Cool Things to Do with Answer Sheets

Differentiated instruction, Response to Intervention (RTI), formative assessment with an immediate impact on instruction, best practices... so many aspects of good teaching are hardly practical in a teacher's busy world without tools that make it easy. This lesson provides some of the many ways in which GradeCam answer sheets can be used to better instruction for all students while simultaneously making life easier for hard-working teachers.

If you try any of the ideas that involve writing on laminated sheets, be sure to read #1 (immediately below) for pen and solvent guidelines.

Laminating Basics

Laminating Basics

1. After printing your students' answer sheets (as well as some blank answer sheets for new students, as they can always use these if they bubble their GradeCam ID numbers), laminate each sheet so it can be used all year long. Water-based overhead pens and Expo Vis-a-Vis® wet-erase markers work great, or you can opt for more permanent markers if you don't want answers to rub off too easily (though you might need rubbing alcohol, hairspray, or fingernail polish remover to take off more permanent marks). Dry-erase/whiteboard crayons also work (as long as you don't use a light color like yellow). Visit www.OfficeDept.com, www.OfficeMax.com, www.Staples.com, and/or www.Costco.com and run a search for “Expo” to see samples and costs (see examples above). Since clear laminate and contact paper come in different forms, be sure to test pens before buying them in bulk or using them on all your laminated sheets. The same goes for any solvents you'll use to remove them.

2. Print a class set of blank answer sheets that you can use year after year. Students merely bubble their GradeCam ID numbers to use them. They can use wet-erase markers if they'll be grabbing random/different sheets to use each day, or more permanent markers if theyll be using the same sheets and you want their GradeCam ID numbers to stay put until removed with rubbing alcohol. To acquire students' GradeCam ID numbers, see the “Acquire GradeCam ID Numbers for Blank Answer Sheets” lesson in the DnA Help Manual.

Laminating Alternatives

3. If you do not have a laminating machine and do not wish to pay for the service, an inexpensive alternative includes taping a transparency to the front of an answer document, allowing students to bubble answers they can later wipe off to erase. This can be a great way to “use up” transparencies at sites that have moved to forms of projection that no longer require transparencies. You can print on the transparencies themselves, but the print could wear off over time as you erase bubble marks, so it is best to tape the transparency to the front of an answer sheet.

4. See example above. Another inexpensive alternative to laminating includes buying a package of clear sheet protectors (these come in both flexible and stiff formats) to slide answer documents into (as well as any page you want to include on the back), allowing students to bubble answers they can later wipe off to erase. A large box of 250 costs around $8.50 at Costco (just visit www.Costco.com and run a search for “Avery Economy Gauge Top-Loading Sheet Protectors,” or find them cheaper in an actual Costco store). A matte (non-glossy) finish works best if possible. These alternatives (#3 and #4) to laminating offer extra flexibility, as you can change the sheets being used (thus multiple pre-ID sheets or blank sheets can use the same sleeves for different class periods).

5. SmartPAL® Jr. sleeves (http://www.eaieducation.com/Product/533821/SmartPAL®_Jr_Sleeve_Black_-_Set_of_10.aspx) come in colors or black and white, and they offer a convenient alternative to lamination.

The Back of the Sheet

6. Keep the back of laminated answer sheets blank (or include something that can be written over or around) for use as response boards, ideally using card stock inside to keep the board firm. This will allow you to elicit frequent responses from all students simultaneously as opposed to merely calling on students one by one (as the singular approach engages fewer students and provides you with less information on the class's needs). For example, you can pose a question to the class, give students a moment to write their answers discretely on the blank side of the board that doesn't feature the answer sheet, and then direct the class to show you their answers (with each student raising his or her sheet in the air). You will instantly see if you can continue to the next question or topic or if you need to spend more time clarifying, and for whom. This will save your school the cost of white boards, which are used for the same purpose. Students can also show their answers to “elbow partners,” and then you can have students raise their hands if their partners got it right. You can try the same approach with groups of students (e.g., this increases “all student” participation in group discussions). You might direct students to respond with a word, a drawing, or a solution in number form. They can also post their boards during activities (e.g., let students post boards to indicate which “side” they're on and then move their boards as needed to demonstrate when they are swayed by opposing arguments during persuasive debates). There are many things you can do with response boards, and searching the Internet can provide a host of additional ideas.

7. See examples above. Add a frequently used graphic organizer or form to the back of answer sheets you laminate for repeated use. For example, you might add:

- a form to help students pre-write when crafting a composition (as shown above, first image)

- a form to help students develop hypotheses and select variables (as shown above, second image)

- Venn Diagram

- one or more thinking maps

Note: All images are available in letter-sized format on the back pages of this handout: http://illuminateed.com/CoolThingsAnswerSheets.pdf

8. Add a frequently used reference sheet to the back of answer sheets you laminate for repeated use. For example, you might add:

- the periodic table of the chemical elements

- math formulas, equations, and measurements, e.g., the edge of the sheet can be a ruler (as shown for #10, below)

- a timeline

- a glossary of academic vocabulary

- a glossary with Spanish/English translations

- a glossary defining commonly used terms

- color wheel, tone chart, and value scale for art

- essential state standards in “kid friendly” language

- steps of the Scientific Method

- classroom rules or procedures

- encouraging quotes

9. See examples above. Add a frequently used line format to the back of answer sheets you laminate for repeated use. For example, you might add:

- graph paper pattern (as shown above, first image)

- large spaced solid and dotted lines for lower elementary students learning to write (as shown above, second image)

- a wider-spaced version of standard rule for upper elementary writers

- Cornell Notes lines, margins, and sections

- a game board for learning games you regularly play in class

10. See example above. On the back of a laminated sheet, combine reference material with a work area for students to show how they came upon answers elsewhere. This way you will not waste “scratch paper” that would otherwise be thrown away.

11. If students are typically seated next to partners and you are placing reference sheets on the backs of students' answer sheets, alternate the reference sheets so that each partnership has two different sheets that they can share (e.g., one for math and one for English if you are an elementary teacher).

12. See example above. Add a post-test form to the back of test answer sheets (whether they are laminated or not) if you don't plan to scan them immediately. This will help to keep kids productive when they finish early, while simultaneously providing you with useful feedback (data from students is a highly valuable yet often untapped resource). For example, you might prompt students with:

- I'm most anxious to know the answers to these question numbers:

- I didn't understand the following words used on this test:

- My favorite thing we did in class this past week was:

- This past week I was excited to learn about:

- My favorite learning activities involve (check as many as you like): See example above for checkbox options.

The Front of the Sheet

The Front of the Sheet

13. See example above. Include supportive text (instructions, motivational quotes, equations, space for a parent signature, etc.) on the front of answer sheets (whether they are laminated or not). As long as you dont create shapes that compete with the look of the answer box and risk confusing your GradeCam camera, your sheets should still scan. Test one to be sure the sheet you design stays within these parameters. See the “Customize an Answer Sheet Outside of the Answer Box” lesson for step-by-step instructions on how to do this.

14. See example above. Include multiple answer sheets per page to save paper. You can then cut the pages to give each student an answer “slip,” which will scan fine as long as you follow certain parameters. See the “Print Multiple Answer Sheets per Page” lesson for step-by-step instructions on how to do this.

15. Depending on your Internet browser and computer capabilities, you might be able to use enlarged or reduced answer sheets. This would mean you could accommodate younger students if they struggle with the regular-sized bubbling format, and/or it would mean you could accommodate more answer sheets per page if you are trying to save paper and if #14 (above) doesnt meet your needs. See the "Print Enlarged or Reduced Answer Sheets " lesson for step-by-step instructions on how to do this, and be sure to test any sheet you create in this manner before using it with actual students, as this approach only works for some technology setups.

Grouping

Grouping

16. See example above. Add different grouping options to the front or back of laminated answer sheets. This takes very little room, so you can use the rest of the area for a response board (as shown at left) or another purpose. The example on the left allows for 4 different grouping options, all tied to specific types of partners and teams you have selected based on students' individual needs (not at random). For example, when you direct students to get in their “Letter Teams,” they are working with students with similar needs (e.g., at a station geared toward their needs); when they are with their “Color Teams” they are working in a group of varied levels and with support, e.g., the EL has a same-language R-FEP for support, etc. (e.g., so that teams can fairly compete, or so that each person on the team can play a role that is geared specifically to his or her needs while the group completes a cooperative project); and their “Shape Partners” and “Number Partners” work in the same way, only they involve working in pairs. See the “Student Grouping Options” lesson for more ideas and details about grouping.

17. Whether this is done along with #16 suggestions or not, use a variety of colors when laminating your answer sheets. This way you can group students by color when needed or use the colors to facilitate classroom procedures. For example, you could post a different color on the board every day, and students with those colors would know they were responsible for certain tasks. Or you could verbally dictate something like the following:

- Would “Green” please hand out these books while “Yellow” collects the homework?

- “Orange” is in charge of checking the labs today to see if they've been properly cleaned.

- “Blue,” please come to the board.

- “Purple” will lead the lines to the library in a moment.

Differentiated Instruction

Differentiated Instruction

18. See example above. Work with your colleagues to intervene after a common assessment using flexible grouping or Response to Intervention (RTI) model practices. For example, the day after students are tested you can have one group go to Mrs. Rankin's room to review all the basics before applying them to missed concepts, another group can review a key standard in Mr. Kerrigan's classroom, another group can review a strand in your room, and students who performed well can apply their knowledge to more advanced concepts in Mr. Walker's room. All teachers involved will divide their classes based on previously determined criteria so the classes will be mixed and even. Scan early enough in the period to provide you with time to determine where students will be the following day so that you can tell them where to go, or at least so that you can tell them what to expect so that there is less downtime if you walk them to rooms the following day. The beauty of using GradeCam is that students can get the help they need the day after their assessment as opposed to waiting until teachers have time to scan tests elsewhere, attend a Professional Learning Community (PLC) meeting, etc. If you don't feel comfortable working this quickly initially, make it a goal to get progressively closer to “next day intervention.”

19. Likewise, don't let scanned results just sit in the system. Use them to group students for activities based on their levels of mastery for specific state standards. Otherwise, little Johnny will always be placed in the “low” group, even when he reaches higher and masters a concept, and he will feel frustrated and less likely to reach high again if his efforts aren't acknowledged.

20. My favorite, with the power to revolutionize your instruction: See examples above (5 images). Within the last minutes (perhaps 6) of class, display approximately 3 multiple choice questions on the board that cover material you just taught. Have students discretely answer them and then bring them up to scan. If a student answers 0-1 correctly, give him or her one homework assignment. If a student answers 2-3 correctly, give him or her another homework assignment. Both assignments require the same amount of work (and this should be obvious to any student comparing the two), but they should honor each student's needs. These assignments should both cover the same standard(s) being taught but should begin at different places and/or offer different levels of support. For example, the lower level sheet might contain a glossary on the back and/or use simpler language when providing directions. In contrast, the higher level sheet will require the student to take the material further or practice more without spending time on preliminary explanations. If you save the assessment in DnA, you will have a record of who should be turning in which version of the homework. As a vital bonus, when students are done scanning you have an instant indication of how successful your lesson was (record any notes that might help you the following year) and how much review you will need to offer the following day. You could even use the results to group students for the next day's activity. Collaborate with colleagues to make the most of your time and efforts; while more of each could be required initially to create alternate versions of assignments, your students will benefit tremendously from the differentiation. Fortunately, DnA saves you time in determining exactly what each student needs, so you can redirect any time you used to spend in the past determining individual students' strengths and weaknesses.

21. Do the same thing as described in #20 (above), only do this at the start or in the middle of class, before an activity. Based on the level students demonstrate, place them at a particular station, give them a particular role in a group project, or give them a particular activity to work on.

Surveys

22. Do the same thing as described in #20 (above), only include 1 additional question related to your instruction. This way you can get valuable feedback on topics such as:

- How much did you enjoy today's lesson? A) very much, B) it was OK, C) not very much, D) not at all

- How well do you think you understood today's lesson? A) very well, B) OK, C) not very well, D) not at all

- How much review time will you need tomorrow to understand everything taught today? A) no more time, B) 10-15 minutes, C) 30-60 minutes, D) I need more than just review time (e.g., I need things explained in a different way)

An added bonus is that students feel they have a say in shaping their instruction. If they see that you respond to their feedback, it is likely to enhance your relationship with students and increase their engagement efforts in class.

23. Do the same thing as described in #20 (above), only include an extra question about your instruction on students' homework assignments. There can be no “right” answer when you create the assessment, and this way students aren't penalized for their answers (i.e., they are merely meant to provide you with feedback). Test DnA ahead of time to ensure this approach still works, as the format could change.

24. See example above. Use the blank answers sheets (either laminated or not) to conduct anonymous student surveys. As mentioned above, data from students is a highly valuable yet often untapped resource. For example, you can survey what students “really think” about your class to improve your instruction in aspects to which you might never have otherwise paid attention. Simply pass out blank answer sheets and direct students to not put their GradeCam ID numbers on the sheets. Explain that this way there is no way for you to know how each student answered. Describe the purpose of the survey and why you hope students will be honest. Display, pass out, or copy (on the back of the answer sheet if you are really short on paper) a survey for students to complete. Have a student collect his or her peers' answer sheets and make a show of shuffling them. Thank students for their feedback. When students are gone, use a list of your students' GradeCam ID numbers to add a different number to each sheet (to acquire students' GradeCam ID numbers, see the “Acquire GradeCam ID Numbers for Blank Answer Sheets” lesson in the DnA Help Manual). Of course, the results won't match up with the students who provided them, but this will allow you to view and analyze results. You will probably want to delete the results from DnA at some point to avoid any confusion. Also, ignore the concepts of a “correct answer” and standards alignment when viewing results, as you merely need to see the item analysis (i.e., how they answered). When creating a survey or analyzing the results, keep wording in mind and the many ways in which students can misinterpret questions (thus results need to be taken with a grain of salt but can still draw attention to clear trends). The example provided covers strategies in use (questions 1-20), work quality (questions 21-30, and environment and rapport (questions 31-36).

25. See example above. Do the same thing described in #24 (above), except opt to conduct anonymous student surveys with two response options. This will allow you to create an answer key that does suggest positive or negative results. For example, if you use the survey above (also featured in letter-sized format on the back pages of  http://illuminateed.com/CoolThingsAnswerSheets.pdf) you could create an answer key with the desirable answers shown above (see either "Create an Assessment" lesson if you need help creating the assessment). When you then scan and analyze results, the reports will give you a very clear indication of feedback you might be particularly concerned about. While teachers employ many instructional strategies and you might not use all of those surveyed, the feedback should still be very valuable.

26. At Back to School Night, Open House, or conference time, acquire feedback from parents by letting them use their child's answer sheet to complete a parent survey. You can set up the survey in DnA in the same way described in #24 or #25 (above).

Learning Games

27. Use the sheets as collaborative game cards. For example, you could play a science mystery game where teams compete against one another, and each team uses one answer sheet (with any team member's GradeCam ID# on it). The team would have to collaboratively determine answers to a set of questions and bubble them on the answer sheet. However, each person on a team would have an assigned role (e.g., the “”detective” could be responsible for sharing the “fact clue cards,” the “forensic scientist” could be responsible for testing liquids as the group directs, the “district attorney” could be responsible for looking up matters in the text, etc.). When a team finishes, it scans its answer sheet to get a score, and the team with the highest score wins. This can also be done with partners rather than teams.

28. Use the sheets as consolidated game cards. For example, you could play a quiz game where teams compete against one another, and each team uses one answer sheet (with any team member's GradeCam ID# on it). However, rather than working collaboratively to determine answers to a set of questions and bubble them on the answer sheet, each team member is responsible for his or her own questions. For example, the team must bubble answers to 1-12 on its sheet, but Maritza must answer and bubble questions 1-3, Rashan has questions 4-6, etc. When a team finishes, it scans its answer sheet to get a score, and the team with the highest score wins. This can also be done with partners rather than teams.

29. Use the sheets as competitive game cards. For example, you could partner up students and then have partners play against other pairs or have each student compete against one component. They could use the sheet in the same manner described in #27 or #28, except that the opponents could approach the scanner at the same time to scan their sheets one after the other, noting the scores. The pair, team, or player with the highest score beats the assigned opponent(s).

Provide Feedback

30. Provide appropriate feedback as students scan their own tests. The material is fresh in their minds and they feel connected to the material. Say “good job” when appropriate, remind a student he or she can get extra help at lunch, etc.

31. See example above. Ahead of time, prepare slips of paper to attach to test answer sheets as they are scanned, based on performance. For example, you might prepare a slip for students who score 60% correct or less. These slips could inform the students that they can retake an alternate version of the test (same difficulty, same length, same standards, but different questions) within one week on their own time (e.g., before school, at lunch, or after school) at a designated place (e.g., your classroom) to earn a higher grade. However, it would also provide details to help the student study. For example, which pages in the text should students review, what Internet links can help, etc.

32. See example above #25. Do the same thing as described in #31 (above), only set the slip up so that each set of questions and the standard with which they are aligned has its own row, and the row has study guidelines specific to that row (i.e., specific to the given state standard). For example, a row might indicate that questions 1-5 relate to standard ELA7R3.1, and that a student who did poorly in this section should review pages 102-104 in the textbook, study the table on page 12 of the workbook, and visit www.poetryforms.com. After a student scans his or her test, a quick glance at your computer screen will show you which questions (if any or all) were the student's weaknesses. You can then circle, star, or highlight only the rows on the slip that pertain to the student's performance. This way he or she will know how to study the material he or she hasn't yet mastered.

33. Do the same thing as described in #31 and #32 (above), only create slips to attach to homework answer sheets after they are scanned. For example, if a student completed a project but did poorly, the slips can inform him or her of where to get help. This system allows you to efficiently provide feedback to students who are not present when you scan assignments. If you set up clear criteria for how slips are distributed, it also allows a teacher's assistant to do this for you.

Procedures and Efficiency

34. Don't mistake the terms “assessments” and “answer sheets” as only pertaining to tests. If you have a multiple choice assignment, you can add the answer box (bubble area) to the back of the worksheet, squeeze it onto the front, or attach the sheet to a project (like the back of a poster).

35. See example above. Use answer sheets for non-multiple choice assignments or tests. Thats right! Do the same thing as described in #34 (above), only set the assessment up for non-multiple choice grading. For example, if your assignment contains 20 open response questions or 20 questions is A (or set it up for rubric grading). This way, as you grade (using an answer key, rubric, etc.) you can bubble an “A” for “Accurate” for every question or item the student gets correct, or bubble the rubric score earned. Using this system, even a teachers assistant can grade any assignment with an answer key and scan it into the system where you can quickly see where students struggled most.

36. See example above. Do the same thing above for writing or project assignments or tests. Thats right! Do the same thing as described in #34 and #35 (above), only set the assessment to grade on the papers or projects demonstration of required criteria. This way, as you grade (using an answer key, rubric, etc.) you can bubble an “A” for “Accurate” (or any other character) for every criterion the students work includes.

37. At the end of the year, give students' laminated sheets to their new teachers. Perhaps sheets have a graphic organizer on the back that will help students continue writing with a familiar tool, or perhaps you pass on students' portfolios and their laminated sheets could be an additional piece.

38. If appropriate, partner with colleagues to have students use the same laminated answer sheets for multiple classes.

39. To keep students and their environment clean when they use markers on laminated sheets, cut inexpensive kitchen sponges into 1½-inch cubes that you dampen in a dish of shallow water to use as "erasers." You might want students to use these in close proximity to you after scanning (e.g., the dish can be 2 feet from the GradeCam camera), as the temptation to throw these little erasers can be hard for our little angels to resist.

40. If you use any type of point system in your class, you could record points on the backs of students' laminated answer sheets. For example, you could add points for good behavior and remove points for instances of bad behavior. Be sure you don't opt to give points for bad behavior, or else our little angels could merely erase them.

41. Use the sheets (either laminated or cut from multiple sheets per page) for daily lunch counts. Students can follow a routine of bubbling A next to #1 if they are present and going to eat lunch that day, and key personnel will instantly see each teacher's count (as well as the school's count as a whole) after students drop their sheets under the scanner. The teacher should have the day's “lunch” assessment open when they do this, and this assessment can be created just once and used repeatedly if someone uses the “Remove All Student Responses” function on the “Advanced” tab of the assessment at the end of each day.  This cool idea comes from Bonita Unified School District.

42. Use the sheets for school elections. Students can simply bubble the letter that matches each student for which they wish to vote (these matches can be displayed on a separate sheet they receive or from a list each teacher displays on the board).   This cool idea comes from Bonita Unified School District.

43. Alice Keeler of Clovis Unified School District suggests hole-punching answer sheets and placing them in a binder (if you use laminated sheets, be sure the ink used won’t rub off). This way, you can place the binder under the camera (open), and then scan by flipping through the binder pages. Each student’s sheet will scan as a page is turned.

44. If you have young students who struggle with bubbling, Teachers at Manhattan Beach Unified School District suggest letting them each use a post-it note or a sheet with a cutout to accommodate 1 question at a time to keep track of the questions they are on. You can let them mark in their test booklet first, then lead them through each question (e.g., “Ok, move your post-it so it’s under #1. Is everyone under #1? Now, look at question #1 in your test booklet (the one with the apple)…”). The more practice students have, the less intimidated they will be when they take more high stakes tests, and the more accurately scores from those tests will reflect their true mastery (as opposed to being skewed by fledgling motor skills).

Next Steps

45. Either alone or as a grade level, department, or Professional Learning Community (PLC) group, select one or two of the above ideas to try each week. You'll surely come up with additional cool ways to use GradeCam answer sheets, as well!