How to Support Your Students During School Closures

Derek Devine, our International Business Development Manager, is discussing how you can support your students during school closures and limit any disruptions to their learning.

What’s in the webinar?

This webinar includes:

  • Information on ways we can support students during this time.
  • Considerations when planning for school closures.
  • How Edmentum can help schools, including teachers, students, and parents.

For more information on Edmentum International and our solutions, take a look at our page.

Creating Motivated and Confident Learners by Celebrating Success

Do you remember when you were at school and you would receive a reward for doing great work? We probably all remember a time when this happened to us and we had a sense of bursting pride from it. This also helped with our confidence, instilled more of a love of learning, and may even have led to what we do as a job now.

In this blog, we’re going to take a look at why we should be celebrating success in the classroom, as well as strategies for doing so, without taking away from that all-important teacher time.

Why We Should Celebrate Success…

To Help Students See That Hard Work Leads to Growth

There needs to be a move away from the thinking that achievement can be based on either ability, others around us or plain good luck. Effort is significant too. Although this is already widely understood, we should be rewarding this over anything to motivate our students. Focusing on this as a tool that underpins achievement will help with students seeing the value of working hard and will help them with putting more effort into their work, which in turn, will improve their outcomes and growth.

To Instil a Love of Learning

You can help your students grow in confidence in so many areas by celebrating their accomplishments. Besides, what’s better to build confidence than being told you’re doing well?

To Motivate Learners with Their Studies

Praise is a major driver in motivating students to work hard and do well. But we need to make sure we’re giving praise that is helpful. We can do this by making sure it’s sincere and genuine, specific and descriptive, to ensure students know where they have done well, but also realistic, so it focuses on specific behaviors.

How We Should Celebrate Success…

Celebrating success must be done well for students to really benefit from its impact. Consider implementing the following into your praise:

  • Focus on the hard work and effort rather than just the achievement when praising students.
  • Make sure you clearly point out who is being celebrated and the reason why.
  • Give more background information about performance.
  • Make sure praise is transparent and varied.

Strategies for Celebrating Success

It’s true that there are many schools with their own Behaviour Policy in place that details rewards or what to do when there’s negative behaviour. However, it may be worth reviewing some of this policy to help with motivation and creating confident learners.

Create Postcards for Parents/Carers

This is a personal reward, but you could send home postcards to say “well done” for something – this will help engagement and the home school link. You can make these yourself and print them out. Sometimes, students won’t come home and shout about their successes, so these are a great idea for you to do something to show great work.

Share Any Successes on Social Media

Does your class or school have a social media page? We know these are very popular! You could post photos or messages of your students’ work to show parents and celebrate success; this is a great way of improving parental engagement and quickly sharing fantastic work with a wider audience too.

Set Up a Special Treat or Lunch

When your whole class has done fantastic work, as a special reward, at lunch, you could give your students passes, or Golden Tickets, to a separate table and maybe even have teachers serve them ! This will make them feel very special and set them apart from their peers – plus, other students will see which will inspire them to want to try and aim for that treat too!

Don’t forget that on Exact Path, you can also set up Challenges which mean you can put a ‘special lunch’ as a reward for skills completed or time spent on learning paths. Our report from Century Analytics shows that students who complete just eight lessons on Exact Path demonstrate significant growth, so this is a great way to improve outcomes.

Celebrating success is a great idea for so many reasons – success looks different for every student, so taking time to highlight this can help with motivation, confidence and class morale. So how do you celebrate success in your classroom? Let us know in the comments below.

Visiting King’s College La Moraleja

As a Senior International Account Manager here at Edmentum International, I am incredibly fortunate to work with people from all around the world. My days tend to start rather early in the morning, having conversations with educators in Asia as they finish their working day, and then they can sometimes end with an online meeting in South America just before my bedtime.

International education is something I feel very lucky to be a part of. The sheer diversity of schools and people that I get to work with is phenomenal. From a tiny school in Peru with less than 20 students, whose parents all work in the local mining company, to the huge international schools in the UAE with over 3,000 students, I only wish I could visit them all. Thankfully, modern day technology enables me to connect with them all.

Every now and then, I do get to travel, and I get the opportunity to visit a new country and new schools, and every time, it’s always a new experience.

My most recent trip was to Madrid, Spain, after being invited by The King’s School Group to go to one of their schools. The group have several British curriculum schools across Spain, Latvia, Germany, England, and even Panama! I was honored to be invited to their 50th birthday/professional development weekend.

Student and Teacher

During my time in Madrid, I was able to visit other schools, which included an open plan school – there were no classrooms, just lots of class areas, laid out like classrooms, but with no windows and doors – it was amazing (and loud!).

 

My previous career was classroom-based; I was a learning support assistant, which I guess is why I love working with schools so much now, and I still have that involvement in education, but I do miss working directly with the students.

I was incredibly excited when Miss Jones, the Head of Primary, agreed for me to come and spend some time with her students at the King’s College School. Her Year 3 class, mostly Spanish nationals, but all fluent English speakers, were also ecstatic about my visit, so much so, they welcomed me with a dance to EducationCity’s 8 x Table Song (you can watch it below)! ‘What a fantastic way to get the children to learn their multiplication facts and be active’, I thought. I work for EducationCity and I’d never have thought to use the resource in such a way!

 

 

Screen

 

Afterwards, the Year 3’s shared iPads and worked in pairs to complete the activities that Miss Jones had set for them via a MyCity. The students were all able to log in independently and I spoke to some of them about what a great life skill it was to learn about usernames and passwords – they all knew their own, and to keep them secret! I loved seeing the children work in teams and share the iPads as they worked through the activities, and it was even more warming to see their expressions change to sheer joy when they answered the questions correctly.

Student on EducationCity

After breaktime, I was thrilled to join the Year 1 students. Although only 5 and 6 years old, they were already bilingual which left me in awe! At the ripe old age of 29, I only speak one language, and they certainly made me want to rectify that!

Students on EducationCity

The class gathered around the board to watch an EducationCity video and then completed a teacher-led activity as a group. The students then had activities to complete on individual iPads, and each child used different materials to help with their maths questions, whether it be number lines, counting cubes or pencil and paper. I loved how every child was encouraged to learn in a way that suited them, and of course, they also asked the staff for help, including me. I was very pleased to sit on the carpet with the children and just enjoy helping them to work out their sums.

Despite using EducationCity with my own students a few years ago, I thoroughly enjoyed seeing today’s EducationCity in action in a variety of ways. I was very grateful for the teachers and students at King’s College School for welcoming me with open arms.Class Using EducationCity on Whiteboard

The following day, I was welcomed into the heart of the King’s Group, at King’s College Soto de Viñuelas, for their Professional Development Weekend. I provided four training sessions, and each session I tailored to those attending. I guess that’s the veteran teacher in me, enjoying differentiating my teaching to meet the needs of the class!

I might not have a direct impact on students’ learning now that I’m not classroom-based, but I believe I’m the lucky one because I get to provide the tools and support to the teachers, which enables them to do the incredible job that they do. They say it takes a village to raise a child and I’m so thankful to play a small part in many villages all around the world!

Top Five Test Preparation Tips

Preparing for tests isn’t easy for students or teachers! That is why we have put together some useful tips that will help you to support your students as they prepare for their high-stakes tests.

1. Benchmark your students

Even before you start preparing students for their assessments, it’s very important to know what their strengths are, and where they have needs. A benchmark assessment can help you identify where students are individually, and comparatively against their peers. You can then use this information to help inform your teaching and the direction it needs to take.

2. Leverage your data

If you have data from your students, whether from previous exams or homework, use it! This data can be your best tool to differentiate teaching and help you prepare your students for their tests. Make use of formative assessment strategies too, to identify concepts and skills your students are struggling with and where individualized attention is needed. Online tools – like Edmentum Sensei – can be a great way to obtain actionable data.

3. Review and practice

Create a revision plan to review content. You may have to give a diagnostic quiz to identify where there is a lack of understanding. Once you determine where the challenge exists, review the material and possibly introduce other resources. Practice will not be constructive unless the students understand the content.

Simulated practice tests can ensure that your students are making the desired amount of progress before a high-stakes exam. All practice experiences should emulate the test in the style of questioning, as well as presentation. This will help them familiarize themselves with the format and become comfortable with it, so that there are no nasty surprises when the test arrives. If they will be taking the test online, then practice should be digital so that students develop the skills they will need for the exam.

Teach your students the importance of previewing a test section before starting to answer questions. It can help them pace themselves (so that they don’t run out of time and feel rushed), and it gives the brain the opportunity to start retrieving information in the background while answering other questions.

4. Prepare for next-generation assessments

Not only are next-generation assessments more rigorous, but they may be presented in a format that students are unfamiliar with. Gone are the days when pure content knowledge and a pencil were all that students would need to succeed on a test.

Below are a few things your students will need to have to be successful:

• Device familiarity
• Understanding of how to navigate the test
• Exposure to Technology-Enhanced Item types
• Basic keyboarding skills

Make sure that your students are given enough preparation and time with these items to give them the best chance of success.

5. Create a culture of positivity before the test

As Henry Ford is credited for saying, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t – you’re right.” Although some anxiety can be helpful, making students feel the urgency to prepare, it can quickly become a negative force and undermine all the positive preparation that has been done. So, try to keep the atmosphere relaxed and fun while still stressing the importance of the test.

Test taking is a skill, and knowing how to take a test correctly can improve scores dramatically. Follow these five steps, however, and you can be secure in the knowledge that you’ve prepared your students as best you can.

A Teacher’s Perspective: How Parents Can Help

Education is a team effort, and a child’s chances of success are greatly improved when teachers and parents work together effectively. Here is one teacher’s take on how parents can best support their child’s time at school.

Communication is key

Teachers understand that things crop up and calendars grow full, both at school and at home. This can make regular, effective communication between parents and teachers a challenge. One great pre-emptive strategy is to share your preferred mode of communication with your child’s teachers. If teachers know that you want to hear from them and have been made aware of a way to do so that guarantees a response, you’re more likely to receive updates. And these updates will not be limited to your child’s struggles or challenges—teachers love to share their students’ successes as well! Open the lines of communication even further by asking teachers about their preferences as well.

Accept feedback about your child – positive or negative

It may be difficult to hear negative feedback about your child from a teacher, particularly if similar trials are wearing on you at home. However, every teacher wants to see their students be successful in class. So, when your child’s teachers come to you with a challenge or concern, keep in mind that their only agenda is to offer some constructive feedback and open a dialogue to remedy the situation.

Work as a team

If your child does have problems in the classroom during the school year, approach it in a way that you and the teacher are on the same team. Talk with the teacher about what solutions can be created and what behaviors need to be changed or encouraged. Then, make sure that your child is being held to the same expectations, both at school and at home. It is also important to think about the broader team available to enlist if your child is experiencing academic or behavioral problems. Is there a favorite prior teacher or other staff member that you and your child’s classroom teacher could work with to provide additional support? Are there other family members who could help, such as a grandparent, aunt, uncle, or older sibling that they look up to? Surrounding your child with this type of support and consistency is critical to bringing about real change.

Offer your suggestions

Teachers aren’t autocrats, and like everyone else, teachers appreciate helpful suggestions from time to time. If you have an idea, especially about things that could improve how your child performs in class, speak up. If possible, make an effort to spend some time in your child’s classroom or school to get a taste for what’s actually going on before offering your feedback. Volunteering to help with a class party, reading to the class, or simply running copies is always welcome. Not only does this give you the chance to experience school life as your child does, but it also helps you make a friend in your child’s teachers – and, in turn, make them that much more receptive to your suggestions.

Rally the other parents

In many schools, parents communicate with each other more than they communicate with teachers. It can be really helpful to teachers if one or two parents step up to handle regular communication duties, like updating the class’ social media pages. Parents can also take the lead in efforts like coordinating classroom volunteers or helping plan classroom events. For teachers, this kind of grassroots effort is more effective (and less stressful!) than having to leave voicemails or send emails to get parents involved.

Keep teachers in the loop

Your personal life is your own business, and some things should simply be left at home. However, personal events can also help explain sudden shifts in your child’s behavior at school. So, if your home situation has changed – such as a death or illness in the family or any other impactful problem that has come up – give your child’s teachers a heads-up if at all possible. Teachers care deeply about their students; your child’s teachers will be happy to do whatever they can to help your child work through the challenge.

Looking for more tips on how you can help your child and their schooling? Read our blog from parent, Adele, which explores homework tips for parents.

Top Tips for Implementing Mastery-Based Learning

We’re sure you’ve heard of ‘mastery-based learning’ – the approach to instruction where students must demonstrate a deep level of understanding of a topic or subject area before moving onto another topic or subject area.

(You can read our blog, Understanding Mastery-Based Learning, for more information.)

To help you implement a mastery-based learning approach in your school or educational establishment, we’ve asked three of our teachers from Edmentum International for their top tips to help any school looking to implement a mastery approach. Take a look!

Lay out clear and concise expectations

“So, for me the first tip would be to ensure that teachers lay out clear and concise expectations of each student; and each student, as a result, knows what to expect from their teacher. There has to be clear lines of communication. Creating learning pathways will assist with this, and our solution, Exact Path, is ideal for this.

“Next I would suggest to try and set time aside in the day or even in individual lessons for your students to work on their learning pathways. This time will allow students to work on their individualized work to ensure they are able to master their set skill. This time will then influence what the students will be able to do the following week in their learning paths.”

Emma Berry, Customer Services & Implementation Specialist and Teacher, Edmentum International

The 3Ps approach

“My three top tips are the 3Ps approach, encouraging mastery learning as well as independence, discussion in context and reasoning skills.

“The idea is that when you come to a mathematical question, you follow the 3Ps approach as outlined below.

“1st P: Past work – look at what you’ve done so far, what do you know already?

“2nd P: Peers – what does you partner think and why? Discuss your ideas.

“3rd P: Prove It! Now that you’ve looked at what you and your partner know, answer the question explaining why you are right!”

Haylie Taylor, Education Consultant and Primary School Teacher (SEN Specialism), Edmentum International

Show evidence of applying and understanding

“First, we start with problem solving. Can the children apply what they are learning (skills) into a real life situation?

“Get the children to apply what they know, e.g., if they have learnt a technique/skill, can they use it to problem solve in a real-life scenario?

“Use mastery of doubling – Fred has a shopping list for 12 cakes, he needs to make 2 batches. Can you work out how much of each ingredient he needs to make all the cakes?

“Second, get the children to become the teacher. Can the children demonstrate, explain and apply their knowledge within the classroom to their peers?

“Have the children deliver part of the teaching input during the lesson.

“Lastly, can the children apply the skills/techniques they have learnt outside of the original subject? Do the children demonstrate a continuity of skill across their learning?

“Can the children apply skills learnt in English lessons in cross-curricular writing and not just within English lessons?

“Are the standards of writing (vocabulary, grammar and punctuation) continued in cross-curricular writing, e.g., in science investigations or geography reports?”

Eloise Cooper, Account Manager and EYFS Teacher, Edmentum International

With these tips from our teachers, it’s important to note that when transitioning to a mastery-based learning approach, schools may need to recognize changes at a system-based as well as a learning-based level. Instruction may need to be redesigned but most importantly, students needs to be placed at the center.

With mastery-based learning, the student becomes the focal point, which means that with it, we can maximize every students’ chance of success, be that at college or in their future careers.

Using Formative Assessment Data to Guide Learning

High-quality educators take the saying ‘be quick on your feet’ to an entirely new level almost each and every day within their classrooms. Educators not only work to keep their students engaged and excited about learning, but they also work to create new and data-driven learning opportunities for their often-diverse set of learners. Developing lessons that are meaningful, relevant and reflective of each student’s skills and abilities can seem like an overwhelming task at times, however working to incorporate the use of students’ formative assessment data can help take that process to whole new levels.

Let’s start to examine how to use formative assessment data within the classroom to drive instruction by first outlining exactly what formative assessment within a classroom consists of. Formative assessment can take many forms, but it is primarily described as ‘assessment that occurs within and between (daily instruction) lessons.’ Some teachers refer to it as the ‘micro-assessments’ that a teacher will administer throughout the course of a lesson or instructional day. These assessments can include something as small as a ‘thumbs-up/thumbs-down’ teacher call out after teaching a lesson to ensure that everyone feels comfortable with what has been taught, all the way to a more formal paper and pencil quiz. Either way, educators use this type of assessment to determine if the lesson/skill that was taught has been internalized by the students. Education research tells us that ‘high-quality formative assessment is perhaps one of the most effective educational practices when it comes to improving academic achievement.’

While there are no shortage of great formative assessment techniques that educators can use to help determine the effectiveness of their teaching, the real challenge for many educators becomes taking that student feedback or data and then transforming it into new, more reflective learning experiences for students. I have gone ahead and listed a few techniques that can be used to help support not only the process of gathering formative assessment data from students, but also the process of interpreting it.

Create a ‘culture’ of formative assessment within your classroom

Working to help create a culture within a classroom that embraces the consistent use of formative assessment is essential to ensuring engaged learners. Having students who are ready and willing to give you feedback that is relevant and accurate about their learning is the very first step to gathering meaningful feedback that can be used to drive instructional decisions. This process really begins by helping your learners understand ‘why’ you are asking for their feedback and then detailing to them the processes that you are going to employ to turn that feedback into new and more tailored instructional experiences. Creating ‘self-directed’ learners within a classroom is the goal of every educator and helping students understand where their individual strengths and weaknesses may lie can help them to propel forward in their learning.

Formative assessment data is not just numbers

Assessing student learning does not always require an educator to hand out a large assessment to his/her students. Often, determining which skills/concepts your students have mastered can be done in quick, more informal ways. Some examples of quality formative assessment techniques include, ‘thumbs-up/thumbs-down,’ mini whiteboards, ‘hand thermometers,’ chalkboard ‘Splashes’,’ ‘random selection assessments (popsicle sticks)’ and ‘cold-calling.’ All of these techniques are quick ways for an educator to not only determine which students are grasping certain concepts, but which students may need additional support or instruction moving forward. These brief, informal checks can be administered mid-instruction and can serve as a lever for a teacher to either pivot back to re-teach certain lessons or as a way to determine whether or not to move onto teaching another topic.

Use formative assessment data to help plan for change

High-quality educators use student data to help determine which skills in a classroom need to be taught and when. Adjusting a classroom’s scope and sequence, or the order and timing with which skills are introduced to students, is one of the most critical aspects of assessing students using formative assessment. The data that students provide a teacher with, through the formative assessment process, is critical in making decisions about what skills will be focused on and for how long. As an example, a teacher may introduce and provide direct instruction on a topic such as ‘fractions’ for the class and may have planned to focus on that lesson for roughly three instructional days to ensure that students have grasped the topic. However, after administering a series of regular and consistent formative assessment techniques, including ‘cold calling’ and ‘classroom quizzes’, the teacher may determine that the set of students have a solid grasp of the concept after only two days of instruction. This information frees up the teacher then to shift the ‘extra’ day of instruction to another topic that the students do not yet have mastery of. Adjusting in this way allows the educator to help maximize the time that he/she has with their students and ensure that the students are truly learning the concepts that they are being presented with.

Integrating formative assessment techniques into classroom instruction is one of the most beneficial things that a teacher can do to meet the varied needs of his/her learners. The techniques listed above can create transformative changes within a classroom who is working to meet the diverse needs of their learners. The information gathered from the formative assessment process helps to not only shed light on students’ successes and possible gaps, but also helps to ensure that a teacher is teaching the right concepts at the right time.

Black, P. and D. William. “Assessment and Classroom Learning.” Assessment in Education, 5:1, March 1998, p.12.