Thursday, March 23, 2017

Facilitate Math Communication in Your Classroom

Happy #FlashbackFriday! Our guest teacher bloggers write some of our favorite posts, so we pulled one from the archives to reshare.

As you're giving students that last bit of math instruction before spring break, try this idea to strike up math communication in your classroom.

I Used Applied Math to Dig Deeper with My Students 

Mary Dark, Middle Grades Math Teacher
North Carolina

As a seventh-grade math teacher, I spend a lot of time creating lessons to foster math communication in my classroom. This week, instead of creating a lesson we used an Applied Mathematics investigative problem. I’m thrilled with how my students responded, and I didn’t have to create/Google it myself.

We are adding and subtracting integers. I chose Activity 7-17: Add and Subtract Numbers on a Number Line. The critique and precision problem gave my students context for positive and negative numbers.

What It Looked Like
Students found the halfway point between items that were found in or around the lake, based on the chart. They had to look at the halfway point between the rock ledge (-43 feet) and the foot bridge (36 feet).

This led us to a discussion about what positive and negative numbers mean. One of my students answered, “the lake is sea level.” When I asked her to elaborate she said, “Because the lake is at sea level, the elevation there is zero.”

Through more classroom discussion, my students grasped the idea of using "sea level" or zero to find the absolute value or the distance from zero with relation to each of these real world items.

Next, we used Classworks number line to show how to find the distance between a rock ledge and a foot bridge.

The Struggle Is Real! 
Looking at the investigative problem, students talked about their solving method compared to the ones in the problem, defended the correct solution using evidence, and explained the error made in the incorrect solution.

There was definitely some productive struggle taking place as they worked through the steps. This is one of the major benefits of these types of problems. I act as their guide as they dig to find answers.

These activities help students approach complex concepts with confidence. My students worked through the activity and got a deeper understanding of the concept than they would have if they worked a series of problems with no discussion. With one activity, I was able to hit most of the math practice standards!

Plus, the level of mathematical conversation that it stimulated in my classroom was amazing to facilitate!

See how Mrs. Dark uses data to drive individualized learning in her classroom.

*Originally posted October 27, 2015

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Build Confidence with the Right Preparation + Digital Lessons! 🌷

Happy spring! I write this as I’m all bundled up because, of course, March! But, bring on beautiful flowers, peeps (you either love them or hate them), and end of year testing - ah! 

You’ve been working hard with your students on achieving academic success all year. As you take the time to prepare them for some of the more difficult concepts on the tests, use your digital reading and math lessons for additional support.

“[The Classworks activities] really prepare them for the types of questions they’re going to be asked in their [end of year tests]. It has them explain their thinking and gives them lots of different digital tools to use to solve problems. The type of tasks they are asked to do on the test–explaining their thinking or doing an error analysis–are addressed in these activities.” Jennifer Geyer, third-grade teacher, Trip Elementary.
Here are a few ways teachers are using the activities to prepare students:
  • Use the text-dependent questions to foster students’ ability to re-read and analyze text and find evidence to support their answer–skills they will need for success on the test. 
  • Assign an Applied Math Expanding problem related to the standard being taught. The Expanding problems have higher DOK levels and help students build a deeper understanding of the concept and better math communication. 
  • Have students use the enhanced technology incorporated into the activities -- typing in constructed responses, using the highlighter and note tools, and using digital manipulatives. This type of practice will help students feel more comfortable with the online assessment. 
Add activities to your lesson plans that promote higher-order thinking, deep comprehension, and analysis of text (watch the videos below for more ideas). Students will feel confident with the right preparation and digital lessons that mirror the types of questions they’ll see!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Motivate to Accelerate: How One Principal Raised the Bar for Students! 📚

“This assessment data is not reflecting my students’ best work! How can I motivate them to take ownership of their scores and progress?” Hector Baeza, Principal at C.A. Donehoo Elementary in Alabama, knew the STAR reading scores he was looking at were not reflective of what his students could accomplish. As a result, it was a challenge to make instructional decisions based on those scores. He and his team quickly put a plan in place to change that.

The school district uses Renaissance STAR paired with Classworks instruction for both closing gaps and teaching grade-level standards. Here’s how they used their data to inform instruction and motivate their students to reach higher levels of achievement. 

Tier 2 Support
Students work on Classworks Individualized Learning Paths based on their STAR Reading and Math assessment results. This is one important reason behind Mr. Baeza’s desire to motivate them to do their best on the STAR tests. Students receive instruction at the level they are ready to learn based on the test results. Lessons are aligned to Renaissance's Core Progress for Reading and Math.

Tier 3 Support
The intervention team uses the STAR Screening report to target instruction to the specific areas where students need extra support. In addition, the teachers use the STAR Instructional Planning report to select Classworks Integrated Reading and Applied Mathematics activities to help strengthen needed skills. Students receive 1:1 support from intervention teachers when completing these rigorous lessons. Students take the STAR assessment monthly and are regrouped accordingly.

School Incentives
The next step for C.A. Donehoo was to motivate students to take ownership of their test scores so they reflect their best work! Mr. Baeza developed an incentive plan using the STAR Growth report. The program started with fifth-grade students. They needed to score a 700 or higher on their math or reading STAR assessment to join the club, which participated in fun activities like going to Shoney’s for lunch on Fridays! The motivation worked and word spread to the other grade levels who wanted their own clubs! Now, there are three clubs based on STAR scaled scores:

  • 550 Club for Third Grade
  • 650 Club for Fourth Grade
  • 700 Club for Fifth Grade
Students are rewarded by getting their names and pictures on a club poster and the television rotation. Mr. Baeza and his team have seen tremendous growth since implementing his plan--1.5-grade levels of growth since the program began! In fact, it has been so successful that Mr. Baeza has upped the ante. Next year, fifth graders will need to score an 800 on the STAR assessment to join the club.

C.A. Donehoo Elementary was awarded the Classworks Digital Learning Grant this year! We're excited to see how they use their $2,500 grant to innovate even more. 

Want to learn more about using your assessment data paired with Classworks? Our Resource Center has guides and videos to help! 

Friday, March 3, 2017

Thanks For a Successful Training Season!

Thank you for making Classworks Winter Professional Development a success! A special thank you to our partners: ACT Aspire, NWEA, and Renaissance!
"Wonderful workshop! ...I love how you incorporated examples of what other schools are doing, and how we can learn from each other. We love Classworks! Thank you for all the one-on-one help. As always, we are already looking forward to next year, to see more."    
Sophia Bridgmon, Winston County Schools 
A recap!
  • 97% felt the training was meaningful
  • 93% of attendees are ready to train others/try it in their classroom
  • Over 200 attendees
  • Over 50 districts
The highlights! Learning the innovative ways you’re using your assessment data to inform your instructional decisions. Thank you for sharing your creative ideas for motivating and incentivizing students! Find other ways to motivate students here. 

Find videos that walk you through using NWEA, Renaissance, and ACT Aspire assessment data paired with Classworks instruction in our video library, and additional resources in our Resource Center.

Questions? Use Live Chat in Classworks to speak with a Customer Success Representative or reach out to your local implementation manager.
"I attended both days of training. It was awesome! We received an adequate amount of information and had time to collaborate and learn from other colleagues. Thanks to all the presenters! 
Regina Porter, Tallapoosa County Schools 

Have you heard about what's coming to Classworks this spring? Learn more.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Panda Diplomacy

Piedmont Elementary, AL
Using Integrated Reading
Use a cross-curricular digital reading passage (good news you have them with Classworks!) to incorporate a current event into your lesson plan.

Panda Diplomacy
This week the United States said goodbye to Bao Bao, a popular giant panda at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. Bao Bao is headed to her new home in China.

To incorporate this current event into your reading lesson, use Integrated Reading passage: 7-7 I Social Studies 1070L- Panda Diplomacy.

News articles that discuss Bao Bao

Lesson Ideas
Conduct a close read using the passage. For tips on conducting a close read try this or this.

Have students research and write about (or draw if you have younger students):
  • Interesting facts about where panda diplomacy began and how it relates to Bao Bao. 
  • What is China’s giant panda breeding program, and why is it important? 
  • Fun facts about the four U.S. zoos that house giant pandas. What other interesting animals do they house? 
  • Other gestures of panda diplomacy that have been made toward the U.S.
Calling all student artists! Have you entered your students into our t-shirt design contest? Read all about it and submit their designs!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Calling All-Star Student Artists!

The Classworks All-Star contest is underway. We hope your students are busy mastering their Classworks activities.

New this year: Design the 2017 All-Star T-shirt! 
Encourage student creativity! Have students illustrate what success means to them. We’ll pick a winning design to feature on this year’s All-Star t-shirt.

How To Enter

Download or print the artwork entry forms for your students. Students can create artwork digitally or print the entry form and draw, paint, or color their t-shirt design. All illustrations must be entered using the entry form. Entry forms will be accepted through March 17, 2017, at 5:00 p.m. ET.

We'll announce the winning design March 24, 2017 on Ultimate Updates and via Twitter and Facebook.  

Ideas for Inspiration
To get your students thinking creatively, have them brainstorm using the ideas below. Students can use their ideas to craft their drawing.
  • What do I want to be when I grow up?
  • What makes me successful in school? 
  • How does it feel when I am successful?
  • How do my teachers and/or parents help me achieve success?
  • When I am an adult success will look like....

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Let's Celebrate Your All-Star Students! ⭐️🎉

The Classworks All-Star contest is here! We're celebrating the 500 students with the highest time-on-task and 70%+ mastery.

How do students win?
Students with the highest time-on-task and greater than 70% mastery during the spring semester (January 1 - March 31) are eligible to win one of 500 All-Star t-shirts.

Winning students will be announced the week of April 7, 2017.

We're rewarding All-Star teachers, too! 
Post photos of your winning student(s) in their All-Star t-shirts to the Classworks Facebook page or on Twitter (be sure to include @Classworksweb in your tweet) for a chance to win one of ten-$50 Amazon gift cards. 

The All-Star contest is a great way to motivate and incentivize students! Create your own All-Star mini-contests for your class or grade level. 

A new way for students to win this year! 
We're celebrating student creativity! Next week's Ultimate Update will announce another super fun way students can win the contest -- stay tuned!  

See contest details and rules at!