January 25, 2017

Simple Assessment With Plickers & Magnets

Over the past year, I have been using Plickers and magnets as assessment tools in my physical education lessons.

Yup… magnets.

Although I’ve vlogged about some of these ideas before, I wanted to write a more thorough blog post to help explain how I use these tools in my teaching. As I started writing the post, I decided a video would be helpful too.

You’re getting both here.

Let’s get started (first with the video, but with additional information/links in the post!):

Plickers Cards

You’ve probably heard about Plickers before. They’re these awesome cards with QR code-looking codes on them that allow your students to answer multiple choice questions in physical education and that allow you to super-quickly collect data on your students responses.

Here’s how they work: each Plickers card is numbered and each has a unique code. Each card has four sides, with each side representing a multiple choice question response (i.e. A, B, C or D). You assign a Plickers card to each of your students and, throughout your lessons, you can use the Plickers app on your mobile device to ask questions to your class and collect their answers.

Students share their answers by holding the side of the card representing their answer up and with the code facing the teacher. The teacher uses the Plickers app on their mobile device to scan the class’ answers. As the teacher scans the class, the app picks up the students answers automatically and records the answers (as well as who answered what) in a report which is saved on the teacher’s Plickers account.

It’s straight up magic. Watch the video at the top of this post to see it in action (well, action animated to the best of my capacity).

I was really curious to check out Plickers so I ordered a laminated set on Amazon for $20 (you can also download the cards for free on the Plickers website). Once I got my cards, I made some modifications to them based on what I learned from the Jedi Master himself: Kevin Tiller.

Writing each card’s number in each corner of the back of the card is smart because a) it makes the card easier to find and b) it reminds the kids how they should hold their card (by the bottom corners so they don’t hide the code… which means they should cover the two bottom numbers with their thumbs).

Once I had modified all of my cards and set up my Plickers account online, it was time to come up with a system to let my students know which number they are assigned. Here’s what I made:

Plickers Posters

Although this looks like an official Plickers product, it’s not. I just made it look legit because I like things looking legit (#toolegittoquit). And seeing that I pixelated all of my students information here since I teach at Xavier’s School for Gifter Youngsters (not really… but there are rules), I added some weirdo’s picture in the #32 slot so you can get an idea of what the non-pixelated version of these posters look like (I made one for every grade at my school).

Here’s the thing: I fell in love with these posters. Turns out that having numbers assigned to my students is useful for all kinds of things in class (and having photos/names is especially useful to substitute teachers). I started toying around with some different ideas as to how I could use these assigned numbers for non-Plickers assessments in class and came up with something rather analog.

Assessment Magnets

In our gym, we have a massive whiteboard. It’s a little scratched up, but it’s magnetic! I got the idea of using magnets combined with my students’ assigned numbers to set up a super fast and easy assessment system.

I bought a pack of Elmer’s 3/4″ Round Magnets and a pack of Avery Colour Coding Labels off of Amazon. I stuck a label on each magnet and numbered each one to make a set.

Side note: I got the four-colour pack of the labels so that the magnets were different colours. Although this could be used for team purposes, it was mostly to help students quickly find their magnet (e.g. instead of having to look through 32 red magnets, a person with a blue magnet only has to look at the eight blue ones to find theirs).

With the magnets prepared, it was time to start using these in class! Here are some of the different ways I use the magnets:

Magnet Rubric Boards

The most common way I use these magnets is in conjunction with our Learning Roadmaps (i.e. the colourful rubrics I make for each of my units and that you can learn more about by clicking this link).

The Learning Roadmap is always visible in the gym when I am teaching. This helps students understand the different level of achievement for each of the outcomes we explore in our units. The Roadmaps break each outcome down into four levels: Not Yet, Getting There, Got It, and Wow (thanks to Sarah Gietschier-Hartman for the inspiration on those labels).

During our lessons, I invite students to go over to the Magnet Rubric Board and place their magnet beside the level they believe they are currently at in regards to the outcome we are focusing on that day. Alternatively, I might place each students magnet beside they level I believe they are at and invite them to go see where they are and reflect on how they can get to the next level (this could also be done via peer assessment).

This system has worked wonderfully for both my students and myself. It helps keep everyone focused and on the same page, and it promotes deliberate practice and learning in physical education. It’s awesome!

Magnets Skill Development Boards

Another way I uses the magnets is when it comes to skill development. In my physical education lessons, I break every skill down into five critical elements. During our learning activities, students are asked to focus on different critical elements as they work towards mastery of the skill.

The magnets get used in these situations to help me understand which skill each student is focusing on. Additionally, I’ll ask students to place their magnet on the specific critical element they are trying to include in their performance as they attempt to master the mature form/pattern of the skill. Sometimes, I’ll place a student’s magnet on the critical element I am not seeing based off of my assessment and invite students to check the board at different times throughout class.

I’ve used this system a lot with my younger grades (1-3) who are working on both fundamental locomotor skills (e.g. running, hopping, galloping, jumping) and fundamental manipulative skills (e.g. catching, throwing, striking, kicking). Doing so helps my students develop an understanding of how to learn new motor skills, to develop a growth mindset (e.g. “I can’t do this yet, but I will be able to if I break it down and learn it piece by piece), and to build their confidence. That said, this system is also great for my older students (grade 6) as they focus on more complex skills.

So there is a quick snapshot into two of the tools I use for assessment in physical education: Plickers and my Assessment Magnets. I added some additional examples and information in the video at the top of this post, so be sure to watch it through the end.

What examples of quick assessment could you share from your own teaching? I’d love to hear all about it in the comments below!

As always, thanks for reading and Happy Teaching!

Joey Feith
Joey Feith is a physical education teacher based out of Nova Scotia and the founder of
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