AP Stats

Using Socrative in AP Stats

It’s so nice to take a breath in the summer time, although when I have child-free time I am always looking to work on the following school year 🙂  This means I’m checking on Twitter to see what my other like-minded math teacher friends are doing because they are doing the same!  This time I saw that @druinok had posted a question about using Socrative.com in AP Stats.  I do use it occasionally and she asked me to tell more which gave me a chance to write another blog!

druinok tweet

Just a little background – my AP Stats classes are normally pretty big and trying to get EVERYONE to participate is sometimes a challenge.  I had heard about Socrative for their space races but I was hoping to do something different.  I needed some real time way to see how students were doing and I didn’t like what I saw on sites like polleveryone or whatever it’s called.  The advantage of Socrative – and by no means am I an expert – is that you can do different types of “Quizzes” and they can be self-paced or teacher-paced.  I’ve used both and what I appreciate it that I can live-time see the results either on my computer or on my phone.  BTW I am only using the free version. I don’t use it often enough to justify paying for the other options.  Here are some of the ways I use it.  I’ve also included my codes so you can copy the ones I’ve already created and use them too! I hope you’ll do the same and tweet out them when you create them!

  1. Collecting Datahttps://b.socrative.com/teacher/#import-quiz/17697982   One thing I do obviously is collect data from the kids to have something to work with that represents them. This is by far one of the fastest ways to collect info from them in class and have a downloadable Excel spreadsheet ready to do whatever I need to do with the data from sharing it with the students to creating displays of data.
  2. Practicing Multiple Choice Questionshttps://b.socrative.com/teacher/#import-quiz/16250359  This is not a super exciting quiz as I give paper copies of the questions out to the students – way too difficult to type in the problems as a question – but what it allows me to do is real-time get everyone to vote on an answer.  I can see on my phone what % chose which answer then discuss why they chose it BEFORE we reveal the correct solution.
  3. Name that Inference https://b.socrative.com/teacher/#import-quiz/15946924 After we’ve done all the hypothesis testing the biggest struggle for kids is deciding which one to use and nuisances that go with that.  I totally cannot take credit for the creation of these problems I simply used them to create the Socrative activity 🙂  Here’s the worksheet that goes along with it.AP Stats – Inference Review doc
  4. Scoring FRAPPYS https://b.socrative.com/teacher/#import-quiz/18655008 Now if you don’t know what a FRAPPY is then you probably don’t teach AP Stats. It stands for Free Response AP Problem Yea! If you are a Stats teacher and you don’t have your kids scoring these then you are missing out on a huge learning opportunity.  I only do these in class since all of the resources are available on the College Board Website.  To help them better understand what an E, P, and I are we score some sample papers together. I usually do a 4 paper and a 2 or 3 paper if it’s available.  Have copies of the problem out (after you complete it of course) and give the kids a copy of the rubric with a sample paper to score. Work through each part piece by piece having kids score the part you’re on.  See how they did as a class then talk about the correct score and WHY it was scored this way. Do this for each part then have them give it an overall score – one would think this is the easiest part after going over the grading of each part but kids still get it wrong.  If you’ve ever been at the AP reading before this is a lot like the question training that we do.

I hope you found this valuable.  I’d love to hear feedback about how to improve this or also examples that you’ve created.  Ideally I’d like to expand this outside of AP Stats but I haven’t done much with my other preps.


My First Breakout finally!

Breakouts aren’t anything new!  In fact I’ve been planning to do one for at least 2 years now when I had my students that were left after my seniors graduated try to create one after I explained what they were. That, by the way, was a big flop!  At the time I joined the BreakoutEdu Facebook page and checked out their website to get more ideas and see what was already created for inspiration but NOTHING can replace you actually doing one! That’s when things changed from inspiration to “I need to do this!!”

Me (holding sign), hubby & friends after our 1st breakout!

I convinced my husband and a couple friends to join me on this en-devour when I saw a Groupon deal for a local Escape Room. I was nervous and excited and hoped we would escape, especially when I found out the group joining us were also newbies.  I love a good challenge but decided to start with the lowest level for my 1st escape room to learn how these things worked.  Fortunately we made it out and I got some invaluable insight about how they worked to help me create my own.  Now I want to do more soon… just need my babysitter again 🙂 (*AP Stats peeps next time I’m at the reading I WANT to do this with you!!)

So now that I had the inspiration I needed the materials.  Our school, as far as I know, has never had anyone do this in their classroom so I had to resource supplies. I couldn’t justify buying my own breakout kit when I had read that others were able to make do with things they had already.  Trip to the Dollar Store ended up being productive and cheap as well.  All other things I didn’t already have in my house I bought on Amazon knowing that it would be an investment to do again.

Rather that list everything that I did I will list some of the pros and cons of things that I learned along the way.  I’m sure I’m missing things and people probably have questions because it’s rather generic, so shout out and ask them so I can make this a better resource. I’m happy to share what I created if you are an AP Stats teacher looking to do the same if it helps.


  1.  The Dollar store has a lot of cool stuff that you can manipulate into your breakout – you just have to think outside the box. Ex: game boards, treasure hunt coloring book, plastic toolboxes that can lock Game Table
  2. Looking around my house I had a lot of un-used locks of various types and caution tape already.  Again think outside the box.
  3. Being somewhat tech savy,  I decided to create a script of what I wanted to say to introduce the breakout and the rules to create a short 3 minute video that showed in class.  I’ll always have this to use and this way I was sure not to forget to say something to any class.
  4. Having done an actual breakout, I knew to hide things all over the place. One of the things I bought was a puzzle that you could write on so everyone could find something! This is especially important in large classes of 33.  Hide KEY pieces in places that get locked up so they can’t solve it too fast 🙂Puzzle 2
  5. Ceiling signs are easy to make and help the search to go everywhereCeiling signs
  6. My kids had a SUPER fun time.  So many came up to me and said this was so fun and EVERYONE was participating all the time – it might have helped that I locked up their cell phones to find to win – but either way they were working together to do the math they needed to solve the puzzles.Pd 5 in action
  7. Write up everything you do – including where you hide things, what the answers to the puzzles are, the combinations to locks so when things go awry you have everything you need handy to fix the problem and move forward. I saved these in a Breakout folder so I don’t have to start from scratch again or rely on the sticky note I put on the lock that falls off with the combination that I need a year later and can’t remember.   Also if you can have 2 sets of keys for each lock (most come like this) so you can hide one and keep one in case there is an issue during a game.  There was one lock I had a home which only had 1 key to it so I made that the final key they needed to get from me only after they solved the puzzle to my satisfaction – I actually liked having me be the end to the breakout so I plan to do the rest the same way.


  1. Dollar store items are what you pay for – technically kids can open things without using the lock when it’s made of plastic
  2. Unlike an escape room, my classroom has a limited amount of areas that can be locked up or things can be hidden.  I had to get creative and let students look through all of my classroom – this is why I introduced the caution tape areas.
  3. Being the somewhat tech savy person I am it took me 4 takes of this video to get things semi decent to present in class. It still has some flaws but I couldn’t spend anymore time doing it yet again.  The video was also class & breakout specific so I need to make a more generic one for regular breakouts if I don’t like the videos floating out there already – I’m a perfectionist but I’m working on that 🙂
  4. TIME!!! It took a lot of time to create.  I had ideas but then they wouldn’t work out. Make sure you have given yourself time to test things out and expect mistakes to happen.  This was a senior exam and I had large classes so I needed to make sure it didn’t get solved too quickly but also not run out of time to possibly make it out.  I worked on this off and on for a couple of weeks. Again this is partially because I started from scratch given that I didn’t find anything for AP Stats already created with the items I had to use for my breakout.  I also was fortunate that I could set up the breakout the day before for each class. I don’t think I could have done it if it was 2 classes in a row or I didn’t have a planning period in between.

Pd 5 Sr Escape

Can’t wait to design and do another. I’m shooting to do a regular one with my Algebra 2 classes before the end of the school year.


This year….

While this school year is not yet over for me – despite the lovely posts of my tweeps on Twitter getting out soon – the seniors are finally on their last week next week.  Our last day of school is June 19th which is almost a month from now but the fact that the seniors are leaving soon I am starting to see the glimmer of the light at the end of the long tunnel.

This year has been HARD for me!!  I don’t know what it is exactly – well I know a little – but I’ve never felt so overwhelmed in my 21 years of teaching!  I’m not trying to scare off those new teachers but if you are a dedicated teacher committed to doing the best for your students, then you will always go that extra mile no matter how long you teach. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve learned a lot of short cuts along the way but there aren’t any GOOD short cuts to creating a good lesson.  Isn’t that what every class deserves?

So while I love the opportunity to reflect and blog and/or post about this school year I’ll be honest when I say I haven’t had the time.  Though I really, really, needed to at times I was so exhausted at the end of the day I just couldn’t.  You see way back when I started teaching –  before I was married or had kids – there was no problem finding time to do all the extra because I had the time – so I thought – I also apparently had no life 🙂  I knew the night custodian by first name which also had it’s perks because I was at school ALL the time. Partly because I didn’t have a computer at home so I needed to stay there to type up my lessons – back in the day when I had formal lesson plans to write up never knowing when you might get observed. And even though I used a projector to show my notes (remember those days before powerpoint projectors with overhead marker stains on your hands all the time and the only way it came off was washing your hair! ) I refused to bring home work with me. Hence I practically lived at school.

Fast forward many years and I realized that work is NOT my life.  While yes I LOVE what I do, my family should always come first.  If I expected my husband to do the same for his job then it was important to me to finish everything before I left work and brought no work home.  Was that hard to do at first?  Absolutely!  Was it impossible to do? No, I starting prioritizing what REALLY needed to happen and how I could minimize certain tasks. For example, did I really need to collect and grade all those homeworks and write comments on them?  Absolutely not.  Let’s face it – you could collect homework, write a check on the top without looking at them, and not even record them in your gradebook and most kids wouldn’t even have noticed.  Making the most of the time you had in class with your kids was a better use of your time.  Giving them instant feedback in class that they will actually listen to or read is valuable.  So I learned to be mindful of the time I used in class and outside.  I was still staying till 5:30 or 6pm (or maybe later) sometimes but at least I was going home and being all about home without doing work or thinking about it.  Much happier.

Then my daughter entered our family…now I needed to not only get my work done at work, but within the time frame of picking her up from daycare (fortunately my husband did drop off.)  Family time was of the most importance now.  I really wonder how teachers with multiple kids do it with crazy schedules of meets, practices, etc… my hats off to you.  Fortunately I was able to make it work given that I was only teaching 2 preps and had started practicing to go home earlier the year prior knowing that I would have to.  No one prepares you for the sleepless nights that you have at home those first years, but that’s for a different blog 🙂

So what’s different with this year?  Well it started at the end of last year when a colleague came to talk to me about her schedule which sounded great to me but she was hoping to teach different classes, some of which I had.  This same wonderful colleague I agreed was better at the class that she wanted and she was awesome to switch planning periods with me back when I came from maternity leave so I could pump during the day (another year of craziness.)  So of course it made sense to offer to switch classes with her.  Unfortunately though only 2 of the 3 sections were a simple swap in the schedule so that would mean we’d each have 3 preps instead of 2.  She was good with it and I wanted her to still be part of our content team so we made the switch.

No period 1 planning! So this year also my daughter started preschool, which we ended up choosing an amazing one near where I worked. This meant I did drop off AND pick up.  They opened at 7:00 am. I had a first period class of 33 students that started at 7:25 am and it was at least a 10-15 minute drive depending on traffic.  I asked for 1st period planning WAY back before the schedule was made – they told me they couldn’t make it work and that I’d make it to work on time no problem.  Despite my concerns of possibly making it late  I was assured it would be okay.

So here’s me everyday rushing my daughter in the car in the morning and literally giving her a hug, kiss, and running out the door each morning at preschool so I can run in at 7:25 am each morning to my 33 students waiting for me to teach AP Stats.  My only planning period is 4th period.  And you guessed it my other 2 preps are period 2 and 3 SO if I don’t have EVERYTHING ready before I leave the night before I am not prepared.

Exhausted – yes, in the worst situation – no, but for me this year has been nothing but craziness.  I LOVE all my classes – I have great kids!!  But to get my job done I had to talk with my husband for a stay late day each week.  That’s right – every Wednesday I stay from 7:25 am to at least 7:00pm to get work done – not even get ahead but get caught up and planned for the next day or 2 maybe.  This means I don’t always see my daughter before bedtime that evening.  It sucks but it’s the only way I can make it work so that the rest of the week and my weekends are for my family.  I am really glad that I’ve made it this far 🙂

Why might you ask would it take me so long to do all these things for just 3 preps?  Because I don’t always reuse the lessons I had from the year prior because I have a new set of kids.  I’m always looking to improve and I don’t leave worksheets when I’m absent.  I do all of the work that I expect my kids to do.  I research and look for new ways to present material to get the kids engaged and learning.  Because I do the job I should do – ALL the time. I need to lead by example.

Whew!  Thanks for letting me vent/rant/whatever.  I missed this reflection time.  I’m determined to do it more often now that one thing is being pulled off my load – seniors in 2 classes but with the AP over now it’s way less intense.  Also this is good for me to re-read next time I’m feeling overwhelmed.  At least I can look back and say with God’s help I got through that year – SCRATCH that – I didn’t “get though it” I actually made it work for what it needed to be and I didn’t compromise.  I lead with purpose and if I look back at my last blog (so long ago) that is what I said I’d do.  Now that’s something to smile about!!





Goals this 2017-18 school year

Well August has begun which means it’s inevitable that school will be starting soon.  Even though this will be my 21st year of teaching, each year I still am anxious and somewhat nervous.  I’m not sure why but I’m sure some of that is caused by my excitement of all the ideas swirling around in my head that I’ve gained during the summer after having time to reflect on the past year (and relax) .  I love to learn new things and hear what others are doing – I just don’t have unlimited time to make all of those ideas come to fruition (nor should I ever try.) So when the #SundayFunday challenge was to focus on our goals I thought the timing was perfect.

So what is my goal this year?  I’ve actually been wrestling with a couple of things this summer about a course that I’m going to be teaching. I’m part of a new content team and I really want to be a part of a team that works together (which has not been the case so far in this content area) but I want to be able to do things that the others may not be willing to try yet.  I’m sold on a lot of the strategies and things that I do in my AP Stats class and I KNOW they can work in a regular non-AP class but I can’t seem to get my department members on board. It’s frustrating in part but then I also know that these teachers are great – they just have different comfort zones and how far they are willing to stray from them varies.  Me on the other hand – I hear something that can help my students and I’m changing tomorrow’s lesson plan the night before to reflect it.  I know there needs to be a happy balance of work with 3 preps so I can’t go crazy but if I think it will help my students it’s worth the extra effort in my mind.

So what do I do?  Do I join the new team and try to encourage a collaborative environment with give and take on these ideas to create a cohesive group where the students get the same thing?  This is what I did last year with my Algebra 2 team.  It was needed and I think it worked out well (and it was a TON of work on my part) but I left thinking there was more I wanted to do.  This year’s new team is different and I think I want to go my way and try to show them what I’m doing to try to get them on board.  Is that being selfish?  Is it wrong to be selfish? So many questions to think about and then the most important one rises to the surface: “What will help the students the most?” and I have to believe it’s going in the direction that is different than what’s been done.

I was inspired my @mathequalslove‘s most recent post on this same topic and so I believe my one word this school year will be PURPOSE.  My goal is that I want to make sure that I do things this year with purpose.  I looked up the definition and here’s what I found: the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists.  This means what I may choose to do will not be popular and I’m going to have to be okay with that.  This year I can’t just try to fit in and not make waves because I know I won’t be happy and the students will miss an opportunity.  Now I have more reasons to have butterflies before the school year starts but I know this will help grow my comfort zone.  I know if I’m going to try to expect it of others, then I need to be willing to model it myself 🙂




AP Stats

Why my kids & I LOVE tickets!

Have I mentioned that I do a lot of things in groups? I truly believe that in order to fully understand something you need to be able to explain it to someone else (reminds me of the first time I had to teach Geometry – major lightbulbs!)  Getting kids to do that sometimes is hard.  My classroom is set up with pods of 4 desks and I try to be off the “center stage” as often as possible to encourage kids working together and talking. Something I’ve always done to encourage that is “ticket time” which is not so exciting the 1st time I do it but extremely competitive in the future.

So what is it?  Periodically I have kids partner up and I give them a series of  Multiple Choice (MC) questions (since I know the MC is always hardest for the AP test we do it a lot for practice). It’s usually about 7 or 8 questions long with the incentive to earn 1 or 2 tickets. Usually something like at least 5 right earns a ticket and all right earns 2.  They choose their partner (we only do a group of 3 if an odd number of students) or they can choose to work by themselves. I show the questions on the projector one at a time to allow them time to talk and decide on their answer. It’s brainpower only – no notes allowed and I don’t give out answers till the end. We move on through each question the same way with time at the end to quickly go back through any they need to see again before I check each partner group awarding tickets and only telling them how many they have right before I go over the correct answers.  Groups that get tickets put both names on their tickets and I collect them for our drawings later.  Finally I go over the solutions for each problem and answer questions before moving on.

So what are the tickets for?  Well each quiz and test day I pick out 2 tickets for the class and those students get to take the quiz/test together. YEP I said they get to work together!!  Quiz days I pick them out during the warm up and then during the quiz they move aside together to talk freely.  Test days my room is set up in rows with randomly assigned seats and two sets of group tables right by me where students can work together. I draw test day tickets after school the day before and post the list in the morning outside my door. (*Kids who choose to work by themselves for ticket time get to pick their partner when their ticket is picked. If a kid’s partner is absent then a new ticket is drawn.)

What happens because of this?

*Kids communicate a lot more when choosing an answer, discussing why the other answers are wrong and don’t rush making a decision.

*Kids get more particular about who they choose to work with as the year goes on. It’s not just who they are sitting next to at the time or their best friend in the class.  Fortunately I’ve never had a kid who couldn’t find a partner because no one wanted to work with them 🙂

*Kids know who to ask besides me when they have questions during class (They start to notice that certain people always seem to get their tickets picked – is it because they are lucky or that they have so many tickets for a reason?)

*Kids that work together during assessments learn a lot along the way and have awesome discussions. (You might think that a “smart kid” and a “not up to par kid” who somehow have a ticket together that is picked might be an advantage for the latter kid but that’s not what I’ve seen come out of that situation.)

*Kids encourage each other to study and practice before an assessment in case their ticket is picked.

*Kids stop by my room first thing on test day (or pop by after school the day before) just to see the list of who got picked to work together.  This is followed by a lot of high fives and an occasional victory dance in the halls.

*It makes MC review way more exciting 🙂

BTW tickets just accumulate throughout the year. Sometimes kids pass on their ticket being picked for a quiz hoping to have it picked on a test day instead.  This is funny because kids don’t realize they can do that till one group that is prepared asks me if they can be put back in instead.  This is also about the time we’ve gotten to probability and I show them the ticket stack for their class and ask them to think about this.  Inevitably not every ticket is used by the time the tests and quizzes are over for the year but they can use them towards the final exam so everyone is happy.

BTW I shared this strategy with the other AP teachers in my building and the AP Physics teacher came to talk to me about it then tried it in her class. She was amazed how engaged they were and excited about it each time they had the opportunity.  My kids consistently ask me if it’s a ticket day so I know I must be doing something right.  That’s something to smile about for sure!

Algebra 2

Alg 2 – Tune Up Tuesdays

So maybe you read my last (long sorry) post about how I changed my assessments in AP Stats (How “Make It Stick” Changed the way I teach in AP Stats) and you are thinking “what about other classes?”  Well so did I after I first used it.  The advantage of trying everything new in AP Stats is really two-fold: 1) I’ve been teaching it for over 15 years and it is my passion which I’m always trying to keep fresh and 2) I’m the only one in my building who teaches it.  It’s especially that last one that makes a difference.  In our county we really TRY to built content teams that work together. This way each student who sits in say in an Algebra 2 class will get the same content no matter who the teacher is.  If you’ve been teaching for even a little while you realize just how difficult this task can be.

Then throw in me – the constant learner (another post sometime) who wants to try new things and am convinced they can work if we give it a shot with a group of other great teachers who aren’t ready to jump so far out of their comfort zone yet or just want a little more time to feel good with the new content they are teaching first.  How do you find the happy balance and still maintain a strong content team?  If you have kids of your own you know the answer to that is to pick your battle wisely and only choose one to work on at a time.  I guess battle isn’t really the best word choice but it’s the one thing you feel most passionate about and don’t want to give up.

This was me when I was heading up our Algebra 2 team last year.  Since going Common Core all the teachers weren’t always so common and ended up in different spots at the end of the year teaching what they felt needed to be taught for how long they though all with perfectly good intentions.  But we needed to be on common ground so I asked to take on the challenge because I hadn’t taught Algebra 2 in years and besides really wanting it again, I wanted to see our department grow stronger together and this wasn’t happening in all areas.  I won’t get into the nitty gritty details of all that we did but I will say that our team surpassed all the expectations I had going into this.  It was a TON of work, especially for me, but I’m determined to do things right (not necessarily perfect) the first time.  At the end of the year all of us felt good, and while we don’t have our PARCC scores yet, we felt we did the best with what we started with at the beginning of the year.  I now believe even more that you can take teachers with different strengths, weaknesses, beliefs on teaching and assessing, and more and be on common enough ground to give common assessments that everyone can feel good with!!

So what are Tune Up Tuesdays?  It was my spin of the quiz assessment I did in AP Stats for Algebra 2.  Fortunately all of us had sections that met everyday (thank you scheduling people for answering our requests!) so normally we saw the kids Monday – Friday.  One of the biggest challenges with students is remembering content over a longer period of time and not memorizing the process for an assessment and then dumping it after it has been assessed. “What do you mean you don’t remember how to factor, we’ve been doing it all year?” might be words you have found yourself saying OVER and OVER again.

So every Tuesday there is a Tune Up Tuesday quiz.  Yes, EVERY Tuesday!!!  “What if we don’t have school that day?” asks a student. Then we don’t have a quiz that week.  They shout awesome not realizing that happens very infrequently.  So what will be on the quiz?  Anything that we covered the Monday-Friday the week before (regardless of how many days we had that week.)  This way (ideally) the students have the weekend to review the material from that week and then come in on Monday with questions that they still have before the quiz on Tuesday.  This is a lot more complicated than you would think.  A revision for this year might be to give them a set of generic study questions to review that weekend to help that we could quickly discuss on Monday.

What’s on a quiz? Again it’s never more than the front of a page.  Question #1 is a describe in your own words question. #2-possible 3 is something from the week like they saw in a classwork/homework and the last question is either a SAT or PARCC like question on this content.  Here’s a couple sample quizzes:

Quarter 1 Quiz 2  Quarter 3 Quiz 2

So how did it go?  I personally liked that there was consistency on when quizzing was and that we could change it up to Monday if need be to make sure that each teacher felt good about how it captured the main points of the week’s lessons.  Kids knew when there was a quiz AND so did parents!!  No one came in and said ” I didn’t know we had a quiz” without another student saying “Duh! It’s Tuesday!!”

Was it exactly like I would have liked to see it go?  Of course not, but again my entire team bought into the idea and we formed it into something that was our own and EVERYONE could feel comfortable with.  Also an extra bonus was that talking about this type of assessing enough days during lunch other teachers wanted to know more and are considering doing it in their upper level classes!  Building up your team is WAY MORE important, not to mention beneficial, than always getting what YOU want.  That’s something to smile about!!

AP Stats

How “Make It Stick” Changed the way I teach in AP Stats

If you’ve ever run into me at an educational setting and we talked about anything related to AP Stats then the book “Make It Stick” (book link) by Brown, Roediger, & McDaniel. I was first introduced to this book at the Best Practices at the AP Stats reading by Darren Starnes.  I think most of us who attended ordered a book to read that summer.

*Warning though: It’s not one of those books that you can just sit down and digest quickly!

It’s definitely one that you need to read a chapter at a time and think about.  So admittedly I haven’t finished the entire book.  Too much good stuff that I wanted to put into practice right away (and honestly not enough time to finish it before the school year started.)  But from what I gleaned I came up with the following changes that I’ve implemented into my AP Stats classes the past 2 years and I’ve seen dramatic differences.  My AP scores have been great (not all 5s or anything but my kids have done well for where they are and how strong they are) AND the percentage of students who take the exam have gone up as well.  In my school system the students pay to take the AP Exam and they are NOT required to take the exam either.  When registration time comes along I do ask each kid individually if they have registered and if the answer is no I WANT to know why.  I never pressure a kid to take the exam but I want to make sure their reason is justifiable (in other words not just because they can’t afford it or think they won’t do well but they don’t want to try.)

To be completely transparent you must know that I do teach at a high performing school where there are not a lot of free & reduced lunches and parent involvement is pretty high too.  However I’ve also taught in the opposite environment and firmly believe that this CAN work in any school situation with a few adjustments.  The truth is looking outside the environment KIDS ARE KIDS no matter where you teach!!  My kids aren’t any smarter than the kids I’ve taught at other schools so as far as the raw material you have to work with it’s pretty much the same 🙂  It’s those external factors that we can’t always control that get in the way sometimes but as a teacher there are a lot of things that you CAN do to meet your students where they are and help them reach the SAME level as others.  To be honest I think those kids who don’t have all those supports are my hardest workers and the most determined to succeed.  I feel like I make the most difference to them as challenging as it may be sometimes.  But I digress… here is what you probably want to know.

I’ve got a lot of info listed below so I tried to underline and section key things.  Feel free to ask questions if I wasn’t clear about something.  Enjoy!

Some background about my AP Stats classes:

*I have 2 types of classes for my schedule. Those that meet everyday for 50 minutes and those that meet every other day in a block for 90 minutes.  Inevitably my 90 minute classes lose time in comparison so I always plan for my block class which includes our lunch shift. Any extra time in my 50 minute class time is bonus.

*Due to the loss of time for the block classes 4 years ago I went to the flipped classroom model and love it!!  It helps me cover all the material in ample time (even with tons of snow days) to have at least 1.5 weeks to review.

*In our school currently we have  “break” day where students go for various things like extra help, club meetings, etc.. They fall on Wednesday and while they don’t affect the block class they do reduce 3 of the other classes times that they meet to less than 50 minutes each.

*I have very competitive students and grades are often more important than learning sadly.  Cheating is rampant at my school.

*Most of my students are seniors but I do get juniors and sophomores as well taking this class.

My aha moment:

Something that struck me before I even read the Make It Stick book was something I heard during the Best Practice Night at the 2015 AP Reading.  I don’t even know who said it but they asked the question about why do we test the way we do given that the AP test is a cumulative test?  In other words why are we surprised when kids ask us so many questions that we think they should know when we review for a midterm or the AP exam.  Part of the problem is we chunk things into units and students review for that unit but often shelf that material until they plan to see it again which tends to be much later on.  It was then that a light bulb went off in my head. Why am I giving unit tests?  While I do some cumulative review throughout the year, why am I not testing them on cumulative material so the AP exam is just one large version of what I’ve been doing all year long?  Then I started the book and the research about how people learn and retain material was supporting this idea in my head.

What I did:

There were no more unit tests or quizzes!!  (And as they found out later no tests in Qtr 4 – which was focused on AP exam review.)

At the beginning of the quarter I told the students to mark their calendars with the Quiz and Test dates. (Example from last year: 1st_Qtr_16-17)

You can see from the example that it worked out the be a test every 3 weeks or so and if it wasn’t a test week then there was a quiz usually towards the end of the week. I’ll talk more about the format of these below.  Key things I made sure was that I had tests on a day that was not break schedule or anything else key that was going on at school like homecoming week, etc. For my block kids I always shifted my lunch to C lunch on test days (we have 4 lunches) so they had the test the first 60 minutes, lunch, then came back for a lesson.

I told them that everything in this class was cumulative so if you wanted to know what would be on their assessments, it was fair game from everything that we’d covered so far. This means no formal review days before a test. While there would be a concentration on the most recent material, anything could be on there. We would also review throughout the year regularly.

I also told them upfront the format of every test and quiz would be the same so there were no surprises.  (See later some other things I already had in place that complemented this strategy.)

The formats:

Quizzes – because I was giving these more frequently I wanted to make sure that they were quick and to the point so they could have them back fast.  In my mind I never want a quiz to take more than 10-15 minutes of time so they were always right at the beginning of the class period after the warm-up.  They never included anything covered the 2 days prior to the quiz (one block period) to give students the opportunity to get help and also I didn’t have to go over any homework questions or whatnot before the quiz. They knew the process so they were ready to go and didn’t try to ask last minute questions once class had started to delay the quiz.  The other important thing is that I wanted them to get good, fast feedback on some possible difficult questions and really assess whether they got some of the big concepts we talked about – this meant making them low stakes in their grades. Each quiz was either 7 or 8 points and it was only 20% of their grade for the class.  This way if they got a 3 or 4 on a quiz it didn’t kill their grade and they learned what they needed to do to get better.

The format: Very few questions. Never more than a front sheet of paper.  Question 1 was always something like “In your own words describe…..” and I would take a difficult term or concept or something I knew there was still confusion on (or even common mistakes on previous AP tests). Question 2 was something relatively recent. Question 3 was an old item or something that used something old in what we were currently doing.  Question 4 & 5 were only if necessary because the other questions were super short and not many points. (Example quizzes: Qtr 1 Quiz 2 & Qtr 3 Quiz 4)

Here was another twist. Since I announced the dates of ALL the assessments at the beginning of the quarter, kids knew when they would be out and could take the quiz in advance or take the make-up version if they were absent.  The make-up version was similar but NEVER the same as the in class version. This was for the students who were absent for sickness as well.  This way I could always give the quiz back the very next block class. (Being in a block schedule my kids know how I reference the A-day B-day thing so a kid in a everyday class knew that if they took a quiz on an A-day then they got it back the following A-day.)  Since these quizzes were super short it was easy to grade them fast.

Tests – It was super important to me for kids to see their tests in a similar format to the AP Exam so it wasn’t foreign to them when the time came.  I also needed it to be no more than 50 minutes to accommodate any class. I used the time allotted for the AP exam to guide me here. 90 minutes for 40 MC questions – this equates to approx 2.25 minutes per question. 90 minutes for 6 FR questions with more time allowed for #6.  I knew I wasn’t going to put a #6 on my test so I figured 60 min for 5 FR questions – this equates to approx 12 minutes per question.

1 Test = 6 MC question and 3 FR – based on these time approximates 49.5 minutes

This was the format for EVERY test and I told the kids this BEFORE our first test (After the test I told them the time breakdown for them to understand why a 9 question test took them so long!)

Scoring: MC – 1 point each FR – 4 points each scored using a rubric so each test was raw point max 18 but I always converted these to percents to enter in my gradebook.  The test/project category was 50% of their grade. (The other 30% was classwork – yes you might have inferred that I didn’t grade homework – haven’t for several years but I also flip my classroom so homework is watching the assigned video (which they did earn 5 points for each) but most of my traditional homework was now done in class in a group format.  BTW I do almost everything in groups for this class which I change consistently.)

I also made a make-up version for each test which I first I thought it would be hard but since I had to keep it to this format it wasn’t that bad.  Note that 2 of the 3 FR questions on my test were released old FRAPPYs so the question and rubric was already done for me (huge help for grading consistently.) We did FRAPPYs from the beginning in my class so seeing E, P and I on their tests was a no brainer.

After 2 block classes I gave back their tests.  BTW for tests I ALWAYS had an answer sheet and the test.  The tests NEVER left my room. I consider them secure documents and numbered them to ensure I had them all each class period. This means when I say I handed back their tests I only handed back their answer sheets with their work on it. Once I handed back their tests I took time in class to go over the correct answers for the multiple choice and some general notes about what scored an E on the FR.  I also always showed them a box plot like this Sample Test Results (plus summary statistics) for them to see how they did in respect to their class and the others.  Any other questions they had they need to stay after or come during break to get answered.

Needless to say kids didn’t always like their scores and it was a learning process so what I told them AFTER the first test was that they could do corrections 🙂

What are corrections?

I’ve always done these and I think they are super helpful in the learning process but since I changed up my testing I also changed up what I did for corrections a little for the grades.

*All corrections are for TESTS only.

*All corrections MUST be done after school or during break BEFORE the next test to be counted.

*Corrections must be done at school and not at home. This is the only way you’ll see the original test questions.

*Corrections for the MC must include the correct answer AND why it is correct in your own words.

*Corrections for the FR have to be what was missing and/or whatever was wrong fixed

*In 1st quarter you earn back 50% of the points you missed. 2nd quarter 40% and 3rd quarter 30%.  I realized that this was an entirely new to them so I didn’t want to penalize them for a learning process. Kids that made the effort to learn from their mistake to make corrections each test ended up with grades that truly reflected their ability this way. Kids that didn’t take advantage of corrections earlier on realized this was a mistake especially when sometimes I put the same problem on a future test!

What did corrections look like for me the teacher?

Admittedly the first test correction is always chaotic. I used to restrict the dates for them to come, but with 4 sections it’s crazy to do that and keep up with grading the corrections. The first couple of times kids come with friends in bunches and we go over common mistakes everyone has as a group then the rest of the time I pop around answering individual questions. I encourage kids to help one another so that by the next few test corrections kids come together to help each other and I’m not answering as many questions.

As far as grading them, I’m walking around and helping and looking at what they did so I just need to spot check the corrections they made without me and then grade it before I leave that day.  Since there are only 18 raw points max for each test I have a nice paper with the corrected score that I can add into the gradebook.  (BTW in case you are wondering I have 2 assignments entered in my gradebook. One is the original test grade in % out of 100 points and the second is the Test correction extra points (out of 100) that looks like extra credit. At the end of the test correction period I fill in 0 for the extra points for those that don’t do corrections. This way I see the original and correction points on the grades and SO do the parents.)

What the kids thought:

At first they weren’t sure they were going to like it but soon after they felt comfortable knowing the format of every quiz and test before going in to take it. At least that didn’t change even if the material did.  It released some testing anxiety and encouraged them to consistently look back at old things we did periodically. Kids that were very involved in extracurricular activities appreciated knowing the dates at the beginning of the quarter so they could plan when they needed to study around their games, practices, etc…  When it came to midterms several kids commented that they felt most prepared for mine because we had been reviewing all along.

Most kids appreciated the opportunity to make corrections for the grade aspect but especially for the learning process. It forced them to revisit an old test and understand what they did wrong.  Some admitted they wouldn’t have done that on their own, but for points it made a difference and soon kids were making corrections on their own for the weekly quizzes to study from and they didn’t get points for doing that 🙂

I know I’ve left you with a lot to read and think about. Feel free to ask me questions if you have them.  In my next post I’ll tell you about why my kids & I are crazy about tickets for this class!