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Guest Post: Adding BOOM! Cards (TM) to Your Toolbox by Sarah Renish

Note from Matthew at ELA in Middle School

This post was written by Sarah Renish, Teacher and Teacher-Author Entrepreneur. Sarah is the owner of Ratelis Science, which has a storefront on BOOM!Learning (SM), Amped Up Learning and TpT. We are in a couple of the same Facebook groups, and when I had questions about BOOM! Cards (TM), she was kind enough to teach me! She has since written this post for us all here. Thanks, Sarah! 

Boom Learning and Boom Cards are the trademarks of Boom Learning, Inc. Used with Permission.

Sarah's Biography

Sarah Renish
I am a 6-12 science teacher in Wisconsin that has over 20 years of teaching experience working with students from diverse backgrounds, including at-risk, ELL, SPED, and Gifted & Talented students. I am actively involved in developing and teaching professional development opportunities related to science instructional best practices. In addition to my regular work for district curriculum committees and numerous professional development sessions, I have taught for the past 18 years in Kenosha Unified School District.

Part of the work I do at my school includes duties as a vertical team leader for all ten science teachers in the 6th through 8th grades, facilitating our professional learning community, and coordinating with my building and district administration to improve science instruction. As a part of these duties, I do research on instructional best practices and develop short professional development sessions for our staff. I also work with my grade level team of science teachers and special education teachers to develop common assessments and to make appropriate accommodations for students. I am also a formal and informal mentor to a number of teachers, both in my content and in other subjects as well.
BOOM!Learning.com

Why use BOOM! Cards and Decks

Differentiation, Response to Intervention, Personalized Learning - all of these are descriptions of trends in education and have been buzzwords for years. What these educational best practices try to describe is a set of strategies and tactics teachers use to help deliver content that is just right for students. What does this really mean and look like in our classrooms? In many cases, this is a reminder that every student has different strengths and weaknesses, and that we should develop tasks that are at the appropriate level for the student. We know that if a task is too easy, or too hard, it can lead to frustration in our students. The idea of preparing these different lessons can be daunting, but there are new tools and technologies available that make the setting for more personalized learning easier.

To help teachers decide what tasks to pick for each student, one of the essential things that teachers need is data. While I do use data-driven information to guide my instruction in my middle school science  classroom, what I really need to be effective is not just any data. I need data that is timely, concise, and easy to assemble so that I can quickly scan for patterns and trends, allowing me to use my judgment and experience to decide how and when to intervene.

Like many of us, I had to quickly shift to full online learning and was looking for a way to get formative information about my students' learning so I could track the effectiveness of my online lessons. One thing I will say about this transition is that I was certainly given a lot of advice and more than a few sales pitches about new programs to try out or subscribe to that would be the "next great thing for online instruction". I had several months to try out a number of these products and put them to the test in my online classes, Now you will get to benefit from my experiences as I will be highlighting some of these tools that I think are keepers for my teaching toolbox in a series of blog posts.

Link
Today I would like to introduce a tool called Boom Cards, a product from Boom Learning that allows you to create your own interactive task cards, or buy ones already created by teacher authors in the Boom Store. This is a short video of a deck I built a few months ago in action. As you can see, these are not your "grandma's" task cards!

Samples and Benefits

A Boom Card is a digital task card, but it is so much more than just a multiple-choice question. These cards can be set up to be self-checking so students get timely feedback. The card also allows for more variety in the task students must complete. If you click on the links in this section, they will take you to a preview deck that allows you to play a sample of 3 cards so you can try out some of the cards for yourself. The two decks I have picked for you include one about types of thermal energy transfer that I used for my demonstration video, and one that uses model building that gives students the task of moving the correct number of charges complete the model and build the "incomplete" model of a charged balloon. Modeling is very important for science, and this task works well in a Boom Card format because it requires students to manipulate objects.

After exploring the preview decks for yourself, I think you would agree that there are several features of Boom Cards that makes them superior to paper task cards. First, they are also paperless so I save time and money on printing, copying and cutting, and update any changes automatically, so if I want to add a new card to a deck I build or change the wording of an answer, I can quickly do that and not have to reprint new cards.

Second, they are self-grading, and can check a variety of question types, drag and drop sorts or matching style questions, select all that apply multiple choice, and even short fill in the bland answers. This means I can make decks that have student practice for a wider variety of questions. In my classroom, I love to use the filling the blank for math problems and vocabulary exercises.

Third, I can make the answers randomize, giving the Boom Cards more replays because the questions and the order of the answers can be randomized. This allows me to have students replay the decks to build up mastery and keeps them interested because the questions appear in different orders.

Fourth, I can use the cards with my interactive board in my classroom, so I can use them as a quick exit ticket or review before we transition to the next part of the lesson. This also makes the interactive board another option for a station, and most of my students love the opportunity to interact with my board.

Lastly, if I set up student accounts in my Boom Classroom, I can get data about how much time students are spending on the decks, and which questions they answered correctly or incorrectly. This data is valuable to me because I can use it to plan mini lessons and review for students based on higher frequency of missed questions.

Ready to Start with Boom Cards?

Boom Cards work on just about any platform: Chromebooks, Mac, PC, iPads, tablets, and even cell phones, making them very appealing to me as a teacher for distance learning.

You will need:

Internet access with a browser that is no more than 3 years old, OR install the Free Boom app.

A Boom Learning account. Boom Learning offers several different levels of service based on your subscription. They even have a free version, but this version does not allow you to create a classroom for tracking student data. If you just want to have students use the decks and get immediate feedback, then the free subscription level might be enough for your class. However, they do offer yearly subscriptions at $15, $25, and $35 (USD), which allow you to set up classrooms of 50, 150, or 200 students, respectively. You can see their pricing here. (Matthew's Note: To sell Boom Cards, you will be required to get the $35 annual subscription.)

Next Steps

Add to your Boom Card Library. You can build your own decks, or you can buy them from the Boom Store using the Boom Points. Boom Points are tokens you purchase from Boom Learning, and they cost about a penny each, more or less, depending on how many Points you buy at a time. Currently, you can purchase 400 for $5 and 5,000 Points for $50. In addition, there are free decks available in the Boom Store, so you can find decks to use without buying any points if you want to try out the platform and see how it works for you. Once you purchase a deck, it is added to your library.

Playing the Decks. Once you are logged into your Boom Teacher account, go to your "Library" tab to find the deck you want to assign. You then have a choice to make. If you do not want to track student use and scores, click on "FastPin" and select "Generate New Pin". You can then:
  1. Copy and paste that link into your Google Classroom or other learning platform for students to click and play; or,
  2. Write down the PIN and have students enter the PIN into the FastPlay section in the student login section of BoomLearning.com.
The other option is if you have a class set up on the Boom Platform. This allows you to have students log in so you can get data on individual scores and how much time they spent on the deck. To do this, click on "Hyperlink" instead of "FastPin", and  copy and paste that link into the Google Classroom or other learning platform your students use. Students then click and sign in before using the deck. To learn how to do this, please watch the video here!

Using the Reports to Inform Your Instruction

I am a data lover; I am always looking for information about my students that I can use to fine tune lessons and help maximize our learning time together. Boom Cards helps me collect and visualize information about my students and the questions I assigned them.

In this deck of Boom Cards, I have over 35 different questions in the full deck. By having students do 20 cards in a session, we can use repeated practice spread out over time, and as they play the deck each time, they will see a mixture of review cards and new questions. For my middle school students, having the deck be slightly different each time also keeps the review more interesting and allows them to build upon previous successes. Having he students do a mixture of new questions and already seen questions is a great way to build on fluency and makes these decks engaging. 

Whole Class Data
In this screenshot, I am looking at a summary report for some of the students in my class. I can briefly see from this live feed how students are progressing and identify any students who are struggling with the questions and need further attention from me. The green circle shows me how many times they have gone through the deck, and I can see if the scores are improving as the students replay the questions. I also have the deck set to give students 20 cards (1 direction card and 19 random question cards) from the question bank of all cards I put into the deck each time they play the game. In this Boom Card Report, I can see that some students have attempted 19 different questions, and some have attempted 25 different questions.

Based on this screen shot, I already can see that the student shown at the top of the screen has a score of 37% for the 19 questions they have attempted. Based on this information, I would pull them as soon as I could for a mini conference to see what I have to reteach, or in this case, I also see that they only spent about 4 minutes on the deck, so it could also be them rushing through the work.

Individual Student Data
I can also look at individual student results for even more data to drive my instruction. In this second screenshot, I can see how long this student spent on each questions, and which ones she answered correctly or incorrectly using the color coding. I can click on each individual box to see what my student answered to check what type of error was made.

For me, this is an easy way to gather informative data about student progress that is customized to the content and skills that I want to cover for the lesson. The live collection of data and the visual representations of that data helps me make decisions about how to change my instruction to match my students' needs. 

If you would like to try out some Boom Cards, I have the following decks for free at my Boom Store, Ratelis Science. I hope that you will check them out and find that Boom Cards are a great tool to add to you classroom, for face to face or online learning!


Boom Learning has educational videos for teachers and authors at http://www.YouTube.com/c/boomlearning






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