I'm linking up with Sabra over at Teaching With a Touch of Twang to share my ideas for the month of April! She had the great idea to link up and create a kind of "flea market" atmosphere where people share their ideas on different topics each month. Love it! To check out all the ideas, click on the link under the graphic below! If you have ideas, be sure to link up and share!
This month's topics are poetry, testing, and weather. Here are some of my ideas, although they are not the greatest- I'm not promising anything earth-shattering. :)
I love poetry!! We create a poetry anthology of all the poems we read througout the year (notebook paper stapled inside of a large construction paper cover) so the kids can pull them out and read them anytime. I love the way I introduced poetry this year and I have more ideas you can read about HERE.
Blah. I'm a third grade teacher so this one always get to me. My little third graders have never experienced the pressure of a state test before, so I always take a good chunk of time to explain exactly WHY we have to take the test, how it's different from our regular classroom tests, what it looks like, how it will feel that day, on and on and on. Horrible. The fear on their little faces is unbearable. I try to make them feel as comfortable as possible, but until they experience it for themselves, it's an uphill battle!
In the past we have gone all out to do "blitzes" with a theme- beach one year, carnival another year, and we would have all the kids from the grade level rotate through the classrooms to work on specific targeted skills. This year, we are avoiding the blitz idea and keeping our routine as normal as possible. After really reflecting, I realized that in the past I have been the one who has put a huge emphasis on the test and probably stressed my little ones out more than excited them... oops. This year, my kiddos have had to overcome some huge gaps and have worked really hard. I in no way want to add any more pressure or stress.
So..... this year, the only real "testing" activity we are doing is what I call our Reading Marathon. I got this idea my first year teaching from my awesome teammates.
To kick it off, I explain the whole marathon idea to the kids and we have a discussion about what marathons are and the kind of stamina you have to have in order to complete one. Marathons are not easy things. We talk about the difference between a relay and a marathon and we make the connection to our learning. The end goal is to be able to complete a marathon, or in our case, learn as much information as possible and be able to show off what you know in any format. To get us ready, we will also take part in shorter relays to hone in on specific skills and get us prepared for the marathon.
I then have the students choose a partner. I don't assign partners based on reading level or anything, I let THEM choose. They have to keep this partner for four weeks and they cannot switch! It's a great lesson in learning to work together and make it through those pesky arguments that creep up all too often! It's a little something like this at times:
I have found (through lots of trial and error) that if they are able to choose their partner, they are much more willing to work together (a majority of the time) and try their hardest, especially if they are good friends- you'll see why below.
Each week on Tuesdays, we do quiz with reading passages and test-formatted questions and they get to work on it with their partner. I call this our "relay." Before they can circle an answer, both partners have to AGREE on the same answer. When they are finished working, I grade their papers and BOTH partners get the SAME grade.
You may be thinking that some kids would just copy answers and let their partner do all of the work, but this is not the case. The kids are very adamant about explaining to their partner why certain answers are right and it just takes them one time to get a question wrong (when they knew another answer was right) to learn to fight for their answers and not just circle any answer choice because their partner thinks it's right. They really do discuss and have to prove their evidence! These are my favorite days!
On Thursdays, we do a "marathon," which is just a reading passage with questions (exactly like the relay) that the students complete independently. After eveyone is finished and I have graded their papers, I average the two partners scores together to get one score for each partner pair. The pair (or pairs) with the highest average score for the week earn classroom coupons and a special award. Here comes the kicker: when the students get their papers back, they have to show their grade to their partner. Because the grades are averaged, even if one partner makes a 100, it might not be enough to win the marathon. If the other partner makes a lower grade, another partner pair could beat them. The accountability to their partner is a great incentive to work hard. I even give them time to meet for a few seconds right before each marathon to give last minute reminders, and they are so cute giving each other last-minute advice! After they show their grades to their partner, they have to work together to correct their papers.
Because they have the freedom to choose their partners, they are very concerned about each other. When it comes time to correct their tests, they become little teachers and try their best to explain to their partner why certain answers are correct and others are incorrect.
I keep track of the relay grades and the marathon grades in a different folder for each class. Since we have started our Reading Marathon, our scores have gradually increased each week. I feel like this is a great way to get in test practice, build reading stamina, and promote critical thinking. I make sure to relate everything to being the "best student we can be" and put little emphasis on preparing for the state test. I will keep the marathon format through the end of the year, but the content on the relays and marathons will look different. :) And I might let them choose a new partner. :)
I wish I had pictures of my kiddos working together to break up all of these paragraphs, but I don't... so I'll just share this one instead.
Cracks me up EVERY time! Random, I know.
Ok, back to school stuff...
I am also rediscovering my love of task cards. I see a great many of them in my future- especially as differentiated activities during our last few weeks before the big test! You can read about how I used task cards with the whole class HERE.
I teach language arts, so I don't have any weather ideas to share with you :( However, I have seen some super cute ideas for weather on Pinterest, so you can check out my Science board HERE.
That's all I've got! I wish I had more to share- which is why I'm such a blog-stalker! :)
I am all kinds of exhausted tonight. I have a date with Dance Moms and my bed is calling my name. Is 7:30 too early for TV watching in bed?!?!