About a month ago, our 5th grade students got a major technology upgrade!

Until late October, Mrs. Thompson and Mrs. Wilcox each had a handful of desktop PCs in their classrooms for students to use during the school day, and we also had a few shared laptop carts around the building that were sometimes used for research or writing.

But right before Halloween (as Zumer so excitedly shared on the 5th grade blog), each 5th grade student checked out his or her very own netbook for use at school, making our 5th graders the first group of kids in the building to get to 1:1 computing.

(Each student also has a Google account, so teachers can email students at their brand-spanking-new Gmail addresses, easily collect student responses using Google Forms, and share assignments and other items with students using Google Drive.)

The tool:

Google Forms is a pretty fabulous tool for gathering many different types of information, but I have also been exploring some other web-based options that are more education-centered, and one of my favorite discoveries has been Socrative:

(click to visit!)
(click to visit!)

This free and easy-to-use website allows teachers to create web-based quizzes, surveys, and games that students can access from any web-enabled device (computers, tablets, iPod touches, smartphones, etc.) just by entering their teacher’s unique room number.

How we used it:

For yesterday’s 5th grade activity in the library, the teachers had asked if I could review a two dictionary skills with students: using guide words to find a word in the dictionary, and determining which definition of a multiple-meaning word is being used in a particular sentence or context.

There are tons of pre-made multiple-choice practice questions on these topics because both skills are tested on our district benchmark tests and on the CRCT, which is the state-mandated standardized year-end assessment. But these questions are way out-of-context and don’t actually have kids use a dictionary to answer them–and I’m all about keeping things as hands-on as possible!

So I created my own set of practice questions on Socrative and had students bring enough netbooks to split up into six color-coded teams, and they worked together to use the dictionary and answer the questions.

At each table, students had one netbook for submitting their responses, a piece of paper to remind them of their team’s color on the board, and a set of two or three dictionaries to use during the activity.

Since it’s December, the example sentences I used for the activity were all holiday-themed, and each sentence contained a multiple-meaning word for students to look up in the dictionary. For example:

What the students see: my room number, their team color, their question, and buttons for the possible responses.
What the students see: my room number, their team color, their question, and buttons for the possible responses.

Students had between two and five possible definitions to choose from for each question. And by including the definition numbers, but not the actual definitions, this activity made students actually have to find the word in the dictionary to answer the question correctly (instead of just reading the possible meanings and guessing), so they also got hands-on practice using guide words and ABC order to locate the words.

On the SMARTBoard, I projected the teacher view for the activity, which looks like this:

The teacher view shows the room number and each team's progress during the activity.
What the teacher sees: the room number, each team’s progress during the activity, and who’s finished.

I love the teacher view on the Socrative Space Race activity for a two big reasons:

  • If you project it onto a screen or whiteboard, then students can easily see their progress (and they’re so excited to watch their team’s spaceship move across the screen!).
  • It’s easy to see from the spaceships which teams might need a little extra help (so it was easy for me and the 5th grade teachers to spend a little extra time at those tables with the kids who needed more support).

When the activity ends, you can choose to download or have emailed to you a spreadsheet report of how students did, and the spreadsheet shows you which questions each student or team answered correctly and incorrectly. It also calculates a raw score or items correct and a percentage score for easy grading.

The verdict:

Students were totally engaged in this activity the entire time and did a great job working with their teams to read the sentences, look up the tricky words, read each definition, decide as a group which one matched the sentence, and submit their responses.

I am looking forward to trying Socrative’s other features, which include teacher-led and self-paced quizzes, single-question activities (great for when you ask a question out loud and just need a quick response), and exit tickets (which can easily be completed by multiple students taking turns on the same device).

Socrative also assigns each of your quizzes a unique quiz number that you can share with other teachers, so one teacher can easily create a quiz or game for others to use.

My favorite thing about Socrative?

Unlike many proprietary student response systems that use expensive handheld uni-task remotes to collect students’ input, Socrative is web-based and accessible from pretty much any device–so if you have access to a computer, you can use it.

To learn more about Socrative, visit their blog, Socrative Garden, to see tons of other ways to use this tool in the classroom:

(click to visit!)
(click to visit!)