Recently, we interviewed Kristin Aguilar, an innovative fifth grade teacher at STEAM Academy at Stribling Elementary, located in Burleson, Texas. Ms. Aguilar is implementing a “flipped classroom.” Because Wowzers is hosted in the cloud, her students are able to use classroom Chromebooks to access the program, which, according to Ms. Aguilar, are often a more affordable option than other laptops.
In this creative solution, students do much of their learning at home and often use their classroom time to ask questions and get clarification. Because students learn both at home and at school, it’s essential that any program she implements be available 24/7 and allow students to pick up where they left off from any computer. Wowzers fits perfectly into this model. In fact, Ms. Aguilar sent parents information on Wowzers over spring break so students could continue to learn and master standards.
We asked Ms. Aguilar if she has any tips for other Wowzers users and she recommended that all teachers create their own personal passwords and usernames for students in the Class Roster tab. She also suspects the NWEA feature that automatically creates personalized paths for students from their MAP Growth scores would save a lot of time. Currently, she manually creates paths for each student using RIT scores and in-class performance.
Ms. Aguila’s students continually provide feedback about using Wowzers. “I love the quests and games,” is often heard, and one student even reported, “It feels like we are a part of the story and get coins as we go along.” Engagement at all levels is precisely why Ms. Aguilar chose Wowzers as a math program for her students. When she tried other programs, she found Wowzers the most engaging and easiest to use. This is evidenced by her students, who love Wowzers no matter the level of their mathematics ability. The program provides something for every student as it adapts to their particular needs.
Wowzers is used around the country in a variety of different types of teaching strategies. In this teacher feature, we chatted with Gladys Sanchez, a bilingual 3rd grade teacher at Long Elementary in Harlingen, Texas, who uses Wowzers for an intervention tool. Ms. Sanchez has been a teacher for 13 years and a digital leader in her school for the past 2 years. She takes advantage of the cloud-based nature of Wowzers and has her students access the curriculum through the Wowzers iPad app, the browser-based desktop, and the laptop version of Wowzers. Students also use Wowzers at home on their own computers or tablets.
Ms. Sanchez says that the data and reports she receives from Wowzers allow her to see how her students are progressing through the curriculum. By reviewing and grading their extended response answers alongside the Wowzers rubric, she’s able to quickly assess their skill level. As an experienced teacher, Ms. Sanchez understands that her students all work at different levels, at a different pace, but loves that Wowzers allows her to differentiate their learning by discovering their strengths and weaknesses. Using the data and the information the curriculum provides gives her the ability to override the students’ learning paths at any time when she sees evidence that a student is struggling.
“I am the only bilingual teacher in my grade level and I have seen so much growth in my students.”
Ms. Sanchez says she has seen impressive results as her students progress through Wowzers, and she’s also noticed more engagement. Her students enjoy the interactive games, which, in turn, creates a positive and rewarding learning environment. “You learn while you have fun,” one student said. “In order to get coins to be able to buy things, you have to get the problems correct.” The students also appreciate the help Wowzers gives them. As one student explained, “Number lines using addition and subtraction gives me trouble. Wowzers tells me how many steps I move up or back.” As we often say at Wowzers, engagement is key, and it seems that’s as true as ever in Ms. Sanchez’s class.
Situation: Imagine a classroom of 30 students with an overwhelmingly diverse knowledge of foundational math skills? On top of that already difficult situation, the students have vastly different confidence levels as it pertains to math. This situation happens in schools all over the country from New York to California to Texas. In one such classroom, you’ll find Ms. Kelly Rust, a seasoned educator who has been teaching for 18 years and has specialized in math and science for the last six years.
This month’s Superstar Teacher, Ms. Rust, understands the struggle of engaging her students in math. She has students at all levels in her classroom and creating a personalized learning plan for each individual can be challenging and time-consuming. Her goal is focused on closing the learning gaps in her classroom and getting her students excited about math.
Ms. Rust found a solution with Wowzers when one of her students was struggling in math and experiencing extreme anxiety. Due to these feelings, the student didn’t like to participate in Ms. Rust’s traditional math lessons. As an experiment, Ms. Rust started her on Wowzers, and witnessed a drastic shift in the student’s attitude towards math. Now, this student asks to log on to Wowzers anytime she has a free moment and is finally excited about learning math.
Ms. Rust loves the structure and versatility of the Wowzers program so much that now all of her students use the program to enrich their math skills. “I love being able to customize the curriculum for every student or groups of students,” she explains. “Using the reports, I can see very specifically where a student is struggling, and from there I provide remediation or change the student’s pathway to close those gaps.”
Ms. Rust recommends that if other educators are curating a personalized and engaging learning path for each student, they should complete the online professional development course to take advantage of all that Wowzers has to offer. Ms. Rust loves what Wowzers has been able to give to her students, which is a compelling and comprehensive approach to math.
Finding an engaging approach to math was an important element for Ms. Rust when she was considering a personalized math program for her students. Now all of her students, no matter what level of learning, beg for Wowzers time. Her students love the storylines and how the math is embedded in games. “My favorite part about Wowzers is the quests because it has math and adventure!” one student added. Another chimed in, “I like practicing my math skills during the games and I like talking to the different people during the quests.”
Today we’re featuring Joe Perez, a fifth-grade teacher from El Camino Real Academy in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Mr. Perez has been teaching for 18 years and, like many teachers, values the importance of technology. When one of his former colleagues recommended Wowzers, he decided to check it out by loading the Wowzers app on iPads in his classroom. He uses Wowzers’ new partnership with NWEA to create personalized learning paths for his students based on their MAP Growth test scores. He reports that this has helped fill in the gaps that students have in their mathematical foundation and allows students that are exceeding expectations to be challenged at their level.
It seems Mr. Perez’s strategy is working. “The best part of Wowzers is that it knows your math level and how you get coins to buy things at the mall and things for your Pod. The reason why I like this is that it gets you better at your math skills,” one student reports. Another explained, “My favorite part of Wowzers is the practice problems because they help me a lot with the subject I am working on. Also, it kind of makes it fun because they either put you shooting a goal or you are slicing fruit.”
For Mr. Perez, he enjoys using Wowzers because it provides instant feedback for his students and gives immediate follow–up questions to test their understanding. Because he has 27 students in his class, being able to individually provide feedback to all of them is challenging. Wowzers automatically provides this feedback as students progress through the curriculum. Illustrations and models are a big part of Mr. Perez’s math curriculum, which Wowzers supports as well. Finally, he appreciates that the format of Wowzers is similar to the PARCC format. That provides experience for the students, which in turn, helps them become more successful when taking the PARCC assessments.
Tips and Recommendations
For other teachers using Wowzers, Mr. Perez recommends creating structured times for the students to use Wowzers and then sticking to that schedule. He also mentions that he purchased his classroom’s Wowzers subscriptions through a local organization called Dollars4Schools. However, even if that funding ceased to exist, he is determined to find ways to pay for the services Wowzers provides. The program has become an essential part of his teaching strategy.
We 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.
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.
We 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.
Minster 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!”
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Teachers 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!”
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The 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.
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