Formative assessment is a must in every classroom. When done well, it can provide a window into a child’s mind, not just what they know, but how they know it. Questions can be asked, but this will only provide information about the student who shares an answer. We can listen in on small group conversations, or think/pair/share situations, but we can only hear and evaluate so many conversations at one time. While conferring with each individual student is undeniably valuable, it takes a lot of instructional time.
If teachers want to know every student’s answer to every question, they typically give a test or a worksheet to complete. Students may not get feedback about their performance until after their work is graded. They may have to wait until the next day or even longer. By then, they may have forgotten how they even determined the answer.
Maybe you’ve seen those fancy student response systems. Many work with specific interactive white boards. Each student has his or her own hand-held device. They click a button to choose an answer to a multiple-choice question. A graph is then displayed on the board that shows the results of the students’ responses. This question/answer/discuss cycle can take just a few minutes! To make matters even better, all of the responses can be retrieved later to know how each student answered each question. If a school is fortunate to have a set of student responders, teachers have to share.
Not anymore!! Now every teacher can determine how every student in his/her class would answer every question and have a record of each student’s responses for free! Yes free! (My favorite four letter word!)
These strange looking boxed shapes are the answer. Each child has their own Plicker card with a unique quick read code (QRC), which can be printed from the Plicker website. They hold the card so the letter of their answer is at the top. The teacher scans the room using a cell phone or tablet loaded with the Plicker app.
Here’s a quick video to give you an idea of what this would look like. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mI-eBHhEqzs
It really is that simple!! Mary Amoson, a kindergarten teacher, makes it easy for her students to use their Plicker cards. She writes a student’s name on the back of the card and uses colored markers to label the choices for A, B, C, and D.
Perhaps the greatest benefit of using these cards is the anonymity each child has when answering the question. No one will know if they gave a correct or incorrect answer, so they are honest in their choice. However, when the graph is projected on the wall, each student will know how they did. This presents a perfect opportunity for teacher feedback. Even before the correct answer is revealed, questions like, “Who can tell me why you picked A as the answer? Why do you think others chose this answer?” After further discussion, you can even repoll the same question to see if more students select the correct choice. Assigning each student with a specific numbered card, will allow you to know how each child answered each question. You simply pull up record on the app whenever you’re ready to check.
As with every great tool, there are a few considerations. Students will have to learn not to hold their card behind another student’s head or other body part when you are scanning the room. It is also not advised to laminate the cards, as the glare may interfere with the ability to recognize the QRC. With heavy use, they may not last long. Never fear! Other teachers have come up with some great suggestions for organizing, storing, and protecting Plicker cards.
Formative assessment and feedback has never been easier or more informative for both teachers and students. Plickers has a great help site to get you started and post questions, along with other sites to show you how to use this tool! Print out your Plicker cards today and have fun while learning so much about each of your students!
organize your plicker cards http://teachphysed.weebly.com/plickers.html
This post is brought to you by Dr. Rena Shifflet. Rena has spent over thirty years in public education as a classroom teacher and district technology coordinator. As an associate professor at Illinois State University, Rena works with preservice elementary education majors and practicing educators. Her research interests include preservice teacher education, professional development schools, and the use of technology for teaching and learning. You can check out past ECE Teacher Talk posts by Rena here and here and here.