As sad as it sounds, seldom this year (since January, at least) have I left a week – or a day – and said, “Damn, that was good.” I’m certainly well aware of the learning curve of this job, of coming into a well established room as a new teacher with zero knowledge of neither the texts in the closets nor the expectations of the content area. This week, however, I impressed myself.
This week was crunch week, the week before the state standardized test. I felt an insane amount of remorse this week, knowing that I failed my kids (depressing, right?).. knowing that I didn’t prepare them the best that I could.. knowing that they aren’t going into the state test as prepared as they could have been. This week, though, I was determined to help. I was determined to do something to be beneficial, to leave a lasting mark before Monday’s ELA and persuasive essay.
We started the week with timed reading samples from the model curriculum and practice books aligned with the core. The first story, borrowed from model assessment one, was identified as being something they couldn’t relate to. The students expressed that they didn’t see Debbie, the story’s main character, as someone they would know and they couldn’t connect to the idea of Debbie changing her dreams. That being said, when I analyzed the data based on the multiple choice responses for the “Debbie” piece, the numbers were disheartening. The benefit, though, was that the students had now faced the dreaded 30-minute time block and observed how much they could do in that time frame.
Next came Phaethon and Helios. I figured that based on the extensive unit on the Greeks in social studies which just ended, greek mythology should be something the students are at least familiar with. This assessment utilized paired texts to demonstrate how texts can be paired that differ in setting (especially time period), use of dialogue, and choice of point of view. This assessment yielded much better results; however, there were some pieces of the puzzle that were still missing.
Our class trip fell on Wednesday, so upon our return, it was crunch time. On Thursday, we devoted the day to testing terms and uncovering the meaning behind the advanced Blooms verbs to figure out what the question is asking the students to do. From “analyze” to “demonstrate,” from “persuade” to “interpret” and “infer,” the students defined these words using a dictionary and reworded the definition to explain in their own words what each testing term means to them. If they were asked to do ________, what would they have to do? This day was extremely successful. It was interesting to hear how each students interpreted each testing term and what examples they could create using that term. I felt like we were on to some great things with this activity.
Today sealed the deal for me. As our last day of prep met us head on, I borrowed an idea from my mentor that I thought would cap off our week in a playful yet educational manner. I asked the students to work in groups to identify the do’s and don’ts of testing. The only parameters I had given this activity were that the students needed to work in groups, were given 2-minutes to create examples, and were given 1-minute each to write their ideas on the board. There were serious, legitimate responses and ridiculous, far-fetched responses. “DO come in with a good attitude.” “DON’T throw your pencil across the room in frustration and expect your teacher to pick it up. They were in the mindset of a test taker, and it was a really cool thing to witness.
Clearly, academic vocabulary needs to be taught starting in the beginning of the year; concurrently, so should testing strategies, appropriate behaviors, and expectations. However, given the nature of the week and the crunch to have something stick, I think I did a good job. I hate tooting my own horn,
toot freaking toot.