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? 

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P: 872-205-6250

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How to Choose the Right Test Prep Program

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We’ve discussed before on how test prep can give students an advantage. With high-stakes testing season approaching, now is the perfect time to start vetting test prep programs to find a good fit for your classroom. There are several characteristics that the most effective programs have in common.

Practice Taking Real Tests

Many programs include tips and tricks for taking tests, including ways to quickly find the correct answer or maximize their score. However, without the opportunity to actually practice these techniques, students are unlikely to remember them when actually taking the tests. By taking similar tests in advance, students gain familiarity and become more confident in their abilities. This lessens those “pre-test jitters” and helps prevent students from freezing up during the test itself. In any test prep program, check to make sure it includes sample tests, based off of the type of assessment your students will be taking.

Up-to-Date with Current Practices

The world of high-stakes assessments changes quickly, particularly as everything migrates to a digital medium. Check when the test prep program was created and how often it’s updated. Look for one that was created within the past 3-4 years and is updated on a regular basis.

Extended Response Assistance

Some of the most difficult questions for students are often the ones that require them to explain their reasoning or defend their approach. Even students who understand how to find the answer don’t always know how to address the writing portion. These questions are often heavily weighted and any test prep program needs to teach students how to answer these types of questions and provide them with plenty of practice. Bonus points go to programs that also provide teachers with a rubric on how these questions are graded so that they can give their students informed assistance.

Customized Approach

One of the most overwhelming parts of prepping students for high-stakes testing is that these assessments often cover material from an entire year. Many programs combat this issue by including a wide variety of topics and lightly touch on each one. Others only cover what they consider the most difficult material. The best test prep programs include a way to customize the material for individual students. 

To learn how Wowzers K-8 Online Math program can help students prepare for high-stakes testing, contact our team or try a free trial

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

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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

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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? 

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F: 888-502-2106

Solutions for Overwhelmed Teachers

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The average teacher spends over 50 hours per week working, which often results in an overwhelmed, stressed-out workforce. It’s also one of the leading causes of new teacher burnout within the first few years. Studies estimate that around one in 10 teachers quit the education profession by the end of their first year, and around 50% leave within five years. It’s difficult to find another profession with the same amount of turnover, and it’s clear that passionate, talented teachers are being driven away. So, what can be done about it?

First, it’s helpful to see where this time is being spent. The average school week is 33 hours long in the United States, which leaves over 17 additional hours that teachers are spending at work. Much of this time is taken up by planning future lessons, grading papers and projects, filling out report cards, communicating with parents about their child’s progress, attending training sessions, and helping struggling students with extra tutoring. Obviously, these are all important parts of being a teacher, so it’s not like any can be cut out. However, incorporating a digital curriculum and learning management system can easily cut back on the time it takes to accomplish these tasks.

Planning Future Lessons

Instead of spending hours browsing through textbooks, writing quizzes, and searching the internet for lesson plans, a digital curriculum can automatically create an individualized learning plan for each student based on what they already know, their speed of learning, and what concepts they’re currently struggling with. This requires zero time from the teacher on a day-to-day basis, freeing up valuable time.

Grading Papers and Projects

Instead of grading each student’s work by hand, which can take hours upon hours, a digital curriculum that includes a learning management system can either make this process automatic or much faster. For straightforward assignments and assessments, grades are often calculated instantly for each student and reported to their teacher in real-time. For longer projects that require long-form explanations and creativity, the learning management system typically includes a rubric for teachers to follow, and allows for grades to be entered directly into the system, keeping everything in one place, which brings us to the next point.

Filling Out Report Cards

When all of the students’ work and grades are kept in a learning management system, a variety of report cards can be generated at any time. For example, parents may want to just know their child’s letter grade, while principals and other administrators want to see how the entire classroom has grown over the course of the year. Better yet, some digital curriculum programs allow administrators and parents to log in at any time to see these reports. Instead of realizing at the end of the quarter that their child is struggling with a particular subject, parents can check in much earlier on, often resulting in more focused attention.

Attending Training Sessions

Any valuable digital curriculum program will include plenty of professional development and teacher training. Although this won’t cover all the training teachers are responsible for taking over the year, it will make some of it much easier to find and implement. Plus, many programs include customized webinars, training via video or phone, and dedicated staff that can answer questions via chat.

Tutoring Struggling Students

Perhaps the largest time-saver available with digital curriculum is that it allows teachers to multi-task much more efficiently. When all students are receiving personalized curriculum and teachers are instantly alerted to which concepts students needs additional assistance with, it makes it faster and easier to pull aside small groups or individuals for targeted intervention.

To learn more about how Wowzers K-8 Online Math program can help reduce stress and save time 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

Blending Learning Environments Help Engage Different Types of Learners in the Classroom

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Lately, we’ve been giving blended learning classrooms a lot of attention because of the benefits they provide for students. One of these benefits is how digital learning can incorporate different styles of learning, but just what are these different types and how can they be used? Although the number of different styles of learning varies depending on the source, most people can typically agree on the following four:

Visual Learners

This is the most common type of learner, encompassing around 60% of students. Students who are visual learners typically prefer demonstrations or descriptions of how something works. These students tend to be easily distracted when a lesson requires physically moving around the classroom. Digital learning can help these students by enhancing the types of visuals shown. Instead of simple diagrams in textbooks, it can show animations and the flow of how concepts relate. For example, these students would understand the concept of surface area best by seeing three-dimensional animations of different shapes and how they have different numbers of faces and can unfold into a net.

Kinesthetic Learners

These students learn best when moving and acting out new lessons. They need to be highly involved in learning and often have a lot of energy. This type of learning tends to be more common in younger students, but can still be found in some older classrooms as well. Kinesthetic learners have trouble sitting still and don’t retain information well in a traditional lecture. Many programs include hands-on activities for these students. For example, these students would understand the concept of surface area best by physically measuring and counting units on different shapes. When sitting at their desk is necessary, digital learning makes it easier on these students by providing virtual manipulatives and engaging them often through clicking, dragging, and interacting with their computer or tablet.

Auditory Learners

Students who identify as auditory learners usually learn best through dialogue, discussion, and lecture. These are the students who can memorize content through repetition and solve problems by talking them out. However, they can be easily distracted when there is a lot of excess noise in a classroom. In a digital program, these students thrive when all instructions and explanations are read aloud to them, and they can focus better when wearing headphones. They typically do best when this approach is combined with the traditional methods of group discussion and teaching others a concept they have already mastered. These students would understand the concept of surface area best if it was explained aloud to them, step-by-step, and they then discussed it as a group.

Tactile Learners

Tactile learners are similar to kinesthetic learners, but don’t need to get up and act out concepts. Instead, they learn best by taking notes, drawing, or tinkering with objects. These are often the students who doodle during lectures, but still seem to retain the information instead of being distracted by the process. When learning through technology, these students need a program that asks them to follow along with new concepts by answering frequent questions and writing out responses. To understand the concept of surface area, tactile learners would follow along as it’s explained to them, drawing their own diagrams with accompanying notes. It’s important that if these students are using a digital program that they are still provided with a place to write and take notes.

What type of learner are you? It takes a lot of practice for teachers to teach in a way that reaches all these types of learners, which is why blended learning classrooms are so valuable. It’s an easy way to reach students who may be distracted or unengaged in a purely traditional classroom.

To learn more about how Wowzers K-8 Online Math program can help you reach all types of learners, contact our team or try a free trial

 

Want to learn more? 

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How Blended Learning Programs That Include Test Prep Help Students Get Ready for “High-Stakes Testing”

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Just talking about “high-stakes testing” raises the stress level of most teachers. The idea of trying to summarize everything a student has learned into a single test is a terrifying proposal, particularly with students who are easily distracted, overwhelmed, or unengaged. Now that most testing programs are done through a computer, this adds a new level of complexity for students who may be unfamiliar with the format. In order to get the most accurate result possible, test prep programs help prepare students for these tests in a few simple ways.

Familiarity

Test prep programs have put a lot of research into the types of questions students will run into on high-stakes tests. By familiarizing students ahead of time with these types of questions, students won’t run into the time-consuming process of learning how to use digital tools and manipulatives during the test itself. By practicing and learning how these tools and questions function ahead of time, students become more confident in their abilities and are able to show what they really know, which is the ultimate goal. Probably the most frustrating part of high-stakes testing is seeing students struggle because although they know the answer, they don’t understand how to input it correctly.

Extended Response Practice

Long-form questions, where students explain their process or defend their answer, is becoming a large part of high-stakes testing. Although students practice basic concepts on a daily basis, the act of writing out their thought process is less common and less practiced. A good test prep program includes a variety of extended response questions, where students can practice transferring their knowledge into logical, sequential text. As an added benefit, this type of practice allows teachers to analyze whether students are truly understanding new concepts, or whether they have simply memorized the necessary steps.

Review

Most high-stakes testing covers content over a long period of time, sometimes even years of learning. Practicing with a test prep program beforehand allows students to review the content and brush up on concepts they might have forgotten in the months since they last used it. By reviewing each student’s scores, it’s possible to revisit this content before the real deal. This type of analysis also highlights whether the classroom as a whole missed an important concept, and what would be beneficial to review.

Rather than leaving students to fend for themselves, creating a stressful environment where they are setup to fail, test prep programs give all students a fair chance to truly demonstrate their knowledge and abilities to the fullest.  

To learn how Wowzers K-8 Online Math program can help students prepare for “high-stakes testing,” contact our team or try a free trial

 

Want to learn more? 

sales@wowzers.com

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How Blended Learning Programs Build Self-Esteem

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On average, teachers spend over a thousand hours with their students each year. It’s no surprise, then, that students’ relationship with their teacher can be an extraordinarily valuable one. When many children are asked who they look up to, identify with, and gather strength from, their answer is often a teacher, either past or present. Although many teachers would answer the question, “What is your job?” with, “To teach, of course,” we know the responsibilities of a teacher go far beyond simply providing lessons and grading work. Teachers play a valuable role in the self-worth and self-esteem of their students.

The most successful teachers have several qualities in common: they are optimistic, charismatic, and determined. These teachers generally have several facts in mind when working with their students:

Fact 1: Students Want to Be Successful

Teachers who believe that every student wants to experience success in learning approach each new objective with a positive outlook. If students struggle or fail to succeed, they work to discover why. Many of these teachers use a blended learning approach because it helps eliminate the fear of failure. When using an online program in conjunction with traditional methods, students are able to work independently at their own pace, often on content that is at a different difficulty level than many of the other students. By linking this adaptive approach with a strong role model as a teacher, students experience more success and work on building their self-esteem and positivity towards learning.

Fact 2: Students Desire Immediate Feedback

Students want to know how they’re doing. When they’re feeling unsure or confused, it often leads to self-defeating behaviors such as inattention, giving up, or goofing off. Truly effective teachers recognize these behaviors not as disruptions, but as a request for help. By combining their skills with a technology program that gives this immediate feedback, teachers are able to provide their students with more direction and attention. This engaging approach helps students build their self-esteem and experience more opportunities for success.

Fact 3: Students Learn Best in Different Ways

Studies have shown there’s no “one way” to learn. Students’ brains are highly unique, meaning that individuals learn best in different ways. The most memorable teachers not only recognize this fact, they also recognize that they teach best in different ways. By interweaving their personal teaching style with technology, teachers are able to present material in many different ways, reaching more students than they could in a purely traditional classroom. These multiple approaches lead to a greater possibility that a student will have an “ah-ha” moment and truly grasp the content. When this happens, it’s a very powerful motivator that leads to a greater self-esteem.

Fact 4: The Sharing of Ideas Leads to Confidence

When a student really “gets it,” sharing their ideas and knowledge with peers leads to even greater confidence. This is the reason that blended learning classrooms include both technology and in-person work. Many online programs also include offline, differentiated activities after each learning concept that allow students to work together, share their ideas, and mentor other classmates. Teachers who recognize these accomplishments and milestones raise the self-esteem of their students well beyond what is possible when students work independently.

By reminding themselves of these facts, teachers can create a positive relationship with their students that is based on success. A blended learning classroom becomes a motivating, safe environment for students, especially those of whom are building up their self-esteem and look up to their teacher for strength and support.

Contributing Author: Jessica Kuras 

To learn more about how Wowzers can help teachers create a blended learning environment, contact our team or try a free trial

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Blended Learning: The NEW Normal in 2017

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As we head into 2017, more schools than ever are looking to incorporate blended learning into their classrooms. Blended learning is the practice of combining traditional teaching methods with technology. Of course, the big question becomes: Why is this type of teaching growing in popularity each year?

Individualized Attention

By taking advantage of technology, teachers are quickly able to identify what concepts students need additional assistance with. Some online programs create easy-to-read reports that highlight what lessons students have mastered, and which they are still struggling with. While most of the class continues through the digital curriculum, teachers can rotate through small groups of students. As many class sizes grow larger, this creates an important time-saving measure to quickly narrow down on what students need help with, and allows teachers to provide each student with individualized attention.

Varied Methods of Learning

As any teacher can tell you, different students learn best in different ways. Some learn through example, others need an explanation that builds on itself piece by piece, some require visuals, and others learn best through repetition. By incorporating technology into their curriculum, teachers are able to supplement their lessons and teaching style with others, such as games, models, and animated visuals. This allows every student to learn in whatever way is most effective.

Specific Feedback

It can sometimes be difficult to judge if all students are understanding material in a classroom that uses solely traditional teaching methods. With digital learning, students typically receive immediate feedback whenever they enter an answer. More advanced technology can even check for common mistakes and tell students exactly where they went wrong and how to correct their errors. By immediately correcting misconceptions and getting students back on the right track, technology allows teachers to spend more time moving forward instead of backtracking when they realize their students misunderstood a concept.

Learning at a Different Pace

One of the challenges of teaching an entire classroom is that teachers can only go at one pace – it may be too slow for some students, but too fast for others. By switching between traditional and digital methods of teaching, teachers can provide faster learners with additional projects and a more advanced curriculum, while students who need a little more time to master a concept can have the extra practice they need.

Keep Learning Fun!

Perhaps most importantly, by varying teaching styles between traditional methods and technology, teachers can keep their students engaged and interested in learning. Technology often allows students to track their own progress, rewards them for correct answers, and incorporates games and interactive learning. In an environment where students often become bored and fatigued by learning, this keeps learning fun and exciting.

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To learn more about how Wowzers can help teachers create a blended learning environment, contact our team or try a free trial

Want to learn more? 

sales@wowzers.com

P: 872-205-6250

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How to Know the Difference Between Differentiated Instruction and Personalized Learning

differentiation_personalization_imageThe modern education landscape is filled with instruction methodology buzzwords (individualized, differentiated, personalized, etc.). Each seeks to explain how to best develop instruction that is engaging and adapted for individual differences.

Though these terms may often be used interchangeably, they truly refer to different concepts within the classroom.

Today, we wanted to take a quick look at two of the most often confused concepts: “personalized learning” and “differentiated instruction“. Read below the break to learn about the distinction between the two and what the relationship between the two terms means for your classroom and curriculum. Continue reading “How to Know the Difference Between Differentiated Instruction and Personalized Learning”