FMPS IN ACTION: Student-Response Systems Enhance Communication

With full classrooms, a demanding curriculum and distractions competing for kids’ attention, it’s challenging for teachers to reach each student individually. But thanks to innovative “student-response systems,” technology funded by grants from the Friends of the Marblehead Public Schools, teachers and students have an amazing new tool to enhance communication.

Village School fifth-grade math teacher Annie Pugh and her students are shown with their student-response system ‘clickers.’
“With the student-response system, there is no such thing as a silent student,” said Laura Lovely, Veterans Middle School lead teacher for the science department.

Student-response systems, commonly referred to as “clickers,” are a set of hardware and software: Teachers ask a question about a lesson, and students answer by pressing a button on their handheld transmitters. The system’s software enables teachers to see students’ responses instantly.

With the information, teachers know in seconds if the class understands the lesson, plus they can target individual students who either need extra help or could benefit from more challenging enrichment material.

Two Marblehead High School teachers were the first to apply for a FMPS grant for the student-response systems in 2011. Shortly after, the science and technology teachers at MVMS were looking for a way to enhance their instruction and were encouraged by the positive buzz at the high school.

“Our original grant to the FMPS was for four sets of clickers, which we shared in the department,” Lovely said. “They worked so well we applied for a second grant which allowed each teacher to have his or her own set.”

The chain reaction of FMPS student-response grants has continued.

“We met with the middle school teachers who shared their positive experiences with the clickers,” explained Village School fifth-grade teacher Annie Pugh, who, as a math teacher, immediately recognized their value. “We now have the tools for our resources and programs. Study Island, Brainpop and GoMath all have the capability of connecting with the student-response systems.”

Because the students can give answers somewhat anonymously — each clicker is numbered, and only the teacher knows which clicker the student is using — their responses “are conversations with just the teacher,” explained Pugh. “It’s a private conversation that can take place with 25 students within a matter of seconds.”

But instructional benefits go beyond assessing students’ mastery of the material. MVMS science teachers have introduced the social-studies department to the technology, and they are excited about how the system can be used to raise discussion topics, take class polls and spark debate.

Teachers love the immediate feedback and the ability to provide students with the instruction they need. And what do the students think?

“Kids absolutely love it,” Pugh said. “They see it like a game.”

Pugh continued, “We are so grateful for this grant and for the Friends of Marblehead Public Schools. The students and teachers are fortunate to have FMPS to work collaboratively with us to improve the educational experience in Marblehead.

Added Lovely, “The Friends grants are a fabulous gift. They offer wonderful enrichment to support our curriculum.”

Marblehead Reporter: