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Showing posts from 2017

How to: Customising a rubric for your specific class

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The whole point of SmartRubric is to make feedback more targeted and helpful for students, and to make your marking workload smaller and more manageable. If you aren't customising rubrics you might be making your life and the lives of your darling students much more difficult and confusing.

Don't worry, it's easy. I'll walk you through it. Here's a scenario for you:

You are a KS3 teacher. Your department has a big 'master rubric', which contains all of the strands that are assessed in your subject, and all of the possible levels a student could be at for years 7, 8 and 9. That means, maybe, 12 or thirteen levels and ten strands or so per core skill on multiple tabs. It's colossal, but really useful because it contextualises and maps out pretty much the entire curriculum. If you are sharing rubrics across a department, I highly recommend having one of these. Email me if you want help building one.

So, the beauty of having one of these is that you, as, sa…

Managing rubrics for a wide range of abilities

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Or, 'Help my rubric is enormous and my AFL sheets look terrible!'

With the addition of the ability to create multiple assessments across different classes, a new and exciting issue has cropped up. Since your 'multiple assessments' all need to use the same rubric, you'll probably end up needing one that covers a much broader range of abilities (this advice applies to single assessments for mixed-ability groups, too).

Sometimes, this means you end up with a rubric that has upwards of eight or nine bands! This causes some issues with formatting your AFL sheets, because SmartRubric tries to cram all of your bands onto a single sheet of paper for your student.

I'm working on a smarter, more comprehensive fix, but until that's ready, I've made you a special 'giant rubric' AFL template. From now on, if you try to download your whole class AFL sheets on one of these giant rubrics, you'll get a little alert showing up, like this:

You can throw cautio…

EXTENDED: Try SmartRubric Administrator for free

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We've recently added so many exciting features that work best with an administrator account, that we thought it was only right to offer you the opportunity to give them a try for free.

Administrator subscriptions are just like teacher subscriptions except you can:
1. Invite other teachers from your school to SmartRubric, and then collaborate on rubrics and assessments, as well as share classes and student data.

2. Take advantage of higher level reporting so you can manage student progress across departments and even subjects.

3. Use the moderation tool to standardise grades and produce detailed moderation and grade justification reports for coursework. SO! Until midnight Sunday, 17th of September if you upgrade to an Administrator Subscription using the offer code BACKTOSCHOOL, you get your first two accounts completely free for six months. That means you can share SmartRubric with a colleague at your school and make use of some cool collaboration tools for free. Normally, this wo…

Difficult Student Relationships: The Paper Crane

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Building solid relationships with your students is, hands down, the most important part of teaching. Every single other aspect of teaching is much much easier if you have put some time into this.
But. Every now and then, you will end up with a student that doesn't respond to your respectful but firm boundaries. Sometimes the problem is them, sometimes it's you, and sometimes it's down to forces beyond either of your control. 
I had a student like this. Bilal (name changed, obviously) had a very difficult home life, and acted out in school. I tried the usual, followed the behaviour policy to the letter, and quickly learned that all that was happening is he was getting more and more frustrated with me, the school, the work and life in general. Our teacher/student relationship was extremely poor, and getting worse. The lessons I had with him were frequently disrupted. 
Then I stopped, and thought. The system wasn't working for this kid. Detentions were pointless, and the…

Get organised now!

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Hello teacher friends! I hope your summer holidays have been both restful and restorative.

Since it's the beginning of the year, now would be a great time to take advantage of the many organisational tools that SmartRubric offers to help you conquer your marking before it turns into a giant snowball/hamster wheel of doom. But first, some housekeeping:

For those of you who are setting up SmartRubric for the first time, please check out our series of helpful tutorials and videos to help you make the most of your new SmartRubric account:

How to set up your account and start marking in less than 10 minutes (<-- start with this one)How to set up your account - more detail and resourcesHow to set up a classHow to create a smart rubricHow to feed back to students Once you have your account set up, you might be interested in some of the more advanced features of SmartRubric. You can find a list of relevant tutorials here
If you are an old hat at SmartRubric and have set up classes befo…

New Feature: Tracker

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So, a few weeks ago I hinted in this post at some brand new features that come out of the ability to set up assessments for multiple classes at once. Well, here's one for you!

This feature is available to teachers and administrators who belong to a department or school SmartRubric account (Sorry, solo teachers! You can upgrade for as little as 10 GBP/month).

The Departmental Spreadsheetwill be a familiar beast to most of you, and, to be completely honest, it isn't something that SmartRubric has been able to replace...until now.

Now that you can create linked assessments for a bunch of classes at once (this post tells you how), you are probably going to want to look at a nice, friendly, top level overview of how all of the students are doing on these linked assessments. You probably want something that looks like this:
Just imaginethe efficiency. You, as department administrator, can set up all of your formal assessments for the whole year (if you want!), make a tracker like the…

How to roll up your cohorts up in SmartRubric

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If you are a department administrator or a single teacher (you don't share your SmartRubric account without other teachers at your school), you're probably going to want to roll up your cohorts for the start of the 2017/18 school year. That way, your dear little year 7s will become cheeky year 8s, your 8s will become sulky 9s and so on. Graduating students get sorted into an alumni group, and a new incoming class is created.*
*Before you do this, make sure the list of year groups accurately reflects your school's intake. So, if you are a secondary school, you should have a Year 7 group even if you don't have any students in it. Otherwise it'll snarl up the magic. 

The more eagle-eyed amongst you may have already noticed that there is (for a limited time only) a great big button to help you do this. The button appears in the summer, and lasts for three months into the school year. If you miss the window, don't panic. Just drop an email to support@smartrubric.com

New Feature: Multi-class assessments

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As a department lead, you may wish to schedule formal assessments for your entire department in advance. 
So, for example, you know that the top three year 10 English sets are going to sit a partial mock exam just before Christmas. As long as all of the assessments use the same rubric, you can link them together by creating a multiple class assessment. All you need to do is click on the yellow 'New multiple class assessment' button on your dashboard, or select 'Assessments > New Multi-Class Assessment' from the navigation menu. 

The process of creating a multiple class assessment is identical to creating a regular assessment, except instead of selecting a single class from the drop down, you can select as many as you like. 
When you create a master assessment in this way, a new assessment for each class you select is added. These new assessments behave exactly like any other assessment -- they show up in the to-do list and gradebook of the responsible teacher. 
Why i…

Stress-busting Exam Revision Game

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Exam season is in full swing, so you are probably seeing a lot of zombified students in your lessons. They usually come in two flavours -- dead-eyed nihilists, and panicky zealots who want copies of every past paper that's ever happened and for you to mark their unsolicited work.

If you're still making meaningful progress with these kids, then by all means, keep doing what you're doing. I salute you. 
If, however, you are at that point where there are still one or two lessons left before the exam and there is literally no more that you can stuff into their heads -- not that they're in any condition to learn anyway at this point -- then BOY do I have the lesson for you. 
It'll blow the cobwebs out of the heads of your nihilist zombies and satisfy the obsessive revision urges of your zealots. You'll all laugh, bond and do some intense revision. Sound good? Cool. Presenting -- the Best Revision Game I have Ever Found.

Try this lesson: Making Choices about Tense and Voice

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I'd like to share a really simple, one-off lesson that is both fun and really digs deeply into some technical aspects of creative writing. It was my go-to lesson whenever I had to do cover for an English class (best for year 8 & up): it fits beautifully into a 55 minute slot (with plenty of scope for extension if you teach longer lessons) and requires no prep, powerpoint or resources. It's fun, and it resulted in a lot of 'aha' moments for kids and hilarious writing.

Sold? Good. Try this lesson:

Objective: Explore the effects of choices about tense and voice in your creative writing

BEFORE YOU BEGIN: Get each student to choose a number between 1 and 3, and a letter between a and c. Have them write this down on a piece of paper and swear solemnly not to change it after the lesson begins. Extension for very able students: add another letter - either y or z.

Starter: Outline this simple plot: A boy is walking down the road, holding a balloon. A car goes by and hits a pu…

How to increase the impact of your marking this exam prep season

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If you teach KS4 and KS5, you are probably in the midst of some pretty serious exam preparation. For many of you, that means practice papers. Lots of them. And if you happen to teach a subject like English, that means a lot of extended essay questions to mark. So, you know, prepare to spend your evenings and weekends marking. After all, you want your students to do well, don't you?

Well, yes, of course. But there's a tool that can help speed up the marking process and improve the consistency and usefulness of your feedback to students. I give you... the humble rubric. You can either print these out and use them as a pro-forma (good), or you can sign up for a free trial of SmartRubric and use an interactive rubric to mark to pesky mocks (better).

First, I'll explain what a rubric is, how to make them, and how to use them effectively. Then, I'll give you three really good reasons why you should be using them for all of your open-ended assessments (but especially practic…

Free Download: Printable KS3 Spoken Language Rubric Bundle and lesson prep

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It's exam prep season, which means that sadly, KS3 probably isn't getting much love at the moment.
To rectify this, I'm going to share a couple of really easy English Speaking and Listening lesson formats that take approximately zero planning and work from years 7-9, plus a couple of downloadable rubrics to make sure that you're evidencing progress.

If you're just here for the freebie rubrics, I've bundled together a discussion rubric and a presentation/speech rubric. You can download the bundle here. It's aligned with the current National Curriculum expectations for KS3 English, but you could easily adapt them up or down. 

As always, if you are a SmartRubric user, you can bypass the printable and use the interactive version of these rubrics. It means all of your rich formative assessment data will be automatically captured, and targets, levels and grades will be generated for all of your students. They're in the template library. If you aren't a us…

Student Presentations - the X-Factor format

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Here's the problem: Student presentations are boring. One student is talking, and twenty-nine students are bored out of their skulls. The problem compounds itself as time goes by, and you need a class full of orators to avoid a riot by minute 45. It goes without saying that you should limit the number of student presentations per lesson, but the X-Factor format helps too. Here's how you do it: 
Pull a long table or three desks into the center of the room, facing the front. This is where your judges sit. Everyone else is audience. In front of each judge seat, stick a copy of the presentation rubric. In fact, every student in your class should have one. Give the judges a stopwatch, and a whiteboard or a big bit of paper and a marker for scores. 
The judges should be rotated out every couple of presentations, and it's a great way to give That Kid a place to showboat a little bit in a productive way. The judges have strict rules for criticism. They must be constructive, they mus…

Lesson Idea: Parsing Feelings in English

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This was an emergency exam prep lesson and it ended up being one of my favourites ever. I used it with my middle ability KS4 English group because I had had enough of my students telling me that the [quote] had a 'positive feeling' or made the audience feel 'shocked'. They simply didn't have the vocabulary or confidence to talk about emotion or feelings in a sophisticated way, much less in connection to a text. Now, as I said, I used this for KS4, but it would absolutely work at KS3 -- in fact, the earlier that kids learn to talk about this the better. Having the vocabulary to talk about emotion helps people parse feelings and be mindful about them which is incredibly important for life. 
Here's how it works. Configure your room in such a way that kids can sit in groups of three or four. Put a big piece of paper in the middle of each group. On each paper, write down six major emotions mind-map node style:  Set a timer. For ten minutes, get students to brainstorm…

How to Feed Back to Students

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You've marked an entire set of books (or just one student) using SmartRubric, and now you would like to pass that feedback on to your students. Great! Here's how you do it. 

(If you would rather watch a one-minute video demonstration, you can do that here)
Option 1: I want to print (or save a PDF) a feedback sheet for a single student:When you have finished marking a piece of student work, you will see something like this: 
Click 'Go to detailed student report'. This brings you to the report for that student. Scan it over, make sure you like what it says, and then go ahead and click the print icon in the top right corner of the report:

Now, if you want to print it out right then and there, you can go ahead and do that. You might need to mess around with the layout (change from portrait to landscape or vice versa depending on your particular printer/browser configurations). If you print in colour, you'll get snazzy colour blocks to help students see what their progress …

The Maker-Mindset is a powerful catalyst for learning. Here's how to foster it in your students.

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Most teachers have probably come across occasional student who is a maker. There was a girl in my year 8 English class who made the most adorable jewellery out of tiny, perfect, sculpted baked goods and sweets ('Get thee to Etsy!' I may or may not have cried, 'get thee to Etsy!). There was a boy in my year 10 media class who saved up his pocket money for years to buy a video-capable DSLR camera and was teaching himself to make films. He has an incredible, artistic eye. A girl in year 7 wrote pitch-perfect sci-fi genre prose.

All of these makers have really important traits in common - they are highly motivated, resilient and independent learners (all things we desperately want students to be), but these traits are a product of something deeper and more powerful - the maker-mindset.

The maker-mindset is a way of looking at the world that includes an awareness that you have the capacity, the access to tools and learning and most importantly the right to manipulate your envi…

Free download - Metacognition and Student Engagement Rubric

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A good rubric isn't an assessment tool, it's a learning tool.

Download this rubric for free to help students develop the vocabulary and skills they need to become reflective, strategic learners.

If you're already a SmartRubric user, you can add this rubric to your library by getting it from the Template Library. Just click here and 'add this rubric to my library'.

This rubric would be a great starting place for a conversation with a student about their learning during a tutorial, mentoring session or one-on-one meeting.

Here's a list of questions you can use right now to elicit meaningful student response to your feedback:

General:
What is your biggest priority to work on for next time? Why?
Explain one specific thing that you are going to do before next time to improve. Why do you think it is going to help?
Make a list of small, specific actions you can take next time to improve on a target.
What are your goals for next time? What are you going to try to do to …

Set up your account and start marking in less than 10 minutes

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Set up your SmartRubric account, add a class full of students, build a custom rubric and create an assessment in less time than you think.


I know that as a teacher, your time is really precious. Perhaps you've been putting off getting to grips with SmartRubric because you're swamped with work. I know how it goes. But, did you know that you can completely set up your account, create a custom rubric and start marking real student work in less than ten minutes?

For a time investment of just ten minutes, you could be saving hours on time spent marking this term!
I recorded a real-time video as I set up a brand new SmartRubric account. I made a rubric for an in-class English Literature assessment, but you could evaluate anything you like.

All you need to get started is a SmartRubric account (get one for free here), a list of the students in the class that you would like to asses, and a clear idea of the skills or objectives for your assessment.

If you haven't already, please l…

Upcoming changes to pricing

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In order to keep providing you with a high quality tool for maximising your formative assessment, speeding up your marking and improving your progress data, we're going to have to start asking for a nominal monthly subscription fee. Our valued early adopters - teachers who have signed up before March 31st, 2017 can continue to use SmartRubric for freeforever unless they choose to upgrade to an administrator account (these will be subject to our new pricing model after the change on March 31st).

If you sign up after March 31st, 2017 will get to try SmartRubric for free for a month, and then in order to continue using SmartRubric you will need to pay £3.50 per month for an individual teacher account, or £5 per user per month for an administrator account. We won't take any payment information when you sign up for the free trial, and will send you a reminder to subscribe a week before we suspend your account. You can reactivate a suspended account any time by subscribing.

We hope …

New Feature: User submitted rubrics in the Template Library

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We've made it even easier to get high quality rubrics to use with your classes by making some major improvements to the Template Library. Now, not only is it easier to find what you are looking for (rubrics are now grouped by subject and searchable by Key Stage/Grade), but all users can publish rubrics that they have created to the Template library. Hooray!

In this post, I'll cover the features of the new Template library and how to publish your lovely rubrics to it.

Part the first: The new Template Library

The new template library has a subject menu, so you can zero in on the rubrics that are likely to be most useful for you. The badge icon lets you know how many rubrics are tagged with that subject. Help us fill them up!

To get a closer look at a specific rubric, just click on it. A detail window will pop up, and from there you can preview the full rubric, copy it into your library or rate it.

The green checkmark means that the rubric has been validated. That just means that …