How to use alternative assessments in the classroom

Did you know that a 5th grade teacher is expected to guide students to mastery of 200 standards each year? Given a typical school year of 180 days, that’s 1.1 standards a day! Of course, standards don’t exactly work like that. You can certainly teach more than one standard a day, but that doesn’t give you time to explore them, unpack them, and revisit them, which is where learning and mastery actually happen. That’s a lot of content to cover, and not much time to do it in.

But this is only the beginning. Not all standards can be treated equally. Some have limited application and require lower levels of critical thinking; others are foundational to future learning and broadly applicable. So, how do we even begin to tackle this mess? How can teachers determine their power standards and assess student mastery in a way that’s both fun and effective?

One way to begin is by utilizing a scoring system to single out the standards that align to the chief priorities in your classroom. Consider implementing the following categories and grading them on a scale of 1–5: …Read More

How plagiarism makes the literacy gap worse

Plagiarism is becoming ubiquitous in academia as an increase in AI-powered writing tools become more advanced and available to students. As a result, educators are faced with preventing, identifying, and stopping plagiarism even as plagiarism becomes increasingly harder to detect.

But why should educators even continue to tackle plagiarism? What are the documented and potentially long-lasting impacts of students plagiarizing their work?

According to a recent study, there was a marked increase globally in paraphrasing and text replacement during the pandemic in 2020 compared to 2019. The average similarity score, which is the score that comes from detecting what content was paraphrased versus what is original, increased from 35.1 percent to 49.6 percent. This is especially troubling considering the already negative effects the pandemic had on education. The National Assessment of Educational Progress reported that the pandemic erased over two decades of progress with drops in both mathematics and reading scores for students at record highs. …Read More

The path to success is paved with durable skills

Workforce needs are ever-changing, and in order to keep pace, today’s students should develop–as early as possible–the durable skills necessary for technological and interpersonal success.

Durable skills include skills like critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, along with leadership, mindfulness, the ability to fail, and a growth mindset. And it doesn’t matter which career path a student takes–durable skills will be necessary for success on that path.

In a report, America Succeeds partnered with Lightcast to look at 82 million job postings from 2019 and 2020 and identify how large the demand is for job applicants with these skills.…Read More

Learn to use books to foster critical thinking

While I’m a far cry from a Newbery, once a year, I’ve gotten into the habit of writing a picture book for my nephew Knox. My goal is to keep the eight-year-old excited about reading, because what little boy doesn’t want to read a book about himself?

For the purposes of this article about using picture books in instruction, I invite you to listen as I read aloud to you The Great PunkaKnox.

When I was in school, my teacher would have read the book out loud and asked us questions to test our comprehension, such as:…Read More

Using VR to radically improve learning outcomes

“When will I ever use this?”

Math students have been asking educators this very question for decades. And yet, it has long been reported by Brookings (Loveless, 2008) and others like the Algebra Project (Moses, 2001) that Algebra I is the gatekeeper to higher level math classes, higher education success, and careers in the technical fields. It is a commonly-held belief that algebraic concepts are directly related to critical thinking skills. So, what is the disconnect?

We have hovered our proverbial mouse over the 21st century now for two decades. Yet, our education system and structure had shown little to no trace of modernization. Bells rang, people moved. An agrarian calendar is used to let our students “off” for the summer to help with…wait, for what? …Read More

4 ideas to infuse critical thinking in ELA and social studies

Every teacher knows the importance of critical thinking in education. Strong critical thinkers make better decisions, are more informed, have more career opportunities, and are generally better equipped to navigate the challenges of everyday life.

In the classroom, critical thinking is essential to the growth and betterment of our students. It’s not enough for them to simply memorize that 6 times 6 equals 36; they also need to know the underlying principle behind the equation. And, when put into practice, it can unleash student potential in ways we’ve never dreamed.

Just consider Ann Makosinski (16), a student who created a flashlight that is powered by her own thermal energy. Kelvin Doe (13), of Sierra Leone, built a radio transmitter and generator for his village out of spare parts. Another student, Gitanjali Rao (12), was inspired by the crisis in Flint, Michigan, to build a way to send water-quality information via Bluetooth. …Read More

5 easy tools that support project-based learning

Educators know project-based learning (PBL) isn’t simply another teaching strategy. Project-based learning gives students deeper learning experiences, and as they apply their knowledge, they develop soft skills such as critical thinking and team work–skills they’ll carry through to college and the workforce.

But it’s often a great undertaking to locate and vet resources and tools for project-based learning, and educators don’t have an abundance of time.

Below, we’ve gathered a handful of “add-on” tools for project-based learning. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but we hope these resources help as you search for PBL examples and strategies.…Read More

Are your students ready for their next step?

After more than a year of virtual learning, many educators and parents are investigating approaches to accelerate learning to ensure students are ready for their next step.  Learning does not just mean facts and content but includes a broad range of skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, and effective written communication, as well as social and emotional well-being.  

While content knowledge is a requisite part of a student’s education, on its own it is insufficient if a student is to thrive academically and professionally. Students’ critical thinking, problem solving, and written communication skills are essential for success in college and career. These are the skills in high demand by employers and higher education institutions.

Prior to the pandemic, CAE’s data show that 60 percent of students entering college are not proficient in these essential skills. Furthermore, 44 percent are still not proficient when they graduate. These are the students most at risk–and proficiency is likely even lower now, given the impact of the pandemic. CAE’s data also shows that students who are more proficient with these essential skills are more likely to have positive college and career outcomes.…Read More

Students will crush goals with the multi-grade level student planner, The Navigator!

School Mate® is proud to introduce our new, multi-level student planner—the Navigator. It’s the ultimate combination of functionality and value that will optimize students’ success. The Navigator is a full-color planner packed with STEAM powered resource pages to propel critical thinking of 5th – 12th grade students.

  • Four preprinted core subjects and four blank subjects within the weekly grid provides abundant space to list daily tasks, assignments, and projects.
  • Bonus features include sections for weekly goals, notes, hall passes, and reading logs as well as motivational quotes and study tips.
  • The notebook-sized student planner also includes month at-a-glance calendars to help students stay on track throughout the school year.

Take the Navigator to the next level by customizing the front and back covers, handbook pages, and teacher editions. If you will be holding summer school in 2021, be sure to include year-round supplements bound in the front of your planner.

The Navigator is a powerhouse guide for students to crush goals, stay organized, and to manage productivity. Planners provide accessibility of schedules and accountability of goals and commitments without the distractions that come with digital devices. Studies show writing things down engages cognitive processing which develops greater comprehension and retention to help students stay on task. Order 2021/22 student planners today at schoolmate.com. With 88 years in the industry, School Mate provides quality educational products that equip students with the tools they need to succeed and at prices that meet every school budget. Learn more about our exceptional school products by visiting schoolmate.com or contact us at 800-516-8339.…Read More