Stop me if you’ve heard this one.
You ask your class a question and wait for hands to appear. Most times it’s the same students whose hands fly up so fast you’re concerned they’ve dislocated their shoulder. Those kids are followed by the ones who think it over for a bit then raise their hands confidently. If you wait long enough a few timid half ‘maybe I’m scratching my head maybe I’m raising my hands’ finally make it in the air. Many kids have suddenly found their valves, nails, music, etc to be so interesting they are suddenly incapable of making eye contact. When the correct answer is shared, either by a student or you, there is the inevitable chorus of “I was going to say that!” and “Yes!”
You try to get kids who don’t always speak to answer. You try every trick you know to engage those who are trying to turn Ceiling Tile Dot Counting into an Olympic sport. But you’ve got 60 kids in your class and it’s hard to tell if a student isn’t answering because they’re too shy or they don’t know the answer, or they were hiding behind the bass drum and didn’t hear you, or the act of putting their hand up to answer is literally too much effort at the moment.
Plickers may be just the assessment tool you’re looking for! It’s a FREE app that can be used on any device, and you only need one phone/tablet per class to use it. It works by scanning cards that have what look like modified QR codes on them. Each side is labeled with a letter A-D. When the card is held with that letter on top, the app recognizes it as the answer. The cards are all unique and the letters are printed light and small enough that students can’t see others’ choices. All they have to do is hold up their card and you scan the room with the app!
These cards can be used several ways:
- Spontaneous assessment. Set up a test question after you create your account and use it whenever you want to do a brief check. Verbally ask them a question and have them answer with their cards. To use repeatedly, just clear their responses and scan again for your new question. Have kids keep cards in their music folders or store them someplace for quick and easy grabbing. You can get a quick feel for the room and move on with instruction from there.
- Slightly more planned. Plickers lets you assign students to specific card numbers so that you can track individual data. It takes a bit more work on the front end, but can give you a clearer picture of how students are doing when you ask questions. Create questions within your account and project them for students. You can get reports broken down by question and see how each student responded or if they answered at all.
Plickers offers several option for printing their free cards. Their standard pack is 40 cards with two per page. They also offer the option of 63 cards and you can print them much larger so that the code takes up the page. Depending on the size of your room and number of students, you’ll need to choose what works best for you, but they will work even with a large group in a large space.
This is a screenshot from my phone and my daughter is holding one of the large cards. Once she held it still (which students who are older than three should be able to figure out much easier than she did), it picked up her answer with no problem, so it can definitely be used in a larger space from further away than a typical classroom.
There are a lot of great assessment tools out there, but the flexibility Plickers provides, accompanied by that fact that only one device is needed to make it work and it’s FREE can make it a great choice to try in the band room.
Amy Rever is a 6-8th Grade Band teacher at Hart Middle School in Rochester Hills, MI. She earned her master’s degree in Educational Leadership from Oakland University in 2015. Amy has been teaching eight years and spent the first seven of her career as the K12 band and music director of a small district where she also served as the social media coordinator. She has shared new technologies with colleagues at staff meetings, spoken on utilizing social media at district professional development, and recently presented how to use Twitter for professional learning at the Michigan Music Conference. When not teaching, Amy enjoys laughing loudly and often with her family and walking their two rescue mutts. She also blogs regularly on her site The Noisy Room Down the Hall.
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