Thursday, December 1, 2016

How Do You Know? Help Students Build Math Justifications

Part of building mathematical communications skills includes the ability to build justifications. Math practice standards call for students to not only figure out the problem, but communicate how they solved it, and why their answer is correct -- using evidence.

The challenges
Developing these skills is important, but it’s not always easy. Using math language and putting understanding into words can be difficult. And, it can be challenging as a teacher to let students stumble through their thinking instead of giving them the answer.

Classworks can help!
Use Classworks Applied Mathematics to support your math instruction. Applied Math activities allow for flexibility in the way students communicate their ideas.
  • Scaffold math communication skills using Applied Math digital tools. If students are still working on improving math writing skills, have them record their justification using the audio recording tool. They can transcribe their recording to improve their comfort level with writing. Drawing their justification is also an option.
  • Prepare using the Applied Math teacher resources included in each lesson. Review the sample student responses provided to set expectations for student justifications with each concept.
  • View students’ work in real-time and provide personalized feedback to help them move beyond the “how” to the “why” in their justifications.
Try it
Applied Math activities include lessons for K-8. Not sure how to get started? Here are a couple of videos to help: Differentiated Problem, Critique and Precision Problem. Or, use this 3rd grade lesson plan for guidance.

$2,500 for classroom technology

Give all of your students access to technology to work on building math justifications. Classworks Digital Learning Grant application is open! We are awarding three teachers $2,500 each for classroom technology. Expecting a complicated and rigorous grant application process? We wouldn't do that to you! Complete our simple online form to be considered for the grant. Apply now.

*Information from NCTM session presented by Nicora Placa

Thursday, November 10, 2016

New Classworks Features Available!

Exciting Classworks features are coming your way next week! Here’s a breakdown of what’s new.

Classworks Live Chat
For instant support, chat live with a Classworks product expert! Online chat gives you fast and convenient answers when you need them. Find the live chat icon at the top right of your Classworks navigation bar.

ACT Aspire Integration
Classworks will fully integrate ACT Aspire’s Interim and Summative assessment results to deliver Individualized Learning Paths (ILPs) based on that data.

Administrators, you can find ACT Aspire in the Classworks Integrations Directory.

Full Standards Coverage: Applied Math Joins Integrated Reading 
You will have brand new Applied Math activities available to ensure 100% full standards coverage.

Individualized Learning Results
Gain better insight into student progress with the new Individualized Learning Results view. Monitor student proficiency by subject strand for one student or a select amount of students. Dive deeper with enhanced views to make more informed instructional decisions.
Individualized Learning by Student Sample
Individualized Learning Selected Students Sample

Data Export - Choose Your Date Range
Choose a date range when exporting your school or district instructional Classworks data. You can find the data export option in the Classworks Integrations Directory.

Administration Tab
Classworks Administrators: Find the Administration page in the drop down menu at the top right of your Classworks Navigation Bar.

Look for these exciting enhancements in Classworks, November 19, 2016.

Register for Classworks Winter Professional Development for a deeper dive into using assessment data to drive individualized learning.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Miss These Deadlines Miss A lot!

Here are the important winter deadlines you don’t want to miss! 

Classworks Digital Learning Grant
98% of the new teachers who were trained to use Classworks in October said they were ‘excited and ready to get started’ after the sessions. Tell us what kind of technology you need to make Classworks part of your weekly instruction.

Apply for Classworks Digital Learning Grant and we can help make it happen! Three teachers will be awarded $2,500 each for classroom technology!

"Thank you so much for blessing our classroom with amazing goodies! With the Classworks Digital Learning Grant, I was able to set up literacy centers in my classroom. My students now have access to iPads and Kindles which we use during reading blocks. They can access Classworks Integrated Reading paired passages and work on reading comprehension during center time." Elizabeth Lyles Shores, 3rd Grade Teacher, Bearfield Primary School
Classworks Winter Professional Development
Registration is filling up quickly! We’re partnering with ACT Aspire, NWEA, and Renaissance to offer sessions in five cities.

The 2017 trainings will focus on best practices for using your assessment data paired with Classworks instruction to individualize learning. Plus, learn and share ideas during the session: Monitoring and Motivating: From Small Group Instruction to a Complete RTI Program. View the agenda.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Create An Optimal Learning Environment for Each Student!

When we individualize learning for students we focus on the needs of one student at a time. When we differentiate learning the focus shifts to the needs of groups of students. This includes looking at content, process, product, and environment. Both are essential to create an environment for optimal learning.

How can Classworks help?

  1. Group! If you are assessing students using Classworks assessments, our Individualized Learning Report looks at the students in your class and groups students within each strand and level. Flexible grouping allows you to adjust groups based on the skills you are teaching. Or, use your own assessment grouping reports (eg: Renaissance STAR 360 Instructional Planning Report
  2. Give each student exactly what they need! When you are ready to individualize, Classworks provides a learning path for each student to work on independently and at their own pace. 
  3. Set Goals! Students have a My Scores! dashboard to monitor their success. Teachers and students work together to set goals, monitor time-on-task, and adjust assignments based on student interest, need, and performance. This helps create a learning environment where the teacher, student, and technology work as a team!
Use conferencing to build a collaborative individualized learning environment:
  1. Build regularly scheduled conference times to talk with students about their Classworks data. Each conference should take only a few minutes. Other students could be in small groups or centers. 
  2. During the conference, use the Individualized Learning tab in Classworks to look at student scores, launch activities for review with the student, and reassign instruction as necessary. Make sure to engage the student. Ask them if the scores are reflective of what they are learning. Can they do better? What would they like to do differently? How could they improve? Should they move onto more challenging instruction or move back to review skills? Hear from a teacher! 
  3. Use the My Scores! Student dashboard to work with students to set goals. This dashboard can help students monitor usage and mastery. Students can also access the badges and incentives they have earned. Discussing these and setting goals for next steps will heighten student engagement for a truly collaborative learning environment. 
To learn more about creating the optimal individualized learning environment for your classroom, sign up for one of our Winter PD sessions.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Teach Paired Passages Using Your iPads, Chromebooks, or Other Devices

Paired passages on state assessments are here to stay. The ability to comprehend and compare texts can be tricky, even for advanced readers. It’s a good thing you have the digital tools you need to effectively teach paired passages! 

Use Classworks Integrated Reading paired passages. Sample Lesson Plan 

Appealing, High Interest Topics
To engage students from the start, you have passages available from a variety of genres. Support your grade level standards with a selection of informational topics and literary passages.

Text Dependent Questions
These are key to helping students achieve deep reading comprehension. Questions address multiple reading standards. Distractor rationales are included to provide insight into student thinking.

Let’s get started!
  • Choose an Integrated Reading paired passage that supports your lesson plan. Try this 7th grade lesson plan or modify to fit your grade level.
  • Work on having students understand the first passage. Spend a few days reading, annotating (use the digital tools!), and understanding the passage. Assess their understanding using the text dependent questions. 
  • When students are ready, move on to the second passage. Read, discuss, annotate, and answer the questions. 
  • Now you’re ready for the paired passages! Assign the paired passages and analyze the connections between the two texts using the text dependent questions. 
  • After discussion your students are ready to answer the paired questions.
Receive $2,500 for classroom technology so you can teach paired passages, conduct close reads, and more, using digital instruction. Apply for the Classworks Digital Learning Grant! Three teachers will each be awarded $2,500 each for technology.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

4 Steps to Achieve Rigor in Your Lesson Plans

"Is the teacher lecturing away while stringently guiding the lesson as if it were a ship at sea? Or is the teacher like the cruise director, simply guiding students to their next activity?"
What is Rigor?
We hear it constantly—today’s standards require more rigor. What’s behind the buzzword?

The answer lies in cognitive complexity and growing students’ ability to interact with and synthesize new information.

The most common misconception of rigor: It’s synonymous with more work. Rigor is not about tacking on more homework. It’s about choosing the right homework and mixing in tasks that help students grow.

Achieving Rigor

Understand Your Standards

Teachers spend a considerable amount of time researching the appropriate standards to address with a lesson. But, it can be hard to distill the action from the mandate.

Let’s consider a standard from the fourth grade math CCSS.

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.4.OA.A.3 Solve multistep word problems posed with whole numbers and having whole-number answers using the four operations, including problems in which remainders must be interpreted. Represent these problems using equations with a letter standing for the unknown quantity. Assess the reasonableness of answers using mental computation and estimation strategies including rounding.

First, identify the verbs in the standard–solve, represent, and assess. Now, pull out your favorite taxonomy and put those tasks in order by complexity. This is your roadmap to rigor. Yes, students should learn how to solve word problems first. They should then know when an answer is right or wrong (and why)–analysis. Finally, they should be able to synthesize their own uses for the skills by representing information using equations. Move your lesson along that line and the tasks become more rigorous. They are also scaffolded correctly, layering on complexity systematically without overwhelming the students.

Set an Appropriate Learning Goal

Instead of displaying the standard(s) you are addressing as written, share a learning goal—an age-appropriate version of the standard. For example, here is the fourth grade standard, reworded into language appropriate for a fourth grader:
  • I can solve word problems by adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing.
  • I can make my own equations based on a word problem.
  • I know how to tell when a word problem answer is right or wrong.
A student looking at these goals can easily tell whether they have accomplished them.


The trick in the rigorous classroom is to assess not only what a student knows, but how they know it and what they can do with it.

A rigorous informal assessment probably takes the form of an open-ended question. Use a questioning strategy. Or, have students work collaboratively to piece together new information, using it in a way that generates new thoughts and ideas.

Identify Rigorous Learning Tasks
In a rigorous classroom, who is doing the work? Is the teacher lecturing away while stringently guiding the lesson as if it were a ship at sea? Or is the teacher more like the cruise director, simply guiding students to their next activity and offering assistance when needed? If your answer is the former, much more rigor can be squeezed out of that classroom.

If the tasks call for students to think critically, work collaboratively, synthesize knowledge in real-world situations, and persevere until a goal is met, you’re almost there.

Rigor also requires a certain level of autonomy. Remember, the cruise director gives people options and lets them figure out the best way forward. Autonomous tasks tend to feature questions with more than one answer with no one correct path–scary, I know!

Don’t forget to scaffold. A good rule of thumb: the last task should be about what the student thinks about the content and what they can do with it.

Blog post by Scott Sterling, Education Journalist

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Save the Date: Classworks 2017 Winter PD!

I know what you're thinking... 2017 Winter PD already? Yes! It's that time.

We're excited to partner with ACT Aspire, NWEA, and Renaissance to offer sessions* in five cities in 2017.

The 2017 trainings will focus on best practices for using your specific assessment data paired with Classworks instruction to individualize learning. Learn more and register. 

Who Should Attend? 

Teachers, lab managers, RTI administrators, instructional coaches, and anyone using Classworks in your school or district.


Classworks & Renaissance STAR Reading & Math
  • January 24 | Macon, GA
  • January 31 | Athens, GA
  • February 8 | Birmingham, AL 
  • February 28 | Memphis, TN 
Classworks & ACT Aspire 
  • February 7 | Birmingham, AL
  • February 27 | Memphis, TN 
Classworks & NWEA MAP 
  • February 14 | Greenville, SC 

In other unrelated news, Classworks Digital Learning Grant application is open! We are awarding three teachers $2,500 each for classroom technology. Expecting a complicated and rigorous grant application process? We wouldn't do that to you! Complete our simple online form to be considered for the grant. Apply now. 

*These trainings are specifically for Classworks customers and are free of charge.