Thursday, April 10, 2014

Testing that is FUN and Student-Friendly

Hi everyone! This is Christina from Sugar and Spice. Today's post is not going to be revolutionary or unique, but I hope it will be an important reminder to teachers. :)

Lately, I have been thinking of all of the testing and expectations we put on our little ones.  I've become saddened by all of the assessments my little kiddos have to go through each week.  They are six and seven years old, and yet they are expected to sit there and show their knowledge on a piece of paper. I know that paper-pencil assessments are useful in that they prepare our kids for state assessments, but sometimes, I think we have too many paper-pencil assessments for our young learners. I've been working really hard to implement more performance-based assessments into my classroom.

We put forth so much effort as educators to make our activities and lessons hands-on and fun!  Why should our assessments be any different?!

Here are a few of my recent assessment ideas and reflections that I would love to share with you. :)

1) Social studies and science are perfect places to start when implementing performance based assessments into your classroom.  

Recently, we studied the characteristics of various landforms in my first grade classroom.  As a culminating activity AND assessment, I had my students sculpt various landforms out of their dough.  It was not only FUN and hands-on for my kids, but it was very telling in that I could watch my students' process their understanding and demonstrate their knowledge with a final product. 

For the assessment below, my students had to use cotten balls to show the characteristics of each type of cloud.  They could use the text and their own understanding and knowledge from our science lessons to demonstrate their learning. Once again, they had so much FUN and didn't even realize they were taking a "test." ;) 

2) Manipulatives. We ENCOURAGE our students to use manipulatives during our small groups and lessons...and yet I see so many teachers who put these manipulatives away during a test.  Why? 

This little girl was struggling with this word problem during a recent assessment.  When I put the basket of cubes on her desk and asked her to "act it out," guess what? She completely mastered the problem!  The lesson of this story? Our goal is for our kids to understand how to go through a mathematical process and arrive at the correct answer. If our kids have to use cubes, or crayons, or pennies to show you they have mastered this skill..let them!! 

"Let Them Be Little" is a beautiful song by Billy Dean. I love this song because of it's beautiful reminder that in the midst of our crazy state initiatives, testing, assessments, ever-increasing expectations for our the end of the day, the kids who walk out of my classroom door are only six and seven years old. I want them to learn through a hands-on approach, so I need to remember to hold true to this approach - even during assessments. 

I hope you will join me in reflecting on how "child-friendly" our classroom assessments are.  Perhaps, you are already implementing a bunch of performance based assessments in your classroom. If you are, leave a comment below sharing one way you implement these in your room. We would LOVE to hear your ideas and comments. :)

Until next month...

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Currently Driving with Bunny

Hi friends!

It is so nice to blog here today - I love my Teaching Tribune friends! What better way to celebrate the 1st of the month that to link up with Farley with a 'Currently'!

I am 

LISTENING - to the kettle boil. I LOVE tea, and drink a million cups a day. It keeps me calm and I think I am kind-of obsessed with the 'ritual' of making it. Hmmmmmm just one more cup..

LOVING - it's nearly school holidays! Here in Australia we are almost at the end of Term 1 and I get my darling daughter home with me for 2 weeks. A break from the 'school run' and the routine of uniforms, lunches, drop-offs etc. Two weeks of bliss. 

THINKING - Vegas is on my mind, I have to say. I would LOVE to meet all the wonderful bloggers and TpT friends I have made over the last 5 years, at the TpT conference. The fact that I almost hyperventilated on a one hour flight recently (my first in a LOOOOOOOONG time)... and the huge cost of transporting my entire family with me... means I may have to wait a year or two more to get there... but we can all dream right?!

WANTING - 1 more hour. What I could achieve with just one more... actually, I probably would just nap! Or drink tea.

NEEDING - to drink more water. Every night, without fail, I make a promise that tomorrow I will hydrate my cells successfully. Tomorrow will be the day. I promise. 

HOURS - don't hate me, but I only teach one day a week for the moment. That day, I work approx 8-4. Every other day, I am 'on' from 7 am to midnight. And I never get a day off.  The mothers out there will appreciate what I mean. Trust me, my life before children when I worked full time. It was bliss. 
But I would not change a thing!

Head over to Farley's blog to read more 'currently' posts!

I made a cute little worksheet for my friends at school - helping them to join onset and rime to make cvc words. They just cut out the bunny driver and the passenger in the car and join them together to make the words! Click on the image at the end of this post to find it, in google drive! 

Thanks so much for stopping by today friends! See you over at my blog and next time here at The Teaching Tribune!

- Mel 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Close Reading {Freebie}

A few weeks ago, the fifth grade teachers in my building received some training on close reading. Like many of you, I thought that people were always saying "cloze" reading, which I already did.

Turns out, it's quite different. Close reading comes from the Common Core, which states in the Corresponding College and Career Readiness Anchor Standard - "Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text."

Our reading series, HMH Journeys, does use the close reading strategy, but it's not quite the same unless you can interact with the text. I made copies of the story to distribute to the students, two pages of the story on one side of the paper.

We listened to the story with a recording for the first read. Students made marks on the story when they had some sort of reaction to it. These are some of the symbols that we used:

Then I had the students share their thoughts at their tables. I overheard some really great conversations about why they chose to mark things a certain way.

Then I asked the questions that Journeys provided throughout the story. We worked on them one-by-one and highlighted the text that we used as evidence.

We took another color of highlighter, and marked words that were used for sequencing, since that was a skill that Journeys wanted us to focus on in the story and would be tested.

Finally, we worked on main ideas and supporting details. When we were finished, our stories looked a little like this:

Overall, I really liked how the students were much more involved in the text when I gave them a copy to annotate and highlight. They seemed to have a much deeper understanding because they were more engaged in the multiple readings, rather than moaning and groaning that they had to read it AGAIN.

I decided to take a stab at creating some monthly-themed close reading passages and activities. I decided to also include some elements so that they could be used in interactive notebooks. If you would like to download a freebie close reading text and activities about Opening Day, click {here} or on the picture below.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Catch a Leprechaun Today!

Today is the day you might be able to make it happen! 

 Happy St. Patrick's Day!  

This is Michelle here from Well, Michelle?  Today I am bringing to you a clever St. Patrick's Day project idea from a friend (thank you Sarah)!  

Last week, I entered my friend's classroom to a whole bunch of Leprechaun traps set up in her classroom.  I was very intrigued as I immediately started asking questions and taking pics!  In exchange for a free homework pass, she allowed her students to build a Leprechaun trap for school.  Almost all of her students participated.  Doing this simple project brought out a lot of creativity in her students.  They were excited to come to school and show off their traps and see others' traps.  Her students also got to practice their presentation skills as they had to present their trap invention to the class.  Sounds like a great idea, right?! 

 So, without further delay, here are some of those pics that I snapped...

 This one even had a side note attached!  Sooo cute!

And one of my favorites...with the shamrock jail and the pot of skittles!

Talk about creativity and getting your kids excited to come to school!  I know that sometimes that is half the battle and I am definitely keeping this idea in my back pocket for next year!

Now, I leave you with this same teacher's bulletin board idea!  She also had her kiddos write about how to catch a leprechaun!

Have a great day everyone and keep your eye out for the leprechauns!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Great Anchor Charts for Teaching Story Elements

Hi All! This is Martha from Primary Paradise and I'm excited to share some of my favorite anchor charts for teaching story elements that I created this year.

These are the charts that I've kept up all year and my students like to refer back to them time and time again.  
Also, if you click on each poster, it will take you to a blog post on how I taught that concept with book recommendations and a few freebies!

I love teaching about character traits, and this year was no different. This anchor chart really helped my students understand the concept of internal and external traits.
When I taught first, my kiddos learned that setting was the time and place. Well, in second we upped the ante and learned that setting is the time, place and environment. It's great because even though we learned this months and months ago, if I asked what the setting of the story is, my kiddos still tell me all three parts.

I don't think that problem and solution is such a hard concept, except when there are multiple problems and solutions, but I do always want my students to be able to clearly define both terms. This chart helped them do that.

I LOVE this roller coaster anchor chart for plot because it is such a great visual of how the plot of a story works. This week we did a lot of story mapping.
 I have always LOVED teaching students about inferring. I think it's such a fun skill, and such a useful real life skill. If you don't know how to infer, you can get yourself into some awkward social situations.

Understanding main idea is such an important common core skill. My students love this visual for main idea. In fact, we're spiraling back to it next week, so we will be using this chart once again.

I hope that you got some great anchor chart ideas.