Reward Systems that Work

iStock-496608648-3.jpg

Reward systems in the classroom are a valuable way for students to feel empowered in their progress and behavior. When implemented correctly, these rewards create a tangible way for students to see their progress and involves them as participants. However, reward systems that are too loose or inconsistent can encourage entitlement or resentment between students. Today, we explore what a successful reward system looks like.

Creating a Plan

The first step in implementing a reward system is deciding what behavior or milestones should be rewarded. They should be something achievable, but at a frequency that boosts motivation. For example, in Wowzers, students receive a small number of virtual coins for completing activities. A few coins are given just for their progress, but additional coins are rewarded if they answer questions correctly. This encourages students to continue working on the curriculum in order to make progress, but also to slow down and ensure they are truly understanding the material and answering questions correctly.

Frequency of Rewards

The frequency at which students should receive rewards often varies with age. While younger students need more frequent reminders and encouragement, older students can go longer between rewards. One common suggestion is that toddlers should be rewarded every hour, preschoolers should be rewarded every day, and school-age students should be rewarded every week. To support this theory, Wowzers allows teachers to manually reward students with extra coins whenever they wish. These larger rewards can be linked to things such as classroom behavior, timeliness, and remembering to bring supplies or homework to class.

Immediate Feedback

The most powerful reward systems give students immediate feedback. While an immediate reward is not necessary at most ages, as discussed above, students should know that their positive progress or behavior was recognized. In Wowzers, students receive a virtual coin immediately, but they are not able to spend it until they’re in the free time portion of the program. By immediately recognizing students, it creates a much stronger link between the desired behavior or progress and the reward. Students feel motivated and empowered and are more likely to continue the activity.

Variety of Rewards

Different students desire different types of rewards. Wowzers solves this problem with our virtual mall, which allows students to spend their coins on a huge variety of in-game goods. When creating your own reward system, you may want to allow students to choose their own reward. Some students might value being allowed to sit next to a friend while others want a sticker or a positive call home to their parents. Whatever the reward, being able to physically see their progress has been shown to work best. This can take the form of an invented currency or a positive behavior chart on the wall.

To learn more how the Wowzers K-8 online math program rewards students for learning, contact our team or try a free trial.

sales@wowzers.com

P: 872-205-6250

F: 888-502-2106

The Next Step in Gamifying Learning

iStock-500234426-3.jpg

When most teachers hear about gamifying learning, they think of games that double as a teaching tool or a classroom-made game of trivia to review concepts before a test. However, some schools have taken the concept of gamification to the next level, such as Quest to Learn in New York City. At this school, 100% of learning is posed as a game.

What it Looks Like

The school awards levels instead of grades, everything from “Novice” to “Master.” Even the subjects have more descriptive names. For example, science is re-dubbed “The Way Things Work.” Learning takes place through quests: a thematic unit where students have to work together to solve a series of challenges.

Some such quests ask students to invent a method of transport that could penetrate the Earth to its core, managing all the layers of the Earth in the process. In another quest, students work at a fictional biotech company, where they must clone dinosaurs and create a stable ecosystem for them. Technology is interwoven into everything they do. Using Storyweavers, a collaborative program, students work together to create stories. To practice math concepts, students might invent and play a new card game or be asked to design a structurally-sound building. In one class, students were asked to pick a real Supreme Court case, have the class argue both sides, while students assigned as judges are tasked with ensuring a fair and balanced decision.

How it Works

Designers of the curriculum have studied how to make engaging games. Challenge is constant and mistakes are only minor setbacks, easily overcome. Immediate feedback and rewards are vital, and learning requires participation and interaction. Technology is often integrated into the curriculum, allowing students to play the role of professionals, using role-playing games, graphics programs, and simulations to explore complex careers and situations.

The school is exceptionally popular, and students enroll through a lottery system. Around 650 students attend, spread out across middle school and high school. The students are still required to take the same standardized tests as other students across the country, but their prep is clearly much different.

Effectiveness of the Program

Student attendance and teacher retention rates are high at Quest to Learn. Clearly, the students seem to enjoy learning and going to school. The students’ test scores are fairly average for the area, receiving a solid 5 on GreatSchools. However, perhaps more importantly, the students are above average in problem-solving skills, being able to collaborate and think critically. They also receive much more insight into potential future careers than in a typical curriculum.

However, the system is not easy to implement. Quest to Learn receives hundreds of requests every week from other schools who want to use the curriculum. One Chicago school attempted to integrate the entire curriculum into their existing one, but failed to sufficiently train their staff. Teachers and students were both confused and the implementation was not successful.

Quest to Learn potentially shows the future of learning, where games are not just used in the classroom, but naturally integrated in all aspects.

To learn how the Wowzers K-8 online math program can help make learning fun, contact our team or try a free trial.

sales@wowzers.com

P: 872-205-6250

F: 888-502-2106

How Peer Pressure Affects Learning

iStock-482546476.jpg

Anyone who has worked with students has likely seen the effects of peer pressure in schools. Whether it’s an individual being discouraged to take studying seriously or certain subjects in school being less “cool” to enjoy, peers’ opinions hold power. Now, new research shows exactly how much this power really affects students.

Peer Pressure in Action

SAT prep courses are a popular way for today’s students to gain an advantage on the SAT. In fact, students report that by taking a prep course, they expect their SAT score to go up by at least 100 points, which is fairly significant and would likely affect their college acceptance rate. To measure the power of peer pressure, the National Bureau of Economic Research offered SAT prep courses at several Los Angeles high schools. In the schools where the sign-ups were described as public, meaning that students’ peers could see who signed up, only 53% of students expressed interest in the course. In schools where the sign-ups were described as private, so that no one could see who had signed up, 80% of students wanted to participate.

This research suggests that around one-third of the students who wanted to take an SAT prep course would forgo signing up, just to “save face” among their peers. The results were particularly surprising because the majority of students wanted to take the prep course, but so many of them still hesitated, due to how their classmates would perceive their interest. Furthermore, even students in peer groups who valued education were hesitant to sign up for the prep classes publicly because of the perception that they needed academic assistance. The takeaway from this study is that peer pressure is in full effect in our schools, and can cause students to walk away from opportunities they would normally take.

Preventing Peer Pressure

Understanding how peer pressure affects students is one thing, but how do we respond to it? As the study showed, an overwhelming majority of the students were interested in taking an “uncool” prep class if their classmates didn’t know they were doing it. Students value privacy in their educational needs. This is why we at Wowzers allow students to work at their own pace, in different sections of the curriculum, and often in varying grade levels. Students are never informed if they are working at a slower pace or at a lower level than their classmates, and there is no way for others to see where their peers are at in the curriculum. This prevents peer pressure from taking effect, and allows students the privacy they clearly desire.

To learn how the Wowzers K-8 online math program eliminates peer pressure in learning, contact our team or try a free trial.

sales@wowzers.com

P: 872-205-6250

F: 888-502-2106

Wowzers Now Available for Parents to Purchase

dreamstime_xl_16425670.jpg

For the first time ever, Wowzers is now available for parents to purchase for use at home!

Why Wowzers?

Wowzers Online Math is based on brain-based research and is designed to meet the needs of all learners. Children are able to fill in gaps in their learning or challenge themselves with more difficult concepts. With a varied, adaptive approach that includes lessons, games, quests, and assessments, Wowzers covers every math standard that your child needs to know from Kindergarten through 8th grade.

What’s included?

Whether you want to use Wowzers for homeschooling, as a summer program to prevent the summer slide, as intervention for a child who struggles with math, for a gifted and talented child who need a challenge, or as a supplement to an in-school program, a subscription includes a full year of digital content for each grade level. The program is highly flexible and it’s possible to move children down a grade if the curriculum is too difficult, or up a grade for more challenging content.

How do children and parents access the content?

Parents create an account, then generate a login for each child they want to access Wowzers. Children automatically begin at the start of the grade level assigned to them and progress naturally through the curriculum, but can choose to skip to other math content within their grade level if desired. We will be rolling out more reporting tools for parents to keep tabs on their child’s progress soon!

What is the cost?

Apply today for a 7-day free trial. If you like what you see, we offer two subscription plans:

  • Monthly plan: $14.99/child
  • Yearly plan: $149.99/child (17% savings)

sales@wowzers.com

P: 872-205-6250

F: 888-502-2106

Tips on Securing Funding for New Technology

iStock-182156597-1.jpg

There’s no shortage of innovative technology solutions that support strategies such as personalized learning and effective teaching strategies, but the cost can quickly become prohibitive. With tightening school budgets and personal spending accounts only going so far, what other funding sources are available for teachers?

Donor Programs

One possibility is to create a project through a donor program, such as DonorsChoose.org. This website allows the public to search for a project that they want to support through donations. Teachers create a page that describes their project, upload pictures, and set a goal. Each submission is vetted by staff to verify that the goal is fair and the project is well-explained. Donations are tax-deductible and because each project receives its own URL, it’s easy to share with others through social media or email. Over 75% of teachers reach their goal, and once funded, DonorsChoose.org takes care of ordering and shipping all the materials directly to the school. Before submitting your own project, we recommend browsing through some successful examples to get an idea of what works.

Grants

The other major source of funding for teachers is through grants. Many sites exist that search all currently offered grants for a particular topic or area. For example, grants.gov allows users to search by keyword and includes thousands of available grants. To find education-specific grants, sites such as Grants for Teachers or Get Ed Funding are good options as well. To apply for a grant, simply follow the instructions to create a proposal that describes why your classroom needs the funds and how they would be used. For tips on how to write a successful grant, check out these tips and resources. If you have a particular program you want to implement, their staff may also be willing to help you put together the proposal.

For more info on the Wowzers K-8 online math program, contact our team or try a free trial

sales@wowzers.com

P: 872-205-6250

F: 888-502-2106

Teacher Feature: Rita Minster

edited_1455328910796-1.jpgWe love to hear from teachers who are using Wowzers in their classrooms. Today, we will be featuring Rita Minster, a veteran teacher of sixteen years who has been using Wowzers for three years! Currently, she teaches a classroom of fifth graders at McCollam Elementary in the Alum Rock Union Elementary School District of San Jose, California.

20170426_142453.jpg

Minster’s classroom uses Wowzers supplementally on computer carts that are rotated within each classroom, but that’s not enough for her students, who often beg to stay inside during recess to continue working on Wowzers. She reports that they even log on to Wowzers at home and on their phones without prompting. Perhaps one of the reasons her students love it so much is because she uses the built-in reward system to reinforce good behavior in class. Her students certainly have no complaints about the practice, as she has heard one of them exclaim, “OMG, I have 15 Wowzers coins!” after a particularly good day.

20170426_142333.jpgWe asked what specifically about Wowzers has resonated so well with Minster’s students, and she credits several key factors. Her students enjoy exploring the virtual world of Wowzers with their custom avatars, and the lessons are straightforward and direct. The instant feedback and kid-friendly language means that students never feel like they’re working too hard and can learn without the fear of failing. Even when they get something wrong, they’re simply nudged back on the right track and receive re-teaching when needed.

20170426_142434.jpgMinster works especially hard to make sure Wowzers is individualized for each student. She keeps a close eye on her students’ progress in Wowzers and every two weeks, she readjusts each student’s learning path. Every time she’s had a question about the program, she’s been able to immediately reach the Wowzers staff through phonecalls and chat. Her approach is undoubtedly working, based on the reaction of her students. Or, as she’s heard them say, “I can’t wait for tomorrow for Wowzers!”

20170413_161643.jpg

Want to learn more? 

sales@wowzers.com

P: 872-205-6250

F: 888-502-2106

Teacher Feature: Cory Davis

2d58086.jpgTeachers around the country often share their stories with us, as each classroom finds a slightly different solution in using Wowzers. Today, we will be featuring Cory Davis, a sixth grade math teacher of seven years. Currently, he works at Humes Preparatory Academy in the Achievement School District of Memphis, Tennesee.

Because Davis’s students use the browser-based version of Wowzers, he has them set up on Google Chromebooks – an inexpensive laptop solution for many classrooms. By using the playlist feature built into Wowzers, he creates individual paths through the curriculum for small-group instruction, enrichment, and intervention. His students seem to love his method, as one reports, “I was struggling with my sixth grade math skills, but Mr. Davis assigned me easier skills so I could work my way back up to sixth grade.”

Davis uses Wowzers in conjunction with the NWEA Learning Continuum and has seen many of his students make great strides, such as one determined individual who used Wowzers at home and saw 21 RIT points of growth after all his hard work. Davis credits the personalization of Wowzers for much of his students’ success and recommends that teachers use it to its full advantage, explaining, “It’s best not to keep your students on the same skill because every students is not the same.”

As most teachers quickly realize, there is a huge selection of other math programs out there. Davis considered using Khan Academy in his classroom, but found that Wowzers was more challenging, while also remaining kid-friendly. He has also had good experience with Wowzers’ customer service, finding them fast and helpful.

When asked what he likes best about Wowzers, Davis gave special recognition to the top-notch graphics, easy reward system, and the built-in assessments. As for his students, it seems their love of Wowzers is a little simpler: “I love the ability to control an actual character that looks like me!”

Want to learn more? 

sales@wowzers.com

P: 872-205-6250

F: 888-502-2106

Teacher Feature: Nancy Lee

nancylee.jpgThe beauty of Wowzers is that it can be used in so many different ways. From time to time, we like to share how a particular teacher has found the perfect solution for their classroom. Today, we will be featuring Nancy Lee, a Special Education teacher with over 33 years of experience. Currently, she works at Kilpatrick Elementary in the Texarkana School District.


I have always wanted to feel in control of what my kids are learning. After a tutorial on the Wowzers program one summer I decided to give it a try for one semester. I was totally impressed that I was able to arrange, delete, rearrange or whatever I wanted or needed for my students to be successful. Wowzers is very flexible in that I can go in to add lessons, delete lessons, change grade levels, repeat lessons, etc. Teachers are able to adjust or monitor the student’s daily arrangement of activities as well.

The standards are readily available on the program if I need to make quick reference. I am able to get activity sheets which include writing, higher level thinking, extra practice and vocabulary for most standards. The reports are very informative. There are several options of reports available and should be helpful for anything needed for documentation purposes.

The Wowzers representative I work with is amazing. She is always on top of it and quick to respond to any and all of my needs. I can’t say enough good things about her or this program. I love Wowzers and am so glad I ran across the email about it that summer.

I would highly recommend the program to anyone. My students love the program and are eager to use it daily. The animations are great, their attention is always great, and the game time is always fun for all ages of students. The program keeps their attention and definitely has everything teachers could possibly need for any type documentation or intervention.

Want to learn more? 

sales@wowzers.com

P: 872-205-6250

F: 888-502-2106

How Does the Every Student Succeed Act (ESSA) Affect Schools?

iStock-502190380-1.jpg

Most Americans have heard of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), even non-teachers and parents. It was a controversial piece of law, designed to increase school accountability through an emphasis on annual testing and teacher qualifications, reports on academic progress, as well as changes in funding. However, it was blamed for an increase in “teaching to the test,” where teachers focused on readying their students for test questions so that they could demonstrate the required amount of academic progress, at the cost of achieving an in-depth understanding of the curriculum. It also failed to recognize great strides classrooms were making with struggling students if they didn’t quite reach what NCLB considered “proficient.”

Near the end of 2015, the Every Student Succeed Act was signed into law, replacing the No Child Left Behind Act. The question of course becomes: What has this new act changed?

What is the Every Student Succeeds Act?

This new piece of law replaced the No Child Left Behind Act and returned a lot of the power to the states and school districts. Rather than the federal government mandating when and how testing must be administered, states now have the power to break the assessments into smaller sections and find a variety of tests that more accurately capture what students have learned. States are also empowered to create their own accountability goals and plans, which are then approved by the Department of Education.

One of the biggest criticisms of NCLB was what happened when a school was unable to meet achievement goals. In order to continue to receive federal funding they had a variety of choices that ranged from firing the principal and most of the staff to closing the school entirely. Under ESSA, the intervention methods are much more flexible. It’s up to the state to determine how they want to help schools that are at the bottom 5% of assessment scores or have less than a 67% graduation rate.

How Does ESSA Empower Schools to Use Digital Education?

Also included in ESSA is the authority for states to pursue innovative educational technology solutions. Up to $849M of the funds granted through ESSA can be used to pursue educational technology, which is 60% of the funding provided through grants. This is a reflection of the growing interest in technology. A recent study found that 56% of teachers surveyed reported that digital tools make them better educators. By streamlining the lesson planning, reporting, grading, and personalization process, education technology allows teachers to spend more time being highly effective  working with struggling students, designing creative solutions, and engaging in professional development.

By handing over much of the control and decision-making to the states and school districts, the federal government has realized that a one-size-fits-all approach to education is unfair to both teachers and students. ESSA is one step closer to providing a solution that is flexible and encourages approaches such as education technology that are being embraced by teachers and administrators.

To learn more about how Wowzers K-8 Online Math program can help schools incorporate technology in the classroom, contact our team or try a free trial 

Want to learn more? 

sales@wowzers.com

P: 872-205-6250

F: 888-502-2106

Solutions for Overwhelmed Principals

iStock-494465248.jpg

There’s no doubt that principals have a profoundly stressful career as the leader of a school, responsible for typically dozens of teachers and hundreds of students. Much of the focus has been put on teacher burnout, but the pressure of long hours and competing priorities typically travels up the ladder and rests on the shoulders of principals as well. Any principal can tell you that their days are often full of a stream of teachers coming and going, and the burden can quickly become overwhelming.

The incentive for keeping good principals is evident. A recent study showed it often costs more than $75,000 to replace a principal. Mind you, this doesn’t include their salary. This is simply the cost of recruitment, training, mentoring, professional development, and all the other factors that go into hiring principals. Therefore, the focus should be on finding ways to manage the everyday stress and pressure that comes from being the leader of a school.

Find Ways to Save Time

One of the main complaints from principals is that there simply isn’t enough time in the day to address all the work they need to get done. Finding ways to save time on certain tasks is essential. One solution is to take advantage of technology to cut out busywork such as creating reports, checking on overall classroom progress, and sending home report cards. All these tasks can be done automatically and with the touch of a button using the right digital curriculum implemented school-wide.

Focus on Teacher Empowerment

When a teacher comes to his or her principal with an issue, they’re often looking to offload an issue they don’t feel equipped to handle. Instead of collecting these issues until the principal becomes overburdened, it’s important to empower the staff to solve problems as well. When a teacher surfaces an issue, the typical steps are to first have the teacher fully describe the issue, assign a person to deal with the issue, recommend a course of action, then check up on the issue at a later date and readjust as needed.

Assign Priorities and Goals

Teacher burnout quickly leads to principal burnout. When a school has too many competing priorities, it becomes impossible to focus on any one goal. By identifying school-wide priorities each year and supporting these goals through focused and long-lasting professional development and regular check-ins, large improvements are much more likely. These goals can be easily supported through technology to track progress and encourage collaboration.

Find Your Stress Relief

Some stress is inevitable. In a high-stress career as a principal, it’s important to find a source of stress relief. This could include taking a walk and visiting some of the classrooms, listening to music, trying out new educational games, taking an art break, spending time with staff outside of school, or even just planning regular vacations. Whatever your stress relief, recognize when stress is building up and don’t be afraid to combat it by taking a break from work, even if it’s just a 5-minute break in an empty classroom.

To learn more about how Wowzers K-8 Online Math program can help reduce stress and save time school-wide, contact our team or try a free trial 

Want to learn more? 

sales@wowzers.com

P: 872-205-6250

F: 888-502-2106