So yesterday I was sick in bed and an idea came to me as I went in and out of sleep.
I decided to create the IXL Olympic Games.
I created two podium slides for each class period for two different areas: the time students spent on IXL and the number of skills students have shown progress on in February.
The kids simply went wild for this silly idea, as you can see below.
We will wrap up the competition on February 28th. Right now, it’s anybody’s game!
Tell me about a silly spur-of-the-moment idea that was well received by your students. I’d love to hear from you.
I’ve tried several ways to assign IXL so that the assignments are appropriate and differentiated.
(If I were using IXL for math, I could have students use the Recommended Lessons on the Math Diagnostic, but that isn’t an option for Language Arts.)
I’ve found a good way to assign a series of lessons on a given topic that will meet the needs of my students who range from Beginning Reader to Lexiles in the 1100s.
These tiny IXL tickets get stapled into the student’s agenda books so they have the sequence of lessons with them at all times. Students mark off each lesson they complete, and then I meet with them near the due date (typically two weeks) to check their progress and award stickers for their iPhones.
Below are the PDF versions of the IXL Tickets I’ve used in class most recently. I plan on going back and tweaking some from earlier in the year.
When you take a look at these files, you will see they cover different grade levels and sequences depending on the skills.
Students have the option of working horizontally or vertically on some tickets, finding just the right place for them. As always, I encourage them to “Level Up!” when they can.
I took a big risk a few months ago by putting on my cheesy teacher hat and pushing out an idea that came to me as I was trying to encourage my students to use IXL.
In a grand opening-of-class announcement, I told all of my students, “Ok guys, I’ve been thinking and I have a plan. You are all getting an iPhone. I got this deal on iPhone 1s, and you will get to add apps to your phone for your hard work on IXL.”
Oh, the look on their faces!
Oh, the look on their faces!
“Now, I know this is an old model, and it only comes in white with black lettering, but I talked to people in the main office and they assured me that they would be coming out with a new model soon. They also promised new colors were in the works.”
I had to keep it up…
“Please be very careful with these phones. I didn’t get insurance on them. So if you lose your phone at any time you will get a new one but you will have to your apps will be wiped clean.”
And we were rolling…
The iPhone incentive is working well in my room. Students earn one sticker for each LA skill they complete to satisfaction. As I wrote before, I’m flexible with the SmartScore to accommodate all learners.
I check their progress once a week by customizing the the reports and award apps/stickers in a little one-on-one conference.
Once their iPhone 1 is filled with 12 apps, they upgrade to an iPhone 2 and so on.
Their old phone goes in the “showcase” under the dry erase board.
Students receive a prize for upgrading, as well.
When the first student upgrades to a new phone, I present our newest model: “The iPhone 2 has just been released. It comes in a lovely Butter Yellow.”
The iPhone 3 is “Peppermint Pink.”
Recently I had one student upgrade to the “Mint Green iPhone Cuatro.” He is the the envy of many; not because he got a prize from Prize Box 1 but because he was the first.
I’ll admit, this is an incentive program that takes dedication and organization on my part. I’ve tweaked it a little by adding special BONUS apps throughout the week such as:
- Scoring a 100% in Newsela Quiz earns you 2 apps, while a 75% earns you 1 app.
- I had a tiered level of rewards for growth in winter MAP scores.
- Perfect attendance by the whole class for the week or 100% completion of homework.
- Sometimes just helping out in class or being a leader earns you an app.
Playing the part of a Verizon salesperson is challenging, but I’ve spent enough time in Verizon to know key phrases that make it feel authentic, which makes it even funnier.
Almost all of my kids love it.
Secretly, even the ones who act like it’s dumb? Well, they love it, too. They even tell me what their stickers represent. (If they get a little emoji with headphones? “Oh yes, I got my music app!”)
Oftentimes, making a reward silly is all it takes to reel in a middle schooler.
Sometimes, it’s about making the experience seem like a reality. Not many of my kids have iPhones, so this is almost like having the real thing – even if it’s just within the walls of my classroom.
Always, it’s about ensuring everyone sees some success and everyone gets credit for working hard.
What do you think of my incentive plan?
Could it work in your classroom?
Do you do equally silly or crazy ideas to motivate students?
I’d love to hear your ideas, questions, and thoughts in the comments!
As promised, here is the first of several IXL related posts.
This is how I highlight the skills we are working on for the week…or two weeks…or month…depending on how many snow days we have!
The board is divided for my three different classes: a 7th grade class, an 8th grade class, and my C+M stands for “Core Plus More” which is our part of our Intervention program.
We are often studying different things at different times so the charts get moved around quite often. (Many of my anchor charts are Pinterest inspired.)
The “73,300 Questions” above the board shows how many Language Arts questions my five classes have answered collectively since the beginning of the school year.
The “Target > 85” refers to their SmartScore.
The SmartScore is a hot topic in our building right now. What is fair? What is reasonable? What is realistic?
I went to the IXL FAQs and found that a SmartScore of 80 is considered “good,” 90 is “excellent,” and 100 is “mastered.”
I chose 85 because it seemed to be a good challenge for the students I work with.
At times I will tell a student to work towards a lower SmartScore if they are truly working hard and still struggling.
I also encourage students to “Level Up,” meaning if they are working at the 5th grade level and hit 85, the should Level Up – I tend to make a silly video game noise when I say this- and try the related 6th grade skill. (More on that later).
Of course, I’ve had students ask, “Can I get higher than 85?”
Without a doubt- go for it!
Last year, one of my coworkers kept talking about what I heard her says as “I Excel,” an online learning program she signed up for using one email, then another, then another…as her free 30-day trials ran out.
Seeing as I gave her my email to use at one point, and tending to shy away from things like this, (why, I don’t know!?) I never got on board.
I mean, I was already using Kahoot, Padlet, Quizlet, Quizizz, Skills Navigator, Schoology, and had just started using Google Classroom. Did I really need another reason for my class to be on the Chromebooks?
Things changed this year when our building was able to buy the full features of the Math and Language Arts curriculum with our 21st Century Grant.
Now I have incorporated IXL into my classroom, as have many teachers in the building.
The big questions though…
- How should we use it?
- How much is too much?
- What should we expect from students?
- Should it be graded?
- Should it be homework?
- How can we keep it fresh?
While this page has lots of inspiration for using IXL, I thought over the next several posts I would share a few of the ways I use IXL in my classroom that seem to be effective, and tell you some of the things that haven’t seemed to work.
Just look at the progress we’ve made so far!
Do you use IXL?
What are your favorite strategies and methods?
What motivates your students?
What questions do you have?
Please share your ideas, thoughts, and questions in the comments.