Tag Archives: teachers

Summer Like a Teacher: RELAX

This week, ClassMax will be sharing a series called, “Summer Like a Teacher,” where we cover the three key parts of a teacher’s summer:  Relaxing, Refreshing, and Renewing.  Today, we begin with everyone’s favorite – relaxing. 

I don’t know about you, but the first week of summer vacation is always hard for me as a teacher.  I’m still used to the rush and gush of the end of the school year, so my mind and body doesn’t really know what to do when it all of a sudden hits a wall of relaxation.  I usually hit several emotional stages when I try to relax on summer vacation: 

  1. Guilt – I should be doing something.  I could be doing something.  I need to be doing something.  Anyone else have those thoughts on repeat when they try to relax?  
  2. Laziness – When I finally get over the guilt, I do a complete 180 and become the laziest creature on the face of the planet.  I sit in my pajamas for days, binging on Netflix, and letting my own kids have way too much screen time so that I can continue MY binge of too much screen time.  
  3. Redemption – After a few days of laziness, I wake up one morning completely angry at myself for wasting my summer away.  This is usually the point when I commit to exercising until I can’t breathe, eating only kale, and cleaning out the closet in my guest room that hasn’t been cleaned out since this time LAST summer.  
  4. Laziness #2 – After a binge of redemption, I go back to laziness because I have used up all my energy for the foreseeable future. 
  5. Guilt #2 – This laziness leads to guilt again.

And so the cycle continues.  Is this just me?  Tell me I am not alone in this!  But this summer, I am committing to a better, healthier cycle of relaxation.  One that doesn’t burn me out and make me feel terrible.  In case I am not the only one out there with this issue, I thought I would share a few tips I am using myself to make my summer more relaxing:  

Schedule a Vacation

Now, we all live on teacher’s salaries, so don’t panic that I’m encouraging us to all take extreme European vacations here.  But in summers past, I have found that the earlier in the summer I take a vacation away, the quicker I am able to relax into my summer.  It’s like a buffer between my working days and my home days.  It’s much easier for me to relax when I am away from home than when I am just shuffling around my house, looking for stuff to do.  And vacations don’t have to be elaborate.  A visit to my sister’s in Atlanta is a seven hour car ride and a free stay!  Even a staycation in my own city of Orlando can be nice.  It’s easy to find summer deals for residents at a lot of major hotel chains, and a two night stay with a pool and someone to make my bed can do wonders for me.

Read a Book

And the book better have NOTHING TO DO WITH SCHOOL, teacher friend.  No PD books to get ahead of the school year, no YA books to stay connected to your students, and no teacher themed novels that make you feel all “Dangerous Minds”-y.  Get yourself some real, adult fiction and get lost for a while.  I tend to lean towards easier, predictable plot lines in the summers from authors like Emily Giffin or Nicholas Sparks.  Although, sometimes I still have a hard time relaxing when the plots are a little too simple and then I switch over to thriller and spy novels from Tom Clancy and John le Carre.  Whatever your genre of choice, dig in to something NON-academic and lose yourself for a while.

Go to Bed Early and TAKE A NAP, FOR GOODNESS’S SAKES!  

While it is tempting to stay up late binging out on Netflix just because you can (I just discovered Suits and I’m slightly obsessed!), keeping a fairly routine sleep schedule can help you unwinder faster and more completely.  And if you do decide to burn the midnight oil in a completely unproductive, restful way, don’t underestimate the importance of a good 3pm nap.  During the school year, and especially towards the end, we run our bodies ragged.  Use the beginning of summer to allow your body time to catch up on that much-needed rest you missed in May.

Treat Yourself

Whether it’s a summertime pedicure or a lunch on a random weekday with a girlfriend, find ways to treat yourself.  Not necessarily to anything extravagant, but to those little things that teachers miss out on during the school year.  Sleep in, have a two-hour lunch, lay in the sunshine in the middle of the afternoon, or even listen to that playlist that doesn’t have anything to do with pirates, animal friends, or KidzBop.  Stop for an ice cream cone in a drive thru, just because.  Take a bubble bath in the middle of the afternoon.  Go without make up.  Ditch the cardigans.  LIVE IT UP, TEACHER FRIENDS!

We work hard during the school year and it is easy to feel sometimes like we should be productive ALL the time. But the truth is that giving yourself permission to relax will make you a better teacher in August.  You will go back to school feeling relaxed, fresh faced, and ready for another year!

Join us later this week as we tackle the next key part of a teacher’s summer… refreshing!

Final ClassMax Reports to Submit at the End of Your School Year

For some of the luckiest teachers, summer break has already started!  For the rest of us, our countdown clocks are ticking and we are counting the minutes and seconds left in the school year.  Before your school year ends, take this time to submit your final ClassMax reports to your district and school admin teams.

With our easy MULTI-CLASS REPORTING, you can run one comprehensive report for your entire class.  Watch this quick demo on how to access multi-class reports:

Accommodations Reports

Make sure you submit your final accommodations reports for your ESE/504/or other special consideration students.  Run your report for the last period of time you are monitoring (weekly, quarterly, etc.), but take it a step further and earn one more gold star before you end a stellar year by voluntarily submitting a cumulative yearly report of accommodations.  You’ve collected all the data this year, so be sure your admin team knows about it!

Behavior Reports and Notes

Not every student will need a year-end behavior report, but be sure to run them for your high-fliers.  You can submit these to your grade-level administrator or dean.  Or, save the file digitally for yourself just in case any issues come back to haunt you over the summer or next school year.  I once had a parent contact my principal about a test score their student received on their final exam in my class (I graciously gave him a 50%, even though he didn’t even turn in a test paper…).  Because I had kept clear and daily records of the student’s behavior and performance in my class, I simply had to pull up the year-end summary of the ClassMax notes I had kept on that student and there was my protection from any parent accusations.  CYA.  It’s a real thing. 

Progress Monitoring

I don’t know about you, but I wait on pins and needles for my student scores every year from our state standardized test.  I want to know if my instruction was on target or if there is something I need to change for the next year.  For this reason, be sure to run a WHOLE CLASS FOR MULTIPLE CLASS PERIODS report so that you can go back and compare how your students performed.  If you’re feeling really pro-active, send a copy to your assessing administrator with a little “year in review” email summary.  It only takes a minute to look professional and on point when your data is easily available.

With ClassMax, it is easy to take a look at how your year went.  As you wrap up this school year, utilize our whole class reporting for multiple classes to keep records easily.  You worked hard to collect all that data.  Use it!  Flaunt it!  Report it!  No one will impress your administrator for you, so you have to do it for yourself.  Let ClassMax reports help you!

 

Tracking Your Own Teaching Using ClassMax

The primary functions of ClassMax allow teachers to track multiple types of information about student data.  But in the two years that I have been using ClassMax in my own classroom, I have learned how to use ClassMax to track my own standards-based instruction to assure that I am covering all my standards effectively.  This is especially important at this point in the school year, as we begin looking towards standardized testing. I want to be sure that I have taught each specifically tested standard enough and that I haven’t overlooked any standards during the course of my school year.  

To do this, head over to the Reporting section of ClassMax. From here, I run a report for all my classes by choosing “Multiple Periods,” and then selecting all my class periods. I set the window of my report either to the entire previous quarter or for the entire school year.  I tend to prefer the school year because I teach language arts and my standards often repeat throughout the quarter. If your standards are more sequential (for example, in a math class), you may choose to only select a specific period of time.

From here, I start to see the progress of my instruction based on my student data.  The first thing I look for is that I have taught all the tested standards. I double check to make sure that every standard I was supposed to have covered is listed in my report.  If it is not listed, that means that I never collected data on that particular standard, which indicates I may not have taught it or maybe didn’t teach it enough. I add those standards to my reteaching list.  

The next thing I do in my report is to begin drilling down by standard.  If I notice a standard has a lot of gray on the scale, I add this to my reteaching list.  Clearly, I didn’t teach it enough to collect a decent amount of data and so I will probably need to reteach that standard a bit more before testing.  

Finally, I start clicking on individual standards to see the number of times I have assessed on it.  When you click the standard and bar graph, it will drop down to show you which students are performing where.  The number at the top of each student list is the number of times this standard was assessed. If the number is low across all learning levels on a particular standard, I know that I may not have assessed it enough, which also probably indicates that I didn’t teach it enough.  These standards get added to my reteaching list, too.

While ClassMax is an excellent tool for collecting student data, that student data can tell you a lot about your own teaching.  By analyzing HOW I collect my data, I can better examine how well I taught standards throughout my school year. This helps me begin to focus my reteaching as we prepare for testing.  

Using ClassMax Notes as Student Files

My students are in the middle of our writing unit.  We have been working on close reading texts, planning for our essays, and today they spent the class period sitting in silence writing.  These are rare days.  These are days when I try to limit my instruction so that the illusive “productive struggle” can take place in their own little minds while they work.  I’m around, but my involvement is limited.  I’ve taught them for weeks and now they have to show what they know.  

Fly, little birds!  

While my students worked today, I used the chance to make some notes in ClassMax for each student.  Often, I don’t have time during the course of a class period to make detailed notes on students.  Instead, I am using the behavior, accommodations, and progress boxes to record my information.  Sometimes, i add a quick note or two when I have time, but today seemed like a perfect opportunity to updated my student notes, which function as my student files.  

I went through each student in every class and made a note about how they were doing generally in class.  I recorded things I felt like they were doing well with – both academically and behaviorally – and I noted any areas of improvement.  Some of my notes said things like, “Sally continues to be a leader in her table group and I appreciate her patience and willingness to guide her table to success.”  Other students might have notes such as, “Charles has trouble transitioning between activities in class.  It often takes him two or three times as long as his peers to begin an assignment.  During this time, he is out of his seat, distracting others, or playing on his phone.”  These are general statements about the student that can be made at any time and do not have to be tied to a specific day, time, or action.

I also used the time to record behavior.  I started with positive behaviors because those are ones I hardly have time for in the course of my school day.  It is easy for me to see negative behavior and mark it in ClassMax while I am teaching.  However, I seldom remember to mark the positive behavior I see in students, simply because they aren’t catching my attention.  I also used this time to record recurring negative behavior, too.  Let’s face it.  For many students, the date of behavior doesn’t really matter.  They will “distract others” every day of the week, so it really doesn’t matter when I put my note in!

Keeping thorough notes helps make my communication with parents and administration about particular students more effective.  Anecdotal tracking through notes allows me to create a complete 360 degree profile of my students’ performance.

Student Data Chats with ClassMax

This time of year, as we get closer to standardized testing season, I like to have individual data chats with my students.  This year, I used ClassMax for the first time during my data chats and it took my student conversations and progress monitoring to a whole new level.  I thought I would share a little today about how I used ClassMax during my data chats to drive our conversation and to document individual achievement plans.  

Data cannot live by ClassMax alone.  I think that’s how the saying goes, right?  For data chats at my school, teachers are required to discuss our school-wide testing program data (we use iReady).  My students had taken their second benchmark test the week before Christmas break, and we all know how well students perform the week before a two week vacation… *eye roll*.  To me, this becomes unreliable data.  It is still valid data, but it is faulty because it does not take into consideration the testing conditions students were under on that one particular day when a benchmark assessment was given.   

To balance out this data, I used my own ClassMax data during my student conversations, too.  I showed them what I was observing in class and it sparked great discussions about if what I was seeing was correct.  We talked about what a higher scoring student might look like in a classroom and what I was looking for from them to demonstrate their understanding.  Then, we compared what I was seeing in the classroom with their benchmark testing data.  In most cases, I was pleased to see that my observations tended to be right in line with their testing performance.  In cases where there was a difference, I talked about that with the student and often our conversations cleared up an error in reasoning a student had.  Overall, I found that using my ClassMax data added a depth to our conversation that I had not had in previous years.  

Lastly, I made sure to record my data chats in each student’s notes for the day.  To make this easier on myself so that I wasn’t writing entire paragraphs for each student (ain’t nobody got time for that!), I simply copied and pasted the following note and then added details during my conversation with the student:  

Test One Score:

Test Two Score:

Highest performing skill:

Lowest performing skill:

Classroom observation notes:  

Logistically, I was able to pull students up for data chats while my classes were writing an essay in class today.  While they worked silently, I called up one student at a time for their data chat.  When they came to my table, we first looked at their data from both iReady tests and discussed what we saw.  Next, we looked at my ClassMax progress reports and talked about classroom performance (and behavior, when that was necessary).  Finally, we filled in the blanks in my ClassMax Notes posted above.  The entire conversation took about 3-4 minutes per student.  

I have always valued data chats.  I know that for some of us, some of the time, they can definitely be a “check the box” requirement.  But when they are done well, I do believe they can motivate students.  Using ClassMax helped me to maximize that quality time with my students and deepened our conversations about their progress.  I know it can do the same for you!

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We’re social! 

          

FB Live Recording: ClassMax Overview

We had a really helpful Facebook Live session yesterday afternoon about different features that ClassMax provides teachers.  We talked about how groups can be used to save you time and sanity, how accommodations monitoring can be quick and simple (and sometimes even done ahead of time!), and how to use reporting during data chats with your administration.  

If you missed our session, it is posted here and in our Facebook page.

We will be scheduling more of these in the future and will center each of them around particular areas, features, and uses.  Be sure you are following us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter so that you are the first to know when sessions are scheduled.  

We’re social! 

          

Using Data with ClassMax Groupings

I went to a training today for my district and throughout the entire training, they were talking about using standards tracking to form differentiated student groupings for instruction.  And my little ClassMax heart soared because not only can ClassMax effectively and efficiently track observable standards-based performance in students, but it can also give you a place to organize your students into groupings of all kinds, maximizing your classroom success.

(Cue the angels singing…)

The student grouping feature lives on the class dashboard.

When I first created ClassMax, I envisioned this grouping feature with very basic usage because that’s how I was using it in my classroom.  I had three groups:  Enrichment, Grade-Level, and Low.  But the more I have sat and thought about how I can use this feature in my classroom this year, the more ideas I have come up with!

  

Today at my training, I thought about grouping students based on standards performance.  Let’s say I give an assessment and I have a handful (okay, maybe TWO hands full…) of kids who bomb the assessment on a particular standard.  Wouldn’t it be great to be able to group those kids in ClassMax and then recall their grouping in a single click, whenever or wherever you needed?  I’d basically only have to look at the data report once (which is all I can take, really…) and form my ClassMax groups from those results.  From then on, anytime I need to see my data results, I simply click the standard group and see who is in it.

I could be sitting in a data meeting with my admin and someone might say, “Hmm… I wonder how many of Mrs. Brown’s kids struggled with RL.1.3…” and I could be like, “Oh, it was 8.  And their names are….”  AND THEY’D ALL BOW DOWN AND THEN GIVE ME A PUPPY.

Would I have that data without ClassMax?  Of course.  ClassMax is just putting it at my fingertips.

Then, let’s say later I am working in a small group with that group of kids who scored low in RL.1.3.  I could pull that group up on ClassMax and have that open in front of me to record their standards progress on the spot as we work.  And since we are all rockstar teachers, let’s now pretend that the entire small group has reached the next level on the standards scale.  I can record progress for an entire group in one click, too.  CLICK, CLICK, DONE.

Another way I plan to use groups in ClassMax is for seating assignments.  I use tables in my classroom, so kids work with their table groups every day.  Why not have a table group listed?  And when the entire table is acting out of control, I can just record their behavior for the entire table in just one click.  Or, if they are all working well together and I see them progressing up the standards scale, I can mark that collectively, too.  CLICK, CLICK, DONE.

You can use groupings to help track your special needs learners, too.  I teach primarily low-performing ESE students.  Often times, there are at least a handful of my kids who receive push-in or pull-out services through my language arts class.  With ClassMax, I can put these students into a group and when they receive their services, I can simply select the entire group and assign them an accommodation usage.  Instantly, I have tracked that entire group for their accommodations and it took two clicks.  CLICK, CLICK, DONE.

Lastly, let’s say I am having my students work on group projects.  If I make a ClassMax group for each project group, I can easily track who is working with whom, what their topic is for their project (I named my groups based on their project topic), what level they are on their standards, and if I have assigned any accommodations to the group.  I can even use the notes feature to assign comments about the group’s performance to use the next time I am working with them.  CLICK, CLICK, DONE.

My biggest fear about ClassMax is that people will look at it’s simplicity and think, “Eh.”  But the simplicity is by design.  The intention of ClassMax is that it can be used to YOUR level of need.  You can simply record student data or you can use ClassMax to meet even greater needs.

I have spent this entire preplanning week thinking of ways I can make ClassMax work harder for me.  What can I do with this tool?  And to be honest, there’s not much it CAN’T do because of it’s simplicity.  I can really use it however I dream up and I think that’s becoming one of my favorite, unintentional features that we offer.

Teacher on, teacher friends.  

Katie Brown

8th Grade Language Arts Teacher and ClassMax Founder

Marzano and ClassMax

Raise your hand if you work in a Marzano district.

(My hand is raised.)

Raise your hand if you work in a district that does formal teacher observations.

(My hand is raised.)

Raise your hand if you are required at some level to track where your students are on standards.

(My hand is raised.)

My hand is raised for all of those and I’m sure a lot of your hands were raised, too.  Part of any teacher’s role these days is to track standards-based student performance (Marzano Element 2).  Effective teachers know that it’s more than just standing up and teaching now.  Rigorous teaching requires monitoring and tracking of student progress in order to drive our instruction.

BUT WHO HAS TIME?!?!?!

In a classroom of 22+ kids, it is darn near impossible for me to track every student’s performance on any of the 2-4 standards I am teaching during any given class period.  I needed something quick and efficient to help me out.  I made a modified, much simpler version of ClassMax to use on my own iPad during instruction last year in my classroom and began to use that as I taught.  Whenever my administrators came into my classroom and saw me tracking progress instantly on every student, I always earned either an Effective or Innovating score in the area of tracking student progress.  This was the central need that led me to create ClassMax.

At the start of your school day, you go into the standards area on the sidebar of the dashboard and select the standards you are teaching for the day.  Standards are now Common Core, but individual state standards will continue to be added as the school year goes on.

Once you have selected the standards you are planning to teach that day in class, those standards are saved and will appear every time you call up a student profile that day.  The standards reset at midnight so that you begin the next school day with a clean slate.

This is when the tracking component comes into play.  You know all those times as a teacher when we are circulating the room, observing, listening, and assisting students?  That’s when you are using ClassMax.  I carried my iPad, phone, or even my laptop some days around the room with me as I circulated and marked students as I went.  I could mark every student on a particular standard in under 2 minutes.  It was incredible.  And it made the most of my class time, too.  These days, as classrooms become more student-driven, teachers often feel a little like drifters, floating around the room, waiting for someone who needs our help.  With ClassMax, I was not only maximizing my student’s time in the classroom, but I was maximizing my own time in the classroom, too.  Now, I was actually taking the time to track student progression that I observed, not just what they were able to perform on an assessment.

ClassMax even gives you a little note box so that you can write any observations you make or want to remember later.  I didn’t always use these (especially if time was limited), but it is helpful for when you are reflecting on your teaching (Marzano Domain 3)!  Be sure to mention that in your post-conference with your administrator!).

One step that our ClassMax team developed after I showed them my prototype was in adding the grouping feature to this tracking.  Let’s say I observe a group that is really rocking something – or maybe is struggling.  I can save myself time by selecting their group from the dashboard and I can assign their progress tracking to the entire group, instead of having to do this one student at a time.  And if you use this information later to form groups, that’s another Marzano element for grouping strategies (Element 15)!

When I am planning my next lesson or looking ahead to differentiate instruction (let’s see how many buzz words I can use in one blog post, shall we?), I simply run a report and I can see all the standards tracking that I have done for a student.

ClassMax doesn’t invent new ways to be an effective teacher.  Instead, it takes what we are already doing in rigorous, effective classrooms all over the country and streamlines the process so that within three simple clicks, we are able to better serve our students.

I am in preplanning this week and I can’t count the number of times my principal and administration have said “tracking student progress” already.  And every time I hear it, I chuckle and think to myself, “There’s an app for that…  And I made it!”

Best wishes for a wonderful school year, teacher friends!

Katie Brown

8th Grade Language Arts Teacher and ClassMax Founder