Monday, October 21, 2013

Polls Everywhere

In case you haven't heard about Polls Everywhere yet, let me be the first to share it with you.  And, for those of you that do know about it, I'd like to share some of the ways I use it in my classroom.

Polls Everywhere is a site that allows users to engage their class or audience in real time.  Not only that, it motivates students and increases their on-task time.  The gist is this - you create a question, display it for the class, and as your students respond to it, the whole class can watch the results in real time.

How do you display it?  You can use an LCD projector, interactive white board, or other media to display the real time results.

How do the students respond?  There are two ways.  Students can either text in their answers from their phone or they can respond online (via computer, tablet, or smart phone).  Even those teachers who are not in 1:1 classrooms will probably have a majority of students with cellphones, so participation becomes fun and inclusive.  When not everyone has a phone, I'm quick to ask amenable students to share.  "Mindy, when you're finished can Grant use your phone right quick to text his answer too?"  If you ask the right students, this is easy and fun for everyone.

The folks over at Polls Everywhere can probably explain it even better than I can, so you can click the image below to watch their short introductory video if you'd like.

So, here is the fun part.  How do you use it in the classroom?  There are probably a thousand ways to use it that I haven't even thought of, but here are a few that I found useful.

1. Make a quick poll of student preferences.  This is what they show in the video above.  You can quickly find out whether your students would rather have the test on Wednesday or Thursday, for example.  (Mine have never, ever selected the earlier date, but I still keep asking - just in case.)

2. Ask multiple-choice style questions to check for comprehension to make sure they are following you in the language.

3. Review before a test and see what students know and what they need to review.

4. Ask open-ended questions to see what ideas students got from a reading or listening prompt.

5. My favorite use of this tool is to have students write true/false questions with the vocabulary (in Spanish, of course).  When they all finish, we scroll through them and answer them as a class.  This is delightful fun in levels III and up!

6. Ask students what they already know about a topic before you teach it for some quick, informal formative feedback that can guide your lesson preparation.

7. Ask students for suggestions on what they might like to do for a project in your current lesson.  They always surprise me with their ingenious and creative ideas.

And, I'm sure you are thinking of even more ideas for how this tool can be used.  Polls Everywhere is free and you don't even have to sign up, so it's the best of all worlds for us teachers.

Cautions - There is one big caveat that I want to let you know about ahead of time.  When you are projecting open-answered questions, students can write anything they want - ANYTHING.  And you cannot be sure who wrote what, so they have a certain anonymity.  Someone who wants to disrupt the lesson could text in something very inappropriate.  I recommend that you talk to your students ahead of time and make your expectations clear, but stay vigilant to quickly turn off the projector in case someone disappoints you.

Have fun with it, amigos!  And if you think up some great ways to use this tool I would love to hear about them.  I'm always looking for ideas to make my lessons more engaging and effective.

Hasta pronto,



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