Thursday, April 24, 2014

Book Talk Thursday ~ Hooray for Testing?

Yes, you read that right!  Hooray for testing!  Yesterday I wrote a post about how much I do not enjoy testing, but it is part of life in our schools.  I have been teaching for 17 years, and it has always been there.  It was there before I was there.  I took them, and so will my children.  So, today for Book Talk Thursday I am highlighting a book to help with testing and linking up with my friend Carla at Comprehension Connection for Think About It Thursday.

I always find new ways to help my students prepare for tests, and this year is no different.  In my job I work with students who are challenging in many ways, and they are the hardest to motivate.  Many times they are behavior problems because they lack the skills to to do well in school.  Their home lives are not conducive to learning, and they end up acting out in class.  Carla has some wonderful ideas for helping those challenging students in her post, so I am going to showcase a book that will help students be more prepared for those state tests: Hooray for Diffendoofer Day!
Dr. Seuss started the book but did not finish it before he died, so Jack Prelutsky and Lane Smith completed the book.  It definitely follows the style of Dr. Seuss and has a great positive message for our students.  The book is about a school where it is obvious that the teachers love to teach and the students love to learn.  But Principal Lowe comes in with some news that makes the students of Diffendoofer worry ~ they will be tested on all they have learned.  If they do not pass, the students will have to go to "dreary Flobbertown".  No one wants to go there, so the students work hard to ensure they stay at Diffendoofer School.  What a positive message for students to show that they can succeed!

So, to help my students, those challenging students, feel more prepared for our state testing, I made these bookmarks and packs for motivation.  Click {here} or on the picture below to grab your free copy of the bookmarks and testing sign.

How do you motivate those challenging students, especially during testing?

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

State Testing ~ What is it Good For?

Today our school began our state testing, the Standards of Learning, {S.O.L.for short}.  What a horrible acronym, but it is what it is!

Yesterday I spent all day taking things off of my wall to make sure there was nothing that could lead the students I have in my little room to cheat.  Here are my bare walls.

 It is sad that the kindergarteners noticed it right away.  "Mrs. Crawford, what is wrong with everything on your walls?  Where did it go?"  How do you explain testing to a kindergartener?  

And to top it all off, during testing I can do NOTHING that might interfere with monitoring.  No reading, planning, filing, organizing, writing...NOTHING but walk unobtrusively around the room.  That means all I can do is  Look at my room above and tell me how I will walk unobtrusively with 3 students taking a test.  I won't!  I will probably drift off to sleep if I don't stay busy!

So, what is testing good for as we go through all of these lengths to ensure students have the best tools and atmosphere for testing?  I love this quote about test preparation.

Flashback to before Spring Break ~ The teachers and I have spent endless hours in the computer lab teaching our students HOW to navigate through the test.  Yes, just navigation!  All of our tests are online, on the computer.

Studies have shown that reading on a computer screen reduces comprehension!  As a matter of fact, there are many times I print out what I want to read, especially if it is lengthy, so I can really read it and understand it!  How does this affect our students as they read the screen and attempt to answer the questions?  Last year, our students did not fare well on these tests because the format on the computer was new to them.  Why?  Why do we do this to our students?

This year our third graders take our SOL tests for the first time.  One class has a long-term substitute while their teacher is on maternity leave.  The sub is great, a certified teacher who used to teach in our school, but she is not their teacher, who they have formed a bond with.  How will this affect them?

Today the student I had in testing did not have her glasses.  She needs her glasses for reading success.  Did she do well?  Probably not.  She couldn't see the screen to do her best!  Does the state care about this?  No!  There is no box to check that the child did not have his or her glasses for the test.

Last year, maintenance decided to come work on the air conditioner in the school, even though it was not broken.  They were walking on our roof right above my room.  That was noisy, but does that matter?  

A couple of years ago, a bird flew into a transformer, causing a loss of power in the school.  The server went down, right in the middle of a test.  The students lost the entire test they had worked on and had to retake a different version of the test on another day.  Fair?  Does it matter?

Is there a better way to measure student success throughout the years or even one school year?  I am sure there is, but testing is so easy.  BUT...for many students, it is not a good measure because of circumstances beyond our control or their own.

People ask me all the time if I want to go back to the classroom, and I answer with a quick, "NO!"  There are so many stressors that hinder my desire to teach in a classroom setting, and my name being on a high stakes test is the biggest reason I don't want to return to the classroom.  Do I miss some of those things that happen in a classroom?  Yes, sometimes I do, but I walk the halls now with a smile and a bounce back in my step because I know that what I am doing will create readers and not test-takers. 

Though I spend some time with test prep, I do spend most of my year helping students become better readers, using real books and real text.  We have real discussions and think about how we read.  We work on fluency and prosody and what it means to sound like a good reader.  We find books that we enjoy reading.  We work on comprehending the text in different ways.  We play games that make it all a little lot more fun. 

When those kids leave my room at the end of the year, they have made progress, some more than a year.  Some of them I get to say good-bye to with tears in my eyes, both of joy because they no longer "need" me and sadness because I will miss them.  Each year when they return to school, they come to visit and tell me about the books they read over the summer.  {Some of these kids had never read a book until we worked on them together.}  I find out that they have grown as readers, and they grow some more as readers each year.  No SOL or high stakes test can measure that progress!  None, not one!

And that is how progress is shown ~ when students grow and progress through a year!

What are some better ways we can measure students' progress? 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Easter Sale!

Tomorrow, Sunday, April 20, 2104, I am throwing an Easter Sale in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.  After the festivities have ended, head on over and pick out some fun items for 20% off from me and many other sellers!

You and your students will love one of my new units, ready to print and go!
Plus I have over 100 other products you and your  students will enjoy ~ lots of games and other fun activities to get ready for test prep!

Happy Easter and happy shopping!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Five for Spring Break Friday

This week was my Spring Break, but my own kids had school all week, which means I was stuck here doing not so fun things like going to check up appointments.  I did find a little time for some fun, despite it all and am linking up with Kacey at Doodle Bugs Teaching!
1.  Last Friday I didn't link up because I was on the 6th grade field trip to Washington, DC.  It was a gorgeous day, and the cherry blossoms were in full bloom!  Here are some pics from the trip.

2.  Zack had his first baseball game this Saturday.  It was opening day, and they won the game because of walks.  Hopefully the season will get more interesting.

3.  I wish we would have had that same weather over my spring break.  On Tuesday, my deck had ICE!  The temperature dropped all day long, and it rained.  Yuck!

4.  I did get to head over to Ginny Beth's Easter party at preschool, something I don't usually get to do.  She had fun hunting for eggs and doing fun crafts.

5.  Zack came home yesterday with a yummy looking Peeps pop from his bus driver.  Isn't it adorable?  I didn't get a bite, but I would have loved one!

What have you been up to this week?  Link up with Kacey from Doodle Bugs Teaching to find out!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Book Talk Thursday ~ Hank Finds an Egg

I was browsing the library with my kids the other day and found the perfect book for Book Talk Thursday this week!

Our library loves to put out books on top of the shelves for people to choose. Some libraries I have been to actually put out seasonal books, but ours just puts out books the people have turned in.  I know this because I have seen the librarians do this.  AND... there was a Christmas book out this past week!

Anyway, the point is that they had this fun little book out, and I thought it was perfect for this springy time of year: Hank Finds an Egg.
This wordless picture book is absolutely adorable!  I "read" it with my three year old daughter last night, and we had so much fun with it.  The book is about a bear, which looks a lot like my husband's old teddy bear, who finds an egg on the forest floor.  He tries to get to the bird's nest in the tree in different ways but is unsuccessful.  He takes care of the egg overnight and finds a unique way to return it to its nest.  In the end, the hummingbird babies hang out with Hank and seem to be thankful.

Earlier during the day, I found my three year old looking at the pictures and making up the story.  While reading it with her, I asked her inference type questions, and she got it!  Her answers weren't spot on, but she showed understanding of the book.  It just shows that no matter how young, children understand the world around them.

I plan to read this book again and again to see if the story and ideas change.  I love wordless picture books for all ages because they lend themselves to so many different lessons ~ inferences, storytelling, predictions, the list goes on...

How do you use wordless picture books in your classroom to help with reading and reading comprehension?

Sunday, April 13, 2014


I am so sorry it is so late for me to post the winners of my 2nd Bloggy Birthday Giveaway, but I was enjoying the beautiful day outside.  We washed cards, pulled up some plants, and watched 5 boys play Knockout for hours upon hours.  I love weather like today and just could not pass it up!

Here are winners of my big giveaway!  Look in your email for an email from me and the others who donated.

Congratulations to all of the winners!  Thank you for following and entering!

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