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Tips for assessing with Plickers

A few years ago, I discovered an amazing free app called Plickers, which allows you to quickly and easily assess your students with ONLY ONE device! I wrote a blog post about Plickers here, but today, I thought I'd discuss tips for using the app. I just got done with an assessment for third grade recently, and realized there were some steps that make using the app much easier!

Tips for using Plickers to quickly assess students, including video tutorials on using the website and using the app!

Before using Plickers, you'll need to do the following:
  • Decide what assessment you want to use  (anything with multiple choices works; see some suggestions at the end of this post)
  • Get your students' class numbers from their classroom teachers (I would start with one grade level, and email that entire grade level for their class numbers)
  • Enter the students' names by number into the site (www.plickers.com)
  • Print out the cards on the Plickers site (you can laminate them for durability. I've heard some complain about the shiny quality for the cards making them harder to scan but I haven't noticed any problems)
  • Create your assessment (whether that be a slideshow, questions you'll write on the board or read to students, etc.) 
  • Create questions (this will allow you to name the question, then choose the correct answer for each)
  • Assign questions to each class
Here is a video of me entering in names, creating questions, and assigning questions, so you can see how it works:



Once you do all that, you are ready to go!

If you're wondering what the app looks like when you are using it with your students, here is another video showing the app in action:



Here are some tips I've learned along the way:

Include details in the name of the question
Instead of just calling each question by number (question 1, question 2, etc.), you could give specific titles, such as "audio, harp," for a question that asks students to listen to a harp and name its instrument family, or "rhythm pattern 1" for a question asking students to identify a rhythm pattern. I found this to be very helpful when giving the assessment, because I remember which each question is about and make sure to choose the correct one!

Have a test question
As I spoke about in both videos, at the start of the assessment, I always include a test question that asks students to show you A. This way, you can make sure all students understand how to hold the card. If they are showing you a different letter, the app will tell you which student is holding it incorrectly, and you can correct them on the spot. The same thing goes for if you have a student who answers D to one of the actual questions, and you only have A and B as choices. Go ahead and correct them then and there so they can show you whether they think it is A or B.

Hold the phone vertically
Seems simple, but if you hold it horizontally, it reads the cards the wrong way! (And side note, although you can download the app onto your iPad, it freezes up quite a bit, so I would suggest only downloading the app onto your iPhone or Android!)

Start easy
With my third graders, I used questions that asked "strings" (A) "or not" (B). So students only had two choices to choose from, which was a nice way to start using the cards!

Make sure your phone is charged!
I have little to no service at my building, which  drains my phone's battery. On the day of the assessment, when I went to use it at the end of the day with my third graders, I had no battery and my phone died! Ack! So with subsequent classes, I made sure to make a note to charge my phone at lunch time so I had enough battery by the end of the day.

Make note of how many people are in the class
If you have a couple students who are absent, and you normally have 25 students, you'll be looking for 23 students to be answering each time. The app will tell you how many people have answered, so it's good to know how many you have in the class.

Make sure to hit the checkmark after you've gotten everyone's responses
I messed up with one of my questions, and received input from everyone and didn't hit the checkmark. Then, when I said, "okay, I got everyone's card," students dropped their cards and then the app changed some of the students' answers. So as soon as you have everyone's answer, hit that check mark!

Make sure students aren't covering their card
It's really easy for students to cover the black part of their card...and then then answer won't scan! Make sure their fingers and thumbs aren't covering the black part  at all so the system can register their answer.

Use an assessment that has already been created
You don't necessarily have to go and create anything new! Here are some freebies you might consider trying.

For doing a formative assessment during preparation of half note:


For assessing identification of ta and ti-ti patterns (have the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd pattern be assigned as A, B, or C):



For assessing staff reading of sol and mi:


I hope this has been helpful, and I hope that you try it with your students! Please comment below if you have any other tips to add!

I'm excited that Monday, November 28, and Tuesday, November 29, I'll be participating in the TpT site-wide sale! Everything in my store will be 20% off, and you can get an additional 8% off by entering the code "cyber2016." If you haven't given feedback on products you've purchased recently, you'll want to do that, because you can get credits toward more purchases! Click the picture below to go to my store.



Happy assessing, and happy shopping!

Props in the music classroom

As a music teacher, we have the opportunity to buy some really fun things for our classroom! Perhaps you've seen tennis balls or ribbons in another music teacher's room, and you've wondered how they incorporate those props into their music classroom. Here are my five favorite props for the music classroom:

Favorite props for the music room: Ideas for ribbons, tennis balls, and more, for your music lessons!


#1: Stretchy band

I first saw a stretchy band as a way to incorporate movement into an early childhood music class. There are truly SO many possibilities for using the stretchy band (which you can purchase here.) My favorite way of using it so far is to help students learn how to stay in a circle during a circle dance. My second graders will be performing "Seven Jumps" for their performance this week, and the stretchy band is a GREAT tool for this (as otherwise, with that dance, kids might lose their balance!) Here is a video of "Seven Jumps" without the stretchy band; you can purchase the music on iTunes (my favorite recording is by the Shenanigans).


Introducing Flexible Seating in your Music Classroom

A couple months ago, I wrote about all of the flexible seating I purchased for my music classroom. Today, I'm blogging about how I've introduced the flexible seating in my classroom.

Introducing flexible seating in the music room: Blog post with many different ways to have students try out the seats in your room!

I have lots of fun seats in my room now, so of course, the students want to try them out! I decided when I first started that I would only use them for small groups and centers--otherwise, it would be a bit of a mess for whole group instruction, with students sitting at different levels. Here are a few ways I've let students try out the seats:

Star Students:
I choose two star students at the end of every music class, and they roll a die on my SMART board to find out what their reward is (i.e. prize box, Wild Ways certificate--which is a school-wide incentive, sticker, etc.) One of the rewards for 2nd-5th grade is "Special Seat." In the past, I only had one comfy saucer chair, but now I have lots to choose from. The students are always super excited to roll this! The student who receives this is allowed to try out more than one seat during the class, as long as he/she is not distracting when switching between seats. (I've had to have a few conversations with students about appropriate bouncing on the exercise balls vs. distracting bouncing!)

Favorite Kindergarten Music Activities

As I wrote about in this blog post, teaching Kindergarten is so different than any other grade! They are at times so sweet, at other times so needy...and their attention span is about as short as they are! That being said, I truly enjoy teaching Kindergarten music. Today, I thought I'd blog about my favorite activities to do with Kindergarteners...the activities that I look forward to teaching, and the ones that they ask for lesson after lesson!

Favorite Kindergarten activities for the music classroom, including a singing game, movement activities, and more!


#1: Grizzly Bear
I first started teaching this song several years ago, to practice the musical opposites loud and quiet, and oh my goodness, I'm so glad I did! It's one of their all-time favorites, and there is something so magical about waking the bear!

Grizzly Bear: A FUN singing game for loud and quiet! Blog post includes other activities for your music lessons!

The kids love the song, as it starts very quietly and gets louder and louder, until they shout, "Roar" at the end! For the game, I have students walk in a circle, counter-clockwise, until they repeat the first phrase. Then on "Please be very quiet," students stay still and put a finger to their lips. For "If you wake him, if you shake him..." students step louder and louder to the beat until they roar at the end! (I have them put their hands up like they are claws when they roar!) One child pretends to be a sleeping bear in the middle as all of the movement is going on, and then on "Roar," that kid stands up and tries to tag one student. I have one spot that is the safe zone (my white board).


Data-Tracking in the Music Room

"Data" seems to such a buzz word lately in the education world. How well are students achieving? How much they have grown from year to year? And how does this apply to the music room?

Data-tracking in the music room: Strategies for making data-tracking easy and helpful! Includes a freebie for tracking data!

I first really delved into data when I first wrote my SLO, or student learning objective, a few years ago. I had never tracked data in such a specific way, and I admit, it was a bit scary! Since then, I've grown to really appreciate the information data can give me, and how it can improve my teaching!

So where to start with tracking data in your music room? Here are a few thoughts:

#1: Start with games!
Data-tracking doesn't mean you have to make your students take a pencil and paper test. Have them play a game to collect the information you need! Whether you play a solo singing game like "Come back home my little chicks" (notated in this blog post) or play a rhythm identification game like this freebie, you can collect data in a fun, engaging way...and kids will have no idea that's what you're doing!

#2: Try manipulatives
Manipulatives, like games, can be so much fun, AND a great way to collect data! Whether you are using popsicle stick rhythm manipulatives to see how well students can dictate patterns or songs, or solfa manipulatives to see how well students can hear melodic patterns, students can show you what they know in a very hands-on way! These can be done in a whole group or during centers.


Ten Tricks and Treats for Halloween in the Music Room

Today, I'm blogging about ten tricks or treats for the music room...ten ways to integrate Halloween into your music lessons while engaging your students and improving their musicianship!

Ten tricks and treats for Halloween in the music room: ten fun activities to try in your elementary music lessons!

#1: Skin and Bones
This is truly one of my favorite folk songs for Halloween! Here is the notation:


This is a call/response song, with the first part being the call, and the "ooo" part being the response. Here are the additional verses:
  • She lived down by the old graveyard, ooo-ooo-ooo-ooo!
  • One night she thought she'd take a walk, ooo-ooo-ooo-ooo!
  • She walked down by the old graveyard, ooo-ooo-ooo-ooo!
  • She saw some bones a layin' around, ooo-ooo-ooo-ooo!
  • She went to the closet to get a broom, ooo-ooo-ooo-ooo!
  • She opened the door and BOO!
I learned a great game from my former colleague Jenna that my students love:  students lay on the ground with their eyes closed. As you sing, tap two students, who then go and hide! The rest of the students have to figure out who is missing.


10 Picture Books to Sing

Today, I'm blogging about my 10 favorite books to sing. There are so many out there, but these are the ones I've used year after year, both in my music classroom and as a parent!

These books are a great way to end a lesson, or to provide a calm environment after an exciting activity. Singing these books can also be a great way to teach students a new song, to improve students' listening skills, and for parents and children, can be a great bedtime routine! It can also be a great way to build their literacy and language skills, as you could ask them what happened in the story, what they think will happen, who the characters were, etc.

Please note that there are affiliate links within this post; I included links to most of the books on Amazon. Here goes!


10 picture books to sing: Great list for music teachers and for parents!

#1: "Hush Little Baby" by Marla Frazee

I've had this one in my library for years; it's one of my favorites to introduce lullabies to students. The illustrations are beautiful, and the words are nice and big at the bottom of each page, so students can read or sing along.

When I first read it to students, we first discuss what good listening behavior looks like. This is a good way to introduce audience etiquette! Then, I simply sing the song.