Friday, January 29, 2010

Fun Ways of Getting Ready for the State Test

From the Apple
It is about the time for teachers to be prepping their class for the sate test. You'll love this Jeopardy Game that comes from Intermediate teacher Christy Constande to help prepare her students. She gives this for homework and then has the children use these questions to play Jeopardy. You can change or make up your own questions to emphasize the strategies you are teaching your own students about your state test.

FCAT Jeopardy - Study Guide
Answer the following questions.

1. If the questions stems says, “Which event happened after ________,” what are you going to do?
0 A. Pick an answer because you just read the text.
0 B. Read the answer choices carefully and mark the one you think it is.
0 C. Reread the question stem to know exactly what you are looking for.
0 D. Go back to the text and find the answer because it is a sequencing question.

2. If the question stem says, “What is the main idea of the passage?” what are you going to do?
0 A. Think about what you read and mark your answer.
0 B. Reread the entire piece of text.
0 C. Think about the title and the text to rethink in your mind what you were just reading about. 0 D. Mark the longest answer because that is probably the answer.

3. If the question stem says, “What caused or what was the result of….?” what are you going to do?
0 A. Go back to the text and find your answer because cause and effect relationships are RIGHT THERE questions.
0 B. Read the choices and mark the answer you think it is.
0 C. Mark “C” because “C” is usually the answer.
0 D. Guess

4. If the question stems says, “What do you think..?” what are you going to do?
0 A. Read the four answer choice carefully to see which matches the text and what you are thinking in your mind.
0 B. Go back to the text and hunt for the answer.
0 C. Mark the answer that looks right.
0 D. Close your eyes and drop your pencil and see where it lands.

5. If you have a map, diagram or chart to look at, what should you do when you go to answer the question?
0 A. Look only at the map, diagram, or chart.
0 B. Look back at the text for the answer.
0 C. Reread the directions.
0 D. Look at the text and the map, diagram, or chart to find the answer.

6. What is the first thing you should read when a piece of text is in front of you?
0 A. the title
0 B. the directions
0 C. the text
0 D. the answer choices

7. Why should you read the title of the text?
0 A. It comes before the text.
0 B. It is in big letters and may be important.
0 C. It may give a clue as to what the text will be about and will get your brain thinking about the text.
0 D. Your teacher thinks that titles are important and you should always read them.

8. Read Think and Explain answers should start with….
0 A. a topic sentences that includes words from the question.
0 B. restating the entire question and then answering the question.
0 C. an engaging lead like a story.
0 D. your opinion on the question.

9. Read Think and Explain answers MUST include
0 A. your opinions
0 B. a retelling of the story
0 C. specific details from the story and proper nouns
0 D. the question stem written word for word before your answer

10. It is important on a Read Think and Explain to
0 A. write neatly
0 B. spell words in the text and question correctly
0 C. go back to the text and look for EXACT details
0 D. all of the above

11. When reading the text, the most important strategy would be to
0 A. read slowly
0 B. read with expression
0 C. underline important information and talk back to the text
0 D. don’t skip words

12. If you don’t understand the question, you should
0 A. ask your teacher for help
0 B. guess
0 C. reread the text
0 D. reread the question stem

13. When answering questions an effective strategy to help you find the right answer would be to
0 A. guess
0 B. draw a line through the answers you know are wrong
0 C. put an X on the right side of the answers you know are wrong
0 D. bubble in neatly

14. If you can’t find the answer, you should
0 A. sit and ponder for a long time
0 B. go back and reread the text that has to do with the question
0 C. skip it
0 D. guess

15. If you come across a vocabulary word and they ask you what the meaning is, the meaning will probably be
0 A. really hard to read
0 B. easy to read
0 C. a word you have never ever seen before
0 D. a word that you may know and that will make sense in the sentence when you plug it back in

16. If you finish the test before time is called you should
0 A. take a deep breath
0 B. reread the question stems and your answer choice to see if they match up
0 C. close your booklet and take a nap
0 D. wink at your teacher because you are done

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Official Observation

From the Star
So the time of the year is here. It's observation time. This time I was a lot more prepared. I got to choose the time and the day that the Assistant Principal would be coming to observe. I chose for her to come during reading, because this is the most structured time of my day and is first thing in the morning. There is always a plan and the rituals and routines are strong. Of course, I can't fit everything into that 90 minute reading block that I would like to, but still I chose this time because I figured this would be the time of the day when I would have the most control. So came the appointed day. All morning I worried about her coming and stressed and even freaked out a little bit. I don't know, maybe it's just me, but when I know someone important is coming to watch me and not just observe but critique me, I get really nervous.

When she arrived I had already began my lesson and I was feeling pretty confident. I was in the zone teaching and the students were learning. I did notice, as did she, that the same students were putting their hands up each time to answer questions. However, it wasn't a horrible thing because all of the other students were paying attention and following along with their graphic organizers. All in all I thought that the lesson went pretty darn good. I was ready to talk to her to see what she had to say. I was still nervous at the same time. Just because I thought it was good does not mean that it was really that good.

As I stepped into her office I took a deep breath and braced myself for what might be about to come. I was immediately put at ease when the first thing that she said was, "Wow, your class was really well behaved." You might be thinking they were well behaved because the assistant principal was in there, but let me tell you that does not phase my students! The VP actually stops by our classrooms quite frequently so this is not something special. Of course I didn't tell her that I told my class that she was there to observe their behavior so they better be at their best! Go me! As the meeting went on she complimented me on a lot of things and gave me some really good advice.

One of the strategies that she talked to me about that I really like is the "pair share." This is just a time after your whole group instruction to have the students talk among their tables and fill out a graphic organizers together to share with the class. Another great tip that she shared with me was to appoint someone from each group to be the reporter so that more students would be involved and so that you can hear from those who usually don't share. I like this idea because if you change the reporter each day you will have a chance to boost self-esteem while learning. I have just started to try some of the strategies that she talked to me about and I have found that they are working out great and with lots of practice I will hopefully be able to perfect them and use them regularly.

You better believe that I will be implementing those strategies the next time she comes. Actually I found them to be very helpful. So when the day was finally over, I was relieved - especially when I found out that she had given me all exemplary markings. Whew!
Well until next time... Have a great time forming all those unique little minds!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Holiday Magic

From the Apple

When I say good-by to my kindergarten children before the Winter holidays, it's always bittersweet. I know that I will miss them but I also know from years of experience that something happens over the holidays with little kids. It's simply magic! When my kiddos come back, they not only look older but all of a sudden you realize that they have internalized so much that you have been teaching. They know the rituals and routines of the classroom. They walk back into the new year so respectfully, almost quietly, like they are as happy as you are to be back! Of course, that quiet thing only lasts a day or two and they are back to their energetic little selves, but it's a good feeling when they come back. You know you spent the fall teaching your heart out and now you know for sure that they really have been learning!

This year was much like that for me. I have worked with a challenging little group of kindergartners this year, many with GREAT challenges. I remember our very first day together and thinking, "Oh my! It will take us until Christmas to see any progress!" Now it's the new year and I really can SEE the progress. I was smiling to myself the entire day.

Now I'm wondering if you get that same "magic" effect with intermediate students?

Friday, January 8, 2010

Back to School

From the Star

The time has come to go back to school. I can actually say that I feel very prepared for the first time since the school year has started! I'm sure that the reason that I feel this way is because of all the rest I got aver the winter break but also because of all the planning I did. Although I only went to school once over vacation and stayed just under 2 hours, just long enough to get all the folders and binders that I needed to plan, I spent hours and hours at home planning. I guess those people that think we have such a "cake" job don't count all those hours. Oh, if only they knew.

Now, let's talk about what they call a winter break. I mean is it really a break? I can say that it is a physical break for sure, but I don't know how much of a break it really is when you can't stop thinking about all the things to do when you get back. I tried my hardest to really enjoy my family and friends and put school completely out of my mind, but I found myself letting school seep right into my thoughts- wondering how I could make a difference with a certain student or wondering what I needed to do to get some of my students ready for the state test. Of course now that school is back in gear, I am very grateful for the time I spent on my vacation working. It does give me a sense of calm as I come to our Planning Day.

I do wonder however who the smart guy was that decided to have us come back the Friday before the kids come back? I mean, really, couldn't we just enjoy one more day and the last weekend with our friends and family? I mean the planning day is nice but having it on a Monday would have been nicer!

While I feel very prepared right now, I am sure that in a week I will be just as stressed and crazy as ever. Our state tests, Florida Writes and the FCAT are just around the corner. (One of the kids told me that FCAT stands for Florida Children Are Tortured!) I teach a combination 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade class so ALL of my little friends are taking some part of the state test! No pressure, right? -especially for a new teacher? Anyone have any suggestions for priorities in these last few weeks leading up to the test?