Sunday, May 1, 2016

Successful Test Prep Activities

Woah. I feel like such a stranger. I haven't blogged since November. Going back after maternity leave was crazy busy. I don't have time to sit in front of my laptop at all like I used to. The only reason I am right now is because I just put him down for a nap AND I am sacrificing my nap to post. Big deal for this sleep deprived mama.

So let me get to what I came to share today. My writing STAAR was back in March and I went back to the classroom with an idea of making it super fun. Which I did, and I was even told by the kids those were the best two weeks they've had. Which punched me right in the gut. I had been so consumed in feeling like I was preparing them for the STAAR that I forgot what mattered most. Note to self (and to all of those who are questioning what they are doing.) They will NEVER remember a worksheet, ever. They will remember the activities and projects that you do. (Another note to self. This should be a poster hanging in every school!)

Here are a few things I did those two weeks:

I downloaded the app Team Shake to split my kiddos into equal groups. It makes my life a lot easier to shake it and it groups them. This is a screen shot of one class groups. I ended up merging some groups to make it more equal.

So for one whole week they worked in these groups. We had a 4 day week so it went pretty quickly. Monday we spent the day in the computer lab researching the whole class. They drew out of a cup a grammar skill that we have learned this year. Every single group out of all three classes had a different skill. Then with their group they researched what it was, anchor charts, examples used correctly, and even examples used INcorrectly. Then the next day we spent half the classtime back at the lab to finish up any printing or searching, and then headed back to class to plan out their presentation with their group. They could do a theme or whatever, it was THEIR project. Friday they had to present and all had equal parts, and they had to write in their journal a paragraph using their skill at minimum 5 times. My only rules. 
Here is a final poster: 
I LOVED it. They did SO good. They taught the class their skill, they had the class ask questions. They even gave an exit ticket on their presentation before they left the front of the room. 
This worked so well I decided to do something similar the next week.

We dove into figurative language next week to help out the reading teachers who were covering poetry.
We did Owl Moon Monday/Tuesday and the kids loved it. We did a book walk, and I made them write their own sentences similar to those in books. 
Then the last day they had to create an anchor chart using 5 of the newly learned figurative language skills and give me 3 examples. Every person had to write on the poster in the group.

Let me tell you, it's not so easy for them to come up with idioms, personification, even hyperboles when they just heard about it that Monday. They did it though, successfully, and had a blast doing it! 

The room is messy. I know. Don't judge ;) 

Then on Friday we did Hope King's Bean Boozled - WHEW. That's overly stimulating if you dare play, but SO much fun! 

So after these two weeks the reading scores came back on their last mini assessment and I was asked to go down to third grade and help out a class get ready for their STAAR test which is after next week.

I leave my babies (insert super sad face), and head down to a classroom where there is nothing of mine there but what I could fit on a traveling white board. The first few days were definitely getting acquainted and figuring each student out. Once we got that out of the way, it was time to get down to business.

I knew I would have to include some days of them breaking apart passages, but I can't deal with worksheets at all. I hate it. So I had to research and rack my own brain and my colleagues brain with what we could do to make this information stick in 4 weeks. Here are some things I have done:

So I took STAAR task cards from Watson Works EDU and my own on TPT and cut off the answer choices. These were posted on tables and around the room. Students worked the first few days in pairs to answer on sticky notes, and then the last few days they worked independently. We then met and went over each card whole group, then they broke out again and placed sticky notes that were similar to the correct answers we went over. 

I found this little gem at the end of the day. Needless to say, they had SO much fun. 

Then I have also had them work in partners and cut up old STAAR passages. 

They only get the question stems again and they record the answers on sticky notes. They also have to glue the question next to where they found the answer on the poster:

Some of them were crazy messy but correct. Others like the one above, super organized and still all found the correct answer.

Doing activities like these teach the kids accountability for their own finding. If you give them direction in where to find answer, or you tell them yes/no and they can't prove it themselves, they aren't taking anything away.

A student said at the end of this activity, "Mrs. Thomas this was so much fun, thank you for letting us do an activity where we are having fun and learning at the same time." Can you guess which poster was this students ;)

Next week is the last week with third graders and I am transforming my classroom to a beach theme and we are doing all things related to comprehension strategies at the beach.

What are ways you "prep" your students without them feeling like it's a testing environment??

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