Posts Tagged ‘digital assessment’

If you read the first Totally Awesome Things to do with Spreadsheets in the Classroom post, you’ll know that I’m a little obsessed with spreadsheets right now becaflat-28205_150use I made the lowest grade of my life on a recent grad school assignment involving spreadsheets.

As I do more research, I’m beginning to see how versatile spreadsheets can be, and how, as teachers, it would be very beneficial to our students to use them in regular classroom activities.  By using formulas, students are able to show their procedural knowledge.  Through database creation, students are taken through the research process and can then use sorting and filtering to find what they need quickly.  Spreadsheets have the ability to instantly take data that we have input and create charts and graphs, which will help students understand how information can be shared visually.  Even young students can use spreadsheets!  Go ahead and set up your input columns and headings, and insert a chart.  As students (either individually or as a class) enter data that they’ve collected, the charts are automatically updated!  How cool!  Continue reading below for some specific activities and links that incorporate spreadsheets into classroom activities.  I have included two activities for elementary, middle, and high school.  Read what applies to you, or read all of them and adapt the activities to your needs!

Elementary School

Create timelines:  To help students get used to typing in boxes (cells) rather than straight across a line, using spreadsheets to create timelines is a great activity.  In the lower grades, I’d go ahead and have a template set up, but in the upper elementary, I’d let the kids play around with setting borders around boxes, hiding rows and columns that they don’t need after they’ve sent up their timeline, etc.  Here’s a sample timeline template for you to use (Google Spreadsheet).

Making Decisions:  Before having your students  collect or input data, go ahead and set up the spreadsheet and charts like I said before.  Set up several different spreadsheets for the same data, but have each spreadsheet generate a different chart.  In groups, have students input the same data and examine the charts.  As a class, discuss what each chart shows and then decide which chart was the best for displaying the data.  You’ll want them to recognize that line graphs are best for showing change over time, bar charts are best for showing comparisons, and pie charts are best for showing percentages or parts of a whole.  Although I listed this under elementary, this would be a great activity for middle and high school as well since you’ll be asking the students to justify their decisions.

Middle School

Exploring Weight and Age on Other Planets:  In small groups, have students research how our weight and age are different on other planets.  Set up a shared spreadsheet (Google), and have the students set the formulas for what age and weight would be on other planets.  Some students may not feel comfortable putting in their actual weight, so you could set the fill color to the same color as the text to “hide” their original weight.  Have students draw conclusions about effects of planet mass and diameter on gravity and weight, and rotation and revolution periods on age.  As a challenge, you could have students try to write the formulas for comparing weight and age on planets not starting with their Earth weight and age.  I did this activity one year with my third graders, but I had already set up the template.  They loved seeing how their weight changed on the various planets.  BTW, Pluto was still a planet then. 🙂  Speaking of, here’s a sample template that you could use.  I used the information from this article from, and this website to help set up the template.

Budget Planning:  Financial literacy is becoming more and more important for our students.  If you’ve read the About Me page, you’ll know that my husband and I are working Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps to financial freedom.  We are always saying, “I wish I knew this before I graduated high school!”  I love scenario-based learning, and if I were a middle or high school teacher, I’d definitely have my students go through the scenario of planning a budget based on a specific set of criteria (monthly take home salary, cell phone bill, cable bill, groceries, car payment, house payment/rent, utilities, etc.).  Having students set up a simple spreadsheet where they can set up a subtraction formula would be a great way to show them how quickly money can disappear each month.  Challenge them to make decisions about sacrifices they may have to make.  Ask questions like, “How would you budget be different if you were supporting kids?”, “Last month, your spouse lost their job, so now your monthly budget is __________.  What adjustments are you going to have to make?”  You can find budget templates all over the Internet, but in middle and high school, I’d definitely have the students set up the spreadsheets themselves.  It doesn’t have to be anything fancy.  Here’s a blank template of the one my husband and I use each month.

High School

What is Average?  Read the short story, Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut, with your students.  It’s about a dystopian society where people are forced to wear “handicaps” in order for everyone to be equal.  AWESOME story.  You can even register at and get a free DVD of 2081, the movie version of this story.  Have students brainstorm various characteristics that they’d like to find the “average” for in their classroom.  Some characteristics could include height, weight, a rank for mental ability, a rank for athletic ability, etc.  Create a class spreadsheet with each student’s data, then use the AVERAGE formula, filtering, and sorting to find a class “average” of each characteristic.  Discuss what handicaps would be necessary for certain students/characteristics.  Have students create an illustration of themselves with their handicaps.

Doctors as Detectives:  This lesson activity was actually created by the Learning Times people at the New York Times.  In the activity, students read an article from the Times about how doctors sometimes serve as detectives when it comes to infectious diseases.  Students then research a particular disease and input data about it into a shared database (Google spreadsheet).  Here’s a spreadsheet template with the fields recommended by the lesson developers.  After students have filled in their database information, they write a short story like they are a patient suffering from the disease they researched.  They’ll swap stories with a partner, and then the students will have to use the information in the database to try to diagnose their partner.  Here is a link to the lesson plan.  This one really sounds like fun!

I hope that some of these activities and spreadsheet templates are useful to you in some way.  I also am hopeful that some of these activities gave you ideas of your own about how you can utilize spreadsheets in your classroom.  If so, please share those ideas with us in the comments below.  Thanks so much for reading!

When I was young, I knew that I would be a teacher.  In high school, I began collecting items that I knew  would use in my classroom.  By the time I walked into my classroom in 2006 I had an amazing classroom library and a completely awesome set of stickers ready to go on those papers that I was going to love grading.  Well, my love affair with grading papers lasted about a month; after that it was just a pain.  At that point I didn’t have a SMART Board, I didn’t have clickers, and we didn’t have Google Apps for Education.

There are many things that I love about Google apps like Documents, Spreadsheets, Presentations, etc.  The two things I love the most about Google docs is the ability to collaborate with others in real time and the ability to use a Google Form to create digital assessments and surveys.  To learn how to create a Google Form to collect assessment data, watch the short tutorial video below.

I love using Google Forms to collect assessment data because all of the responses are loaded into a Google Spreadsheet.  This allows you, the teacher, to analyze the data in one place and even begin to manipulate the data.  Within the spreadsheet, under “Form”, you can choose to view a summary of responses, and based on the type of questions you may even be able to get a graph of responses.  Like other spreadsheet software, you can also filter, sort, and rearrange the data if you need to.

Not long after I began creating assessments using Google Forms (my students LOVED taking the tests on the computers), I heard about a script that will grade your assessments for you.  Obviously, if you use open ended questions, it can’t grade that.  I have a different solution to that problem that I’ll describe a little later in this post.  The script that will grade your assessment is called Flubaroo.  Watch the video below to see how easy it is grade an assessment with Flubaroo.

But, Lauren, that doesn’t grade essay type questions…Well, no it doesn’t.  However, you can use a tool called conditional formatting to let you know which questions you may need to spend more time reading and which ones you can just skim.  When writing your essay or constructed response questions, be very specific in your wording.  You might say, “Using vocabulary that you’ve learned in class…,” or “Using people’s names, describe…”.  This will allow you to color code those responses by whether or not they include those specific words or names.  If you set up your conditional formatting to look for your vocabulary words and a cell is highlighted green (you choose the colors), that will tell you that that student used vocabulary words so you may be able to skim that response rather than read it word for word.  If the cell highlights red, you know that that student may lose some points because he/she didn’t follow directions, but you’d have to read it more carefully to determine if they understand the concept.  Interested in conditional formatting?  What this short tutorial video.

Want to know more about alternatives to clickers for digital assessments?  Check out these other posts on the topic.

Extreme Collaboration



Third in the “Alternatives to Clickers for Digital Assessments” series, this post will introduce you to Nearpod.  I have to say that I was in love with this tool when it was strictly an iPad app, but now that they have made it web-based as well, I’m even more infatuated with it.  Nearpod is a FREE presentation/activity/assessment tool…it does it all!  The presentations you create through Nearpod are called Nearpod Presentations, or NPPs for short.  Once you’ve created your presentation, your students download the NPP to their devices (any web-enabled) by entering a short session code and then you, THE TEACHER, are in control.  As you move through the presentation, your students are automatically moved with you.  SUPER COOL!  I have to say that this is the tech tool that teachers AND students are most excited about when I model lessons.  The younger students can’t believe that the pictures move without them touching them, and the older students love being able to do everything right from within one app.  One second grader exclaimed, “It’s magic!” and all attention was then on the lesson at hand.

Mail Attachment  The basic subscription, called the Silver edition, allows a teacher up to 50MB of storage, with presentations no larger than 20MB.  Also with the free account, you can have up to 30 students per live session (I’ve had up to 40 and it still worked), and your reports are generated in PDF format.  An upgraded account, the Gold edition, is available for $10 per month, which gives you more storage, more students per live session, and a CSV download option for your reports.  You also get more content features, which are great, but not a necessity.  There are also options for whole school and district accounts.

To create a NPP, you can start from scratch, or upload a PDF version of a presentation you’ve created in Microsoft PowerPoint, Apple’s Keynote, your specific interactive whiteboard software, or Google Presentation.  (I plan all my NPPs using Google Docs and Presentations so if I run out of storage in my account and have to delete some NPPs, all of my information is ready the next time I need it and I can easily recreate the deleted NPPs.)  I love the fact that you can just drag and drop the file onto the Nearpod page and it’ll automatically start uploading.  You can also create pages within Nearpod from jpg and png files.  Once your presentation has uploaded, you can then add videos, polls, whole quizzes, “Draw-Its”, and open ended questions.  The creation process is very intuitive and fast.  Once you’ve dragged your slides to order them, all that is left to do is publish and deliver.  When your NPP is published and you’re ready to deliver it to your students, you’ll “launch” it either from the website or iOS app.  You’ll receive a short code that your students will use to access the presentation.  Once students are logged in, you’ll be able to track when anyone leaves the presentation, which is an AWESOME feature.  So that’s the basics of Nearpod, but you can’t understand the full power of the program without seeing it in action.  So check out the short demonstration video directly below.  I’ve also included some screenshots of the teacher view under the view.  After watching it, I have no doubt that you’ll head straight over to Nearpod, register for your free account, and create your first NPP.  If you do, please come back and let us know how it went by leaving a comment below.

Nearpod Teacher View Screenshots

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Presentation slide previews are housed on a scroll bar below the larger view of the slide that students currently see.  You can click on any slide and then click “Share” to move in a non-linear way through the NPP.

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When students sign in, you’ll see a list of names on the second screen.  Also not the green people icon in the top, left corner.  If that turns red it means that a student has exited the NPP.  You can click on it to see which student.

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While students are taking quizzes within the NPP, you see which question all students are currently on, what answers they’re choosing, if they’re getting questions right or wrong (they’re green for correct, red for incorrect), and you have an overall preview via the pie chart at the top of the screen.

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When you’ve assigned your students at “Draw It”, you get a preview of their screens when they click submit.  If someone has done a particularly wonderful job and you’d like to share, or if someone submits something thought-provoking, you can click on their picture and share it with the whole class.  The name of the student will not be visible.

Miss the other posts in the “Alternatives to Clickers for Digital Assessments” series?  Check them out!

Extreme Collaboration


Google Forms, Conditional Formatting and Flubaroo

My apologies for not posting the second installment of Alternatives to Clickers for Digital Assessments last week.  It is my goal to post each Tuesday night and then the TechToolThursdays on…well, Thursdays.  Since I missed last week, I will post two times tonight in order to stay on my schedule.  This post will focus on using the online and app-based tool, Socrative, as an alternative to clickers for digital assessments.  Socrative is a free web-based tool that allows teachers to either create quizzes and assessments before-hand, or deliver single formative assessment questions “on the fly”.  Students complete the assessment on any web-enabled device.  Do your students have iPads or Android devices?  Great!  There are teacher and student apps for both!

Registration for Socrative is easy and FREE!  Once you are registered, you are given a classroom number.  This number is what your students will use to join your class and take your assessments.  Your class number will be the same each time, however, if you want something a little more personal you can change your class number from your “Profile” menu.  Here is a screenshot of what your teacher dashboard will look like in Socrative.


I love Socrative for its variety of question and quiz types.  Question options include multiple choice, true/false, and short answer.  Before delivering a quiz, you can choose for it to be student paced or teacher paced.  You also have the option to randomize answer choices, disable immediate feedback, and hide any question explanations.  Quizzes can be shared between teachers, which can increase collaboration within your PLCs.  Once your students have completed a quiz, you are given several options for reviewing results.  The reports are delivered in the form of a color-coded spreadsheet that breaks the assessment down question by question, student by student.


In addition to quizzes, Socrative features a couple of assessment features that are very useful.  The first is the Exit Ticket.  This is a quiz that includes the same questions each time, so you just launch it and go.  The questions are:  “How well did you understand today’s material? What did you learn today? Please solve the problem on the board.”  Obviously if you’re going to use the Exit Ticket, you’ll want to have some kind of problem on the board.  🙂  The second feature is called the Space Race.  This is a game that puts your students onto teams.  You can let them choose teams or allow the program to choose for them.  Students then race to answer questions.  Each correct answer moves the team’s spaceship across the screen.  The first team that reaches the other side wins, but the game doesn’t stop until all spaceships have crossed the board.  This game also generates a report for the teacher.

One powerful way to use Socrative is to set up “template assessments”.  Similar to Socrative’s Exit Ticket, these are generic assessments that you can use over and over again.  Check out the three “Thinking Routine” templates that were shared on the Socrative Garden blog on January 27, 2014.  Are you already using Socrative?  Please share your experiences in the comments below.

Check out other posts in the “Alternatives to Clickers for Digital Assessments” series.

Extreme Collaboration


Google Forms, Conditional Formatting, and Flubaroo

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