Is your school doing distance learning or a hybrid model this year? Are you looking for a way to keep students engaged with content when you can’t be there to help in person? If so, you’ve come to the right place! Boom Learning allows you to buy or create your own self-checking, interactive digital activities that are perfect for middle school classrooms and distance learning. And best of all, students looooove Boom Cards!
This blog post is a guest post by Sarah from Ratelis Science. She’s kind enough to give us a full breakdown of why you should be using Boom Cards in your classroom, and I think you’ll agree. I’ll also share a link to a free course for teachers to help you get started with using Boom Cards today. So let’s get started!
Why Boom Cards are Perfect for Distance Learning
It’s safe to say that 2020 has changed a lot about how we design lessons for our students. Most students will be learning remotely at least some of the time this fall. Regardless of what you teach or where you teach, all teachers must do more teaching using digital resources. While some people argue that distance learning is not as effective as face to face instruction, you can apply many best practices to distance learning that will make teaching and student learning better.
When I had to abruptly change over to fully remote this spring, Boom Cards were a lifesaver for my lessons when it came to our weekly review stations. Boom Cards became a weekly feature of my distance learning lessons as a self-directed review assignment. Research by John Hattie shows that student learning accelerates when the student, not the teacher, is taught to be in control of learning (Hattie 2018).
Boom Learning is one new and exciting tool for giving students timely feedback while allowing them to have control over their learning. Universal best practices for all effective lessons also include providing feedback at the right time and in the proper way to each student. Likewise, teachers need to know where to go next and how to balance the breadth and depth of the school curriculum, so, I am always looking for tools to help efficiently collect and analyze student data as well.
Using Boom Cards for Middle School Classrooms
Honestly, I used to think that stations were only for the younger grades. However, a few years ago, I started using stations in my classes at least once a week. They helped me differentiate for students and freed me up to do more small-group instruction. Currently, I teach 8th graders and one of our goals is for them to become more reflective of their learning so that they know if they are ready for the unit tests and exams. This is a very important skill that I want to develop in all my students to help with their transition to high school.
Boom Cards are my newest tool for differentiating learning and the results have been very positive. When designing stations to use with my students, one challenge I struggled with was holding students accountable for doing the work independently while I was doing my small group lessons. Boom Cards are a new way to use task cards and stations in your classroom and were a major game-changer for me this past spring. When I had to switch to fully remote instruction, I discovered just how transformative these digital task cards could be.
My students found the interaction with the cards fun, enjoyed the instant feedback, and felt empowered to use the cards as part of their studying routines. I had a much better participation rate for the Boom Card than for some of the other assignments. ALL of my students, no matter their level, liked the way the Boom Cards worked. In my bi-weekly surveys of what was or was not working in our remote learning lessons, Boom Cards always were in the top 25% of the “please do these again” choices. That is a ringing endorsement from my 8th graders about how effective and engaging a well-made Boom Card deck can be. I wish I had found Boom Cards sooner!
Why are Boom Cards Better than Paper Task Cards?
What are some of the reasons my Boom Cards are superior to paper task card stations? Unlike traditional paper task cards or ones made using Google Slides, Boom Cards have a few unique features that you can use to customize how they’re played. Teachers can randomize the order of the questions asked, the number of questions pulled from the deck in a single session, and also the order of the answers on the cards!
Boom Cards are self-checking, thus giving your students timely feedback based on the questions they missed. It also uses short cycles of practice, while most learning sessions simply show students 20 cards from the deck at a time. When students replay a deck, it will pull questions from the same set of cards but give students a different selection. This means that as students replay the deck, they will get a combination of cards they have seen before as review as well as some questions. This makes studying using these decks more effective because of the spaced practice and is also good for adolescent brains that seek novelty.
Using Boom Cards to Create Different Question Types
Boom Cards are better than traditional task cards because they have the ability to use auto-graded fill in the blanks questions and the ability to require the selection of more than one multiple-choice answer. A major challenge I have with my students is that they often do not slow down and read questions carefully. I have found that including multiple-choice questions that ask “select all that apply” forces them to slow down and review each answer before moving on.
I also like the drag and drop feature of Boom Cards for making item sorts and for model building. While there are many examples for decks for the elementary grades, Boom Cards can be used to create more complex question types. In this sample deck, I have created a model for students to use to show changes in electric charges, and in this example, they must drag the correct number of negative charges to make the balloon have a net charge of zero.
You can randomize the order of the cards presented or just have them appear in the same order each time. For distance learning, several teachers use this deck as part of their synchronous lessons. They had students work through the questions on their computers and discussed their answers together in the chat before submitting them.
In this example, students must solve for the density of the different samples and then correctly use that information to layer them into the beaker. You can create complex problems for students to solve. While you might think that digital task cards are only for elementary, in fact they have a lot more power to be transformed into tools for self-directed learning and review and also to give you timely feedback about student progress for lesson planning.
Using Boom Cards for Middle School Vocabulary
I love Boom Cards for reviewing vocabulary because they’re basically like interactive flash cards. Here is an example of a deck where students review the different types of maps used in geography. I also have decks for AP Human Geography that students can use for APHUG test prep at the end of each chapter and right before the final AP Human Geography exam!
After I created a deck of questions, I set my students the task of using the Boom Cards to review the key concepts and terms. I want my students to become self-directed, so I set a requirement that they must do the weekly review deck until they have a 90% or higher pass rate. This challenge sets the expectation that they reflect on their learning and to persevere until they meet the goal. This allowed students who had mastered the material to show mastery and to move on, while students who did not score high enough knew that they had to redo the deck. Most of my students did the deck 1-3 times before reaching that 90% or higher score. Some students would redo the deck until they had 100% correct as a personal challenge they set for themselves.
Using Boom Cards for Middle School Goal-Setting
You also can use the Boom Learning rewards system (click for a video) to have students set goals. Students can earn gems, lightning bolts and boom coins by working through the decks and answering questions correctly on the first try. Students earn gems when they answer questions correctly with no wrong answers attempted. When the number of gems earned matches the number of cards, a student has mastered the content for the deck.
Students can tell they have mastered the material when the light green circle has completely changed to dark green. The number in the center is the number of cards mastered. Lightning bolts reward “over-learning” behaviors, the concept that learning past mastery leads to automaticity and is earned each time a question is answered correctly, even if it has been answered correctly before. Coins are rewards for persistence and struggle. Harder questions award more coins. Students get bonus coins by logging in frequently and for extra lives left at the end of the deck. For example, students earn more points for a multiple choice with more options than one with fewer. Fill in the blank is worth more than multiple choice.
Using Boom Cards to Collect Data for Intervention
I like having data that I can use for formative assessments to plan which students to pull for interventions. Boom Cards are self-grading and give the students immediate feedback so they can track their progress. It also gives me a report that I can use to monitor progress. One particularly useful feature for me is the time on task chart which shows how much time a student spent on a question before answering it. This data let me see that a few students were rushing through the deck and I was able to pull them into a video chat to go over the data.
This allowed me to get into a coaching stance with them, having them reflect on why they were rushing. Students found it eye-opening to see that the questions they spent more time on had an almost perfect answer rate. We used that data to guide our discussion and help them take more control of their learning. Also, by allowing students unlimited repeats, my students could monitor their progress and use that to help track goals. I knew that Boom Cards would have to become a permanent part of my tools when I had several students ask to reassign a deck so they could use it to review before the unit test. Thank goodness I was remote teaching at the time because that made me do a happy dance! My students were taking ownership of their learning. That deserves a celebratory lap!
While you may think that digital task cards are only for elementary, the fact is, they have a lot more power to be transformed into tools for self-directed learning and review and also to give you timely feedback about student progress for lesson planning.
Learning More About Using Boom Cards in Your Middle School Classroom
Feeling overwhelmed with all you learned about the power of Boom Cards in middle school classrooms? Then you should definitely check out my friend Shanon’s free course! Shannon (from We Are Better Together) has 16 short (and free!) lessons all about setting up an account, creating student accounts, looking at reports, and more. You can check out the free Boom Cards course for teachers right here.
So what do you think? Are you ready to try Boom Cards in your middle school classroom? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below!