Grading and Marking Strategies to Save You Time

If you’re a teacher, that probably means you’re very used to lots of marking!

Grading not only shows students where they are with a piece of work, errors they’ve made and areas that they’ve achieved well in, but it also helps them with grasping a subject area; although, we understand it can often take a lot of time and sometimes feels like you’ve too much marking to do.

Well… we want to help! Take a look at the ideas below to help you reduce your grading and save yourself some time:

1. Schedule grading time

If you teach multiple subjects, grading could become tricky and time-consuming to keep on top of. Completing grading without an organized method can lead to wasted time as your work schedules can easily overlap into other activities you have going on throughout the day.

To help you save time, you could consider scheduling set times throughout your workweek to complete grading, by mapping out assignments, projects, and tests on a calendar.

2. Student self-grading

Another effective method of grading is to encourage students to work together in pairs or small groups to evaluate each other’s work, such as, homework, drafts and quizzes.

This will show that you have confidence in your students to identify areas that need improvement, and will help to build confidence where they can offer their peers advice to help build their knowledge. Once this is complete, you can quickly review the feedback and answer any questions students may have.

3. Set a threshold

Sometimes, you may come across an assignment where a student hasn’t demonstrated what you’re looking for to reach the objectives of the topic. If this occurs, it may be best to speak to the student, make sure they understand the objectives and then ask them to relook at the work they’ve done and offer pointers for improvement.

This helps you, as it saves time having to mark the same piece of work from the beginning, but also the student, as they’ll know the areas they need to focus on to meet the objectives. Don’t forget that communication and collaboration are key to academic success!

Have you explored our suite of solutions? They cater for many teaching and learning needs and can help you save time with grading. Explore them today!

Lighten Your Teachers’ Workload with Educational Technology

It’s not uncommon for many teachers to find themselves without a lot of time on their hands. From working long hours to lots of planning, marking and assessing, many teachers feel overwhelmed at times. Teachers love to teach, but many end up leaving the teaching profession because of workload and burning out.

One way head teachers can lighten their teachers’ workload is through educational technology, otherwise known as edtech. Oftentimes, when schools are looking at implementing new edtech, they focus on how a solution is going to help their students and solve their needs. However, there are many edtech solutions out there, including Edmentum International’s, that directly help with making teachers’ jobs easier and less time-consuming, whilst benefiting student outcomes all at the same time.

When you’re choosing to implement an edtech solution for your school, it’s worth considering these factors to help with lightening your teachers’ workload.

Teaching Resources

The UK-produced editorial newspaper, The Guardian, comments in one article on how much time teachers spend planning, where one teacher shows just how much time they spend planning per week. To lighten workloads, look for a solution which already provides curriculum-ready instructional resources, especially different types of resources, such as videos, interactive activities, online tutorials, etc., that will benefit differentiated learning. This allows teachers to utilize these resources and not spend so much time seeking them out themselves, whilst also having time to flexibly teach in their own way.

Testing

It’s no surprise that teachers must test students every now and again, and ensure they are mastering standards or objectives that they need to. However, writing questions can be time-consuming and marking can be even more so. When searching for an edtech solution, the solution should have ways for teachers to simply assess their students’ knowledge regardless of how lesson material is taught. Solutions with large banks of items with options to be used for lengthier, formal, as well as shorter, informal assessments, with the ability to provide detailed information in terms of grading and reporting is ideal. This will help teachers with setting up tests, and reviewing data and marking.

Personalized, Differentiated Instruction

Many teachers also have difficulty with finding the time to differentiate instruction to each student’s level so they can progress individually, rather than through whole-group instruction. Edtech solutions can help with this. Edtech allows teachers to set students off with their own learning paths tailored to their level where they can work independently. This allows teachers to be safe in the knowledge that their students are receiving instruction tailored to their level.

Although there is no one-size-fits-all solution, as some teachers will require different needs from an edtech solution, it’s worth asking them what they would be looking for and to survey them. By involving them in the decision-making process, this will mean you’ll be choosing a solution that directly suits the needs of your teachers.

The Station Rotation Model: 3 Ways It Can Personalize Learning

Blended learning – what is it and how do you do it? This is what we’d like to focus on with you today.

One commonly known approach to blended learning is the Station Rotation Model. This method is used at many different learning levels to help teachers personalize instruction. There are a number of ways this can be achieved, including, creating individualized learning plans, encouraging self-assessment and goal setting.

Let’s delve a little further into how effective implementing this rotation model can be…

Move learning forward

The model centers around providing opportunities for every student to make successful progress at their own pace, which involves creating centers that utilize technology, support, collaboration, and provide different ways to demonstrate learning in the classroom.

However, this doesn’t necessarily mean creating the same activity for the whole class. Students rotate through all of the stations, whether that be learning in small groups, individual tutoring or online learning.

This is brilliant, as it means that students can support one another during collaborative activities and stations, online instruction enables students to take their learning online and teacher-led might be where there’s whole class instruction and the teacher might be supporting the students who need that extra bit of help.

The student is in control

Once expectations are defined and students are aware of what they must work on to help them achieve success, they can start making decisions for themselves, such as, whom they work with, where they choose to sit, and how they wish to demonstrate learning that day.

Results are more likely to be seen if students are given the opportunity to take charge of their own learning, as no two students need to be doing the same thing if they are at different stages. This little bit of freedom can improve the feelings students develop about their educational experience; and even if there’s that one student who is reluctant to learn, when they realise that all of their peers are working, they won’t want to be left out!

Individualize instruction

A truly effective station rotation model allows you to simultaneously pull small groups of students aside so that you can work with them in a personalized setting. This could be part of the weekly lesson planning, where 30 minutes is put aside to work with students who are in different learning groups where their strengths and needs are similar.

The skill you’re working with students on one week may not be what your low performing group from the week before needs extra assistance with. Your time working with students is valuable to help them make the most of their strengths, encouraging confidence and maximizing success.

What does personalized learning mean to you? Please do get in touch with us on Twitter at @Edmentum_INT and let us know your approach.

Saving Time: Top 5 Lesson Planning Tips for Teachers

Do you find that your weekends are swamped with lesson planning at all? Or maybe you’ve spent all of your free planning time, and now you have 60 books to review!

Whether you’re searching the internet for the right presentation to show a certain topic to your class or you want the right worksheet to use for a lesson, for many teachers, weekends are full of lesson planning and locating the resources that you can’t find.

To help save you some time and make your weekends that bit longer, we’ve put together a few tips to make lesson planning that little bit quicker and a little less strenuous.

1. Find the right solution and keep to it

Find a planning style that works for you and use it all year. Although online searches may offer a wealth of ideas and resources, sometimes, too much searching can leave you feeling overwhelmed. Your school may have a particular plan you have to use or you may be able to develop your own, but do your research early and find a planning style that works for you – it will help in the long run!

2. Magpie!

Sometimes, copying someone is actually a compliment! Why should you spend loads of time creating something that already exists, and when someone else may have just been kind enough to give it to you online? By finding a website such as OER Commons, which is a dynamic digital library of teacher-created curriculum, you can see what suits you, and you can use it as your base when lesson planning, or put your ideas into the existing format – just pick out the best bits!

3. Think of the end first

This is sometimes also known as ‘backwards planning’ but essentially, it starts with setting a specific objective for your lesson and then bringing elements together to make up the lesson from that overarching goal. Although it may seem simple, even the most experienced teachers sometimes need a little reminder, and a clearly defined objective helps bring all lessons back on track. By centring all your lesson planning around one clear objective, you will help make sure your learners are at the center of instruction, and it will mean you have valuable actionable data to use for future planning and progress monitoring.

4. Work smarter, not harder

It may be an exhausted saying but it really does apply and it’s worth reiterating! It involves you making sure you’re researching resources that align to learning objectives and students’ needs at the start, and then using what you’ve found throughout the school year. By re-using resources you’ve found, you can give yourself back some time where it really matters – working one-on-one with your students or tracking progress to help inform future decisions.

5. Consider different learning styles

Are they visual, auditory or kinaesthetic learners? Are they a combination? Try to consider your students’ different learning styles and evaluate them at the start of the year. All students are individuals and all classes have different personalities, and it’s an idea to work these out to align your lessons to their preferences and needs. Take a look at this article from Edutopia which offers an interesting insight into multiple intelligences.

Edmentum International has a number of solutions that help teachers with improving student outcomes, instruction and saving them valuable time. We want to work with teachers to help them! See all of our solutions and discover how they can support you.

Reading and the Brain: Understanding How Learners Build Basic Literacy Skills

How does the brain acquire basically literacy skills? As you choose appropriate strategies to build your young learners’ reading abilities, it’s important to understand the internal command center that processes and builds these competencies. The generally agreed building blocks of reading include phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Here we’ll take a closer look at each of these five areas to appreciate the underlying brain development that occurs and how this can affect the instructional approach you take with your students.

Basic Literacy Skills: Phonemic Awareness

Definition: The ability to hear, identify, manipulate, and substitute phonemes—the smallest units of sound that can differentiate meaning—in spoken words.

The best way to think about phonemic awareness is to compare it to hearing in the dark. Learning to orally manipulate the approximate 41 phonemes in the English language doesn’t require being able to read printed letters. Instead, through phonemic awareness strategies, the brain is able to learn individual phonemes, then progress to join phonemes, and finally, to build words with phonemes.

As you consider this progression, it becomes obvious that, as part of developing phonemic awareness, the introduction of phonics skills must quickly follow. Research shows that teaching sounds along with letters of the alphabet helps students better understand how phonemic awareness relates to their reading and writing.

Phonics

Definition: The ability to understand that there is a predictable relationship between phonemes (sounds) and graphemes (the letters that represent those sounds in written language) in order to associate written letters with the sounds of spoken language.

Phonics is the crucial link between what learners hear and how they read and write. Known as “cracking the code” on reading, phonics instruction is most effective when children start around the age of five.

Critics of phonics instruction argue that the English language includes many irregular spellings that don’t incorporate predictable phonics patterns. However, phonics instruction teaches children a system for remembering how to read words. Once children learn, for example, that phone is spelled this way rather than foan, their brain commits the spelling to memory, which, in turn, helps them read, spell, and recognize the word instantly. Building a memory bank of letter-sound relationships through systematic and sequenced instruction is found to be an effective approach to building phonics skills.

Fluency

Definition: The ability to read text accurately, quickly, and expressively, either to oneself or aloud.

Fluency is critical to building a child’s motivation to read in the first place. When the brain has to focus on what each word means, reading becomes a laborious task that prevents students from gathering meaning. Once fluency skills are developed, though, students are able to recognize words and comprehend them at the same time.

Fluency develops gradually over considerable time with the repeated, accurate sounding out of words. For young readers who regularly interact with the same texts over and over again, fluency might be mistaken for memorization. At this point, students may know what a word “looks like” but may not have yet developed the correct neural-phonological models of the word.

As students begin to acquire words more easily, they should also practice dividing text into meaningful chunks, knowing when to pause and change intonation and tone. With regular guidance and feedback, students begin to recognize these cues during reading and develop deeper comprehension. Fluent readers practice reading consistently and can demonstrate their skills through natural reading that sounds as if they are speaking.

Vocabulary

Definition: The growing, stored compilation of words that students understand and use in their conversation (oral vocabulary) and recognize in print (reading vocabulary).

The good news is that children are born to learn new words! Studies show there are direct links between how many words children hear spoken at home and how well they excel by the age of eight. This is because most vocabulary is learned indirectly—meaning it is absorbed in the brain through everyday experiences, i.e., via conversation, from being read aloud to by adults, or from independent reading. For those children who don’t experience these events regularly, vocabulary often suffers.

New readers use their oral vocabulary to make sense of the words they see in print. During early reading, students mentally search for a word in their vocabulary that matches the written word they see on the page. When their oral vocabulary comes up short, reading is momentarily interrupted. That new word must be learned, in both form and meaning, before it can be added to their mental vocabulary.

It goes without saying that readers cannot understand what they are reading without knowing what most of the words mean. This being the case, direct instruction of explicitly taught vocabulary, as well as word-learning strategies, can help build a flourishing vocabulary and improve reading fluency and comprehension.

Comprehension

Definition: The ability to understand, remember, and make meaning of what has been read—this is the purpose for reading.

Comprehension puts all the pieces together to make a student become a proficient reader. Even before students are reading for themselves, they can begin practicing comprehension skills when books are read aloud to them. Predicting, inferring, making connections, and analyzing what is read are all skills that can be modeled and practiced with an adult and help prepare students to do this work independently.

Students who have mastered the technique of comprehension are both purposeful and active readers. They use metacognitive strategies to think about the purpose of what they’re reading and monitor their own understanding as they read. This allows these students to isolate and feed back where they have a lack of understanding, which, in turn, opens doors for them to apply specific strategies to attain that understanding.

For additional information on proven approaches to teach key reading strategies in the classroom and at home, check out the full teacher’s guide, Put Reading First: The Research Building Blocks for Teaching Children to Read, Kindergarten through Grade 3, from the Center for the Improvement of Early Reading Achievement.

Interested in learning more about Edmentum International’s online solutions to support foundational literacy? Check out our solutions Exact Path and EducationCity to see how they fit your needs, and talk to our friendly Account Management Team on +44 (0)1572 492576. We’re here to help!

Balancing Reading for Skill and Reading for Pleasure

Isn’t reading a way to explore another adventure away from your own? That’s often what we talk about in education. But then again, there are so many children who don’t enjoy reading, and don’t see it in this way. They see reading as a chore or a task they’re not interested in doing. However, reading can be fun if the right novels are presented to children aligned with their interests.

That’s why it’s important to view reading in a positive light to children at school and pay close attention to how your students feel when they’re choosing a book to read. To gain more interest in reading, we need to consider students’ feelings and how reading is presented in school.

Perhaps some of your students are against reading because there is an imbalance between reading for skill and reading for pleasure?

To help, we’ve listed out three remarks you may have heard your students say about reading and how you can understand more about what’s missing from your students’ reading instruction.

“Reading is so boring!”

Perhaps this student hasn’t found a topic or genre they really like yet. In this instance, you could give your classroom a few more books that interest your students. You may want to help them in selecting books that interest them too.

“I hate reading!”

Here, a positive experience may not have been had with reading. Maybe the circumstances surrounding this person’s current reading experience need to be reviewed. Do they just read when they have exams? Or haven’t they ever read for pleasure?

“Reading is hard!”

This person may find reading difficult and need some help in reading confidently. Consider reading strategies, phonics practice, and phonemic awareness skills that might help support this reader, so it doesn’t feel so hard.

If you consider these remarks and responses, the imbalance may be starting to show itself. Now let’s take a look at reading for skill and reading for pleasure.

Reading for Skill

As teachers all have set criteria to follow, it probably makes sense that you’ve taught your students to read for skill. For younger learners, this will involve developing phonemic awareness, and then when they’re older, the focus may be on fluency or tackling vocabulary. We take our students through the stages of being able to read and hope that the love of reading organically occurs. For some, this happens but for others, they don’t grow up to enjoy reading.

We move students forward toward reading proficiency as literacy points to this approach.

Reading for Pleasure

Not all reading for pleasure needs to happen outside of school though! By demonstrating and showing that reading for pleasure can happen in the classroom, this can create positive experiences of reading that students take with them into their future.

So how do we encourage reading for pleasure during instruction time? Well you could read to your students for 15-20 minutes a week, or you could ask your students to have some time to read independently at the beginning of the day. Another way could be to look into books your class will enjoy and add more literature into the classroom library. All of this effort will mean students are more engaged in what they’re reading and you can connect with them about what they’re reading too.

One thing to note though is that you’re achieving the right balance of reading for skill versus pleasure. Connect with students and talk with them so you’re both building a love of reading together and establishing life-long readers.

5 Tips for Differentiating Instruction

When you have approximately twenty students in one class, it can become quite time-consuming identifying each of their needs in order to achieve specific objectives. You may think, how is it possible to create an individual learning path for each student? Or do you even have the time dedicated to do this? Well, we’ve come up with five simple tips that can support you in differentiation and how you can apply it to your class.

1. Distinguish your students’ benchmark

As your first step into differentiating is knowing your students’ abilities and pinpointing areas that they may need more support on, a useful tip to remember is using benchmark tests. We all know how handy these tests are, which are great to measure your students’ academic path throughout the year, evaluating their grade level and understanding what learning goals are needed in order to reach their goal. There are many options to explore benchmarking, using either interim or formative assessment to diagnose any gaps in your students’ learning.

2. Defining standards

Use this as your starting point and work your way through each objective referring them back to your students’ capabilities. Don’t forget to ask yourself, are they meeting the grade level for each one? If not, identify what needs to be done in order for them to progress, which can be done through lesson plans, resources, activities and a range of different content.

3. Creating individualized learning paths

I know you’re thinking that this is time-consuming, or you’ve tried it and you’ve notice how tedious it can become, but this is where the fun happens! You’ve gathered all of your information with your students, now it’s time to use that and create a personalized learning path for them. The benefits of this are ensuring each student is working towards a specific goal and are not missing out on any learning opportunities. As you will know, it will allow them to work at their own pace, with tailored content for their educational paths.

4. Tracking your students’ progression

How regularly should you monitor your students? Do you do it throughout the year? If that’s a yes, then you will know that it’s a great way to get informative results by tracking it before and after. Tests and quizzes (formative assessment) always give a clear understanding of how well students have progressed, giving you an evaluation of what areas need more focus on for each student, or if they’re ahead, what adjustments can be made in your classes.

5. Repeat the process

The main aim is to be comfortable with each step, seeing the impact it has on your students’ learning and how they’ve progressed throughout the year. The great thing about differentiated instruction is that you can alter as you go along. Nothing is ever the same, so continue personalizing paths for your students who will be on their way to success!

Although this may sound overwhelming, the end results are worth it! Attempting this manually is quite time-consuming, which is why there are many classroom technology tools that can support you with personalization. Did you know Edmentum International has a range of learning solutions to get you started?