students be excited about their learning. 

 

Previous Evernote Blog Posts

Please see Justin’s posts in the Evernote for the Social Studies Series:

Part 1: Evernote for the Social Studies: What is Evernote

Part 2: Evernote for the Social Studies: Evernote in the History Class

Part 3: Evernote for the Social Studies: Evernote and Skitch

Part 4: Evernote for the Social Studies: Lesson Planning with Evernote

Part 5: Evernote for the Social Studies: Evernote and Study Blue

Evernote for Educators Livebinder

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The Top Ten Ways I Structure my AP Government Course

I recently had someone ask me how I setup my AP Government classroom. I figured I would write a post about it since it was just easier to explain. This is going to be my 7th year of teaching (wow how fast time flies) and my 5th year teaching AP Government and Politics. I finally feel comfortable with the content and preparation after my 4th year.

 

Warning: I make money off of this idea. 

 

The Top Ten Ways I Structure my AP Government and Politics Course

1. AP Government 1 Page Chapter Summaries: Last year I gave each chapter review page during the structure AP Government review time. This year I am giving these chapter summaries before every test and collecting them and placing them into a student file folder. At the end of April I will be giving the folders back to my students and they will already have the review sheets completed. The 11 chapter summaries are one page handouts that are very simple and graphically appealing, which include the most essencial information in EVERY chapter in AP Government. This would be a great supplement to do for AP review or to include as you learn each unit to make a study guide for the AP exam in May.

 

2. Free Response Essay Packet:  This is a 12 page document of all the AP Government and Politics Free Response Questions (FRQ’s) from the past 14 years. The document contains all FRQ’s from 1999-2013. FRQ’s are subdivided in unit and historical order. This is a VERY useful tool to have for an AP Government student. I plan on reviewing previous FRQ’s with my students before each unit test and during the structured AP review time.

 

3. How to Write a Free Response Essay Handout:  This is a handout on how to write a Free Response Essay on the AP Government exam. It has helpful tips and suggestions to write the essay.

 

4. AP Government Vocabulary List: This is a list of over 300 vocabulary words that are essential when learning AP Government and Politics. The vocabulary words are organized by unit (9 units total). The vocabulary words and definition are organized in alphabetical order. I give this packet out at the beginning of the year to help my students study and learn the material. We also play bingo before every unit test. My students fill in the words for the chapter to the blank bingo card and I read the definitions from the vocabulary list.

 

5. Socratic Seminar Handout: This is a handout to encourage students to have rules and expectations with socratic seminars. This handout is very useful when introducing the socratic seminar as a form of discussion in any class. I usually assign a controversial article related to AP Government and students must generate three socratic style questions for homework. My students then come to class ready to discuss the article through the socratic method.

 

6. Government Chapter Reading Questions: This is a list of 3-5 essential critical reading questions for each unit of government. This handout can be modified for any book or government course since the content is the same. I usually give this handout out at the beginning of the year and have my students read the chapter and respond to the questions in an extended response format.

 

7. Student Self-Evaluation for Classroom Participation: This is a student self-evaluation on their own level of classroom participation. I joke with my student’s that I have the final VETO say in their grade for participate but I do let them self-reflect and evaluate their own behavior.

 

8. Debate Assignment:  This is a debate assignment for six separate government debates. The debate structure, rubric, audience rubric, audience evaluation guide, and guidelines are included. My class does these debates in two teams of two for each topic. The rest of the class is the audience. These debates were specifically planned for one debate for each unit.

Debate topics:

1. Voting should be compulsory in our democracy
2. The American two-party system is so strong that voting for third party candidates cannot effectively influence public policy.
3. There should be term limits for members of Congress.
4. Direct popular vote should replace the Electoral College.
5. Americans would be safer without a constitutional right to carry a weapon.
6. Affirmative action programs are necessary to safeguard the opportunities of underrepresented minorities.

 

9. Participation in Government: Ever wish your students were more involved in politics in the community. This assignment requires them to attend one political event out of a list of events in the community. They also need to write a paper response with a series of question prompts. There is a grading rubric provided as well as sample community event options to participate with.

 

10. Current Event Blog Post:  This is the detailed assignment, rubric, and schedule for the current event blog post assignment. Students are assigned one week each marking period to write one current event blog post and give an in class presentation. Students must include a summary, analysis, visual, and MLA citation, and connection to the course.

 

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5 Ways for Teachers to Make Learning More Interactive

One of the biggest challenges that many teachers face is trying to get students to participate, and it’s a problem that seems to grow as students get older and become more concerned about the judgment of their peers. Of course, there will always be a select few students that raise their hands for every question and delight in answering correctly. But the goal within any classroom setting is to ensure that all of the kids are engaged and that each one is receiving a solid Attentive-Classeducation. This is no easy feat these days, especially with limited resources and growing class sizes. But when teachers can find ways to make lessons interactive, then students have no choice but to play their role, enhancing the educational experience not only for themselves, but for the entire class. So here are just a few ideas that should help to get every student involved in the learning process.

  1. Cut back on lectures. Whenever you lecture a class full of students and allow them to sit by passively, taking notes, you are doing them a disservice. Although there are certainly occasions where you have to deliver a passel of data, consider how much of what you’re telling them may be garnered from reading or online research that you could give as homework. This should help you to temper your rote data dumps in the classroom setting and instead focus on interactive lessons designed to see if the kids are actually doing their reading assignments. Only by talking with them, instead of at them, can you figure out what they’re actually taking in.
  2. Test understanding rather than memorization. Nearly every child can memorize and regurgitate facts on command. This is the basic tenet of standardized testing. But as an involved educator you want to make sure that the kids in your classroom are learning not only how to absorb information, but how to put it to good use. In other words, you’re training them to think for themselves. So when you quiz your students in class, try to come up with questions that force them to think about what they have learned, approach it from different angles, and come up with a unique response. The brain is a muscle and we have to use it in order to make it strong.
  3. Put students in groups. If you question students one at a time you’re forcing the rest of the class to remain idle in the meantime. By creating small groups you can pose questions or problems for the entire class and allow the groups to discuss and answer them as a unit. This not only allows each student to interact with every question, but it also lets the students learn from and teach each other, potentially helping to solidify their own understanding of the materials covered.
  4. Electronic response system. Technology has allowed for a slew of new ways to make the classroom interactive, and one method that many teachers favor is the electronic response system. It’s a quick way to take a “vote” from the class and see how students are stacking up. For example, you can ask a question, offer three possible responses, and immediately see the percentage of students who got it right, helping you to determine where you should focus your teaching efforts. You might also use this gadget as a way to engineer lively debates on topics covered in class by taking polls of student opinions on a subject.
  5. Unorthodox seating. The way a classroom is laid out can definitely have an impact on the level of interactivity. For example, in a class that requires a lot of discussion, you might consider forming the desks into a large circle so that all of the students can see whoever is speaking. This face-to-face configuration encourages interaction and turns a discussion between teacher and students into an interactive experience that includes the entire class. Of course, there are certain settings where this strategy won’t work, like in a lecture hall with immovable seating or a program for a master of science in accounting online. But the creative teacher can find ways to make any setting more interactive.

 

Guest Post: Leon Harris is a freelance writer and editor based in sunny Southern California. In his spare time, Harris enjoys living a healthy lifestyle and exercising with his two Golden Retrievers. 

 

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U.S History and AP Government Review

I started putting together my United States History review packets and thought I would share the process in which I review for a major state exam. I designed my review packets with a simple idea that my students do NOT need 400 vocabulary words or 25 pages of a review packet to study for a major assessment.  If it comes down to review let’s stress the down and dirty simple terms, concepts, and big ideas of each unit.

 

Review Handouts on Teacher’s Pay Teacher’s 

Here are my Review Handouts on EACH chapter of AP Government

Here are my Review Handouts and Multiple Choice Practice Questions for Regent’s US History—–>    # 1      # 2     # 3        # 4

Here are my Cartoon Review Handouts with a Short Answer Question and a Multiple Choice Question

 

Review Guides and Multiple Choice 

The review guides listed above are simple, visually appealing, and will be easy to review before a major exam. I also do extensive multiple choice review with both my Regent’s United States History course and my AP Government course. I go beyond the simple and straight forward multiple choice answer—> I have my students write one detail next to every multiple choice question that they know or researched beyond the question or answers. They then come to class ready to share their “detail or fact.” In essence they are creating an alternative study guide sharing facts and information beyond the simple multiple choice question.

 

Review Games

I also like to mix up review sessions with “game day” or “Fun Friday’s.” I play a variety of games from digital games such as Infuse Learning, Socrative, and Password; to old school games such as reviewing questions and drawing on a white board. I also have “Thematic Thursday’s” where we focus on thematic essay topics comparing  two topics in one essay.

 

These are just a few of the ways I review for major state exams. I hope you enjoyed reading and contribute to my blog post prompt.

How do you review for a major exam or state assessment with your students? 

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