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Preparing for State Testing... when you'd rather jump off a cliff...

Hello darlings! Yes, I'm pretty dramatic, I know.  LOL!I think all teachers would agree that state testing is awful.  It doesn't measure what our students really know and it puts undue strain on our students.  But... there is nothing we can do about it, so I guess it's just "suck it up buttercup."  That's what I tell myself anyway.

 And then I put myself in my kiddo's shoes.  Hours upon hours, days upon days of testing.  Staring at a computer screen reading articles and stories that may or may not be on my grade level.  Answering questions that mean nothing to me.  Figuring out complex math problems that are designed to trick me and confuse me.  No thanks.  That's where we as teachers come in.  Since we can't take it away, we have to make this exciting.  We have to provide students with the why and show them the value.

Why?  We GET to show our families and our principal how incredibly brilliant we are and how much we have learned since kindergarten!

Change your attitude! Yes, it stinks.  No, it isn't fair.  No, it doesn't really show how much growth your kids have made.  Yes, it's flawed.  No, their scores don't mean you are a terrible teacher.  No, you can't compare your scores with your teaching colleagues.  But, guess what... You have to give the test, so make the most of it.  Your attitude will TOTALLY show through to your students.  If you hate it, they will too.  If you love it, so will they.  Your passion makes it happen.  (cue music)

So here is my little simple plan to turn it all around and get my kiddos pumped so they are begging to take the test.  I tell them that it is a privilege.  It is an honor.  It is something that ONLY they get to do because they are third graders.  K-2nd didn't GET to take this test!

We do a Rockstar Testing Theme.  I tell students to bring in props or items that make them feel like a Rockstar.  I take their pictures and we hang them up around the room.

I send home a note to parents a few weeks before testing that asks for donations to our "I Rock" table.  Whatever they don't provide, I purchase from the Dollar Store.  I hype this up to the kiddos and explain that 4-5 kiddos will be chosen each day to pick from the table.  Only students who go ABOVE AND BEYOND in showing perseverance and great effort will be chosen. (since testing is a week and a half long, all students end up getting picked by the end."

When I pick for the first day, I make sure I am very specific in my language.  Ex.  Sally, you impressed me with how focused you were on each question.  I even noticed that you went back through and checked over each answer for silly mistakes.  Thank you for working so hard!

The next day, I see students trying to emulate those traits so that they can be chosen.

Inside this envelope I store everything kiddos need for test prep so it never gets lost.  I let kiddo decorate it and make it their own.  We store them in a tub on our "I Rock" table.

What's inside?
Crunch Time review for ELA and Math from Tied to Teaching
Copies of the Smarter Balanced Released Test Items from North Thurston Public Schools
Any games or centers they are working on such as my ELA Test Prep centers

Take your review outside!  Try to find anyway to get students up and moving.  Here students are completing a math error analysis with chalk, figuring out the area and perimeter of their bodies with chalk, working on centers on blankets, and reading to build stamina.

Don't assume your students know what test questions are asking them.  Our test requires them to use technology and be able to click, drag, highlight and so much more.  Have students actually analyse the test questions before you even give them the strategies to answer them.  We also do an activity with the Universal Tools component of the test.  That freebie can be found here. 

The activity below is from Teacher Trap's Reading Test Prep Unit which I highly recommend.
The error analysis is a freebie from Ashleigh's Education Journey.

The comprehension passages used to practice the RACE Strategy is from Teaching with a Mountain View. 

Between all of the test prep, we try to fit in as many fun and hands on activities as possible.  STEM is a perfect way to incorporate that!  You can see how I completed all of these activities here. 

 I still want them writing and working hard, but as you can see, it's all about making it exciting and engaging.  This is one of the most loved writing assignment my kiddos do all year!  We read all of the Diary of a... Books and then students choose a creature to write their own diary about!   This takes a week or two and students beg me to get back to it in between our test prep!  You can grab everything you need for this project here. 

I hope this gave you some inspiration for test prep!  Remember, you are an amazing teacher.  This test is just ONE part of your classroom!

Don't Be a Word Victim: Using Context Clues Effectively

Hello darlings!  In third grade my kiddos already know word attack strategies such as chunking and stretching out the word.  Chunky Monkey and Stretchy Snake come to mind among others.  But I tell my kiddos that now that they are in third grade, we aren't just learning to read, we are READING TO LEARN!

Of course I have kiddos reading at all different levels and bands of text, but I still teach them all these Context Clues strategies!  It is great that we know how to SAY unknown words, but what happens when we start getting into harder vocabulary that we can pronounce, but we don't know what it means?

This is where CONTEXT CLUES come in!  Elaine Vazquez created a video for her middle school students which I find to be PERFECT to introduce this concept!

She tells students not to be a word victim with the most common mistakes- skipping the word, mumbling the word and moving on (which my kiddos LOVE to do), and asking for help.  Instead she tells them to be WORD NINJAS!  Love it Elaine!

For my lesson, I showed kiddos this video until 7:01 where she begins to talk about prefixes, suffixes, and roots which was a little advanced for my third graders!

After the video, I used the FREE printables I created to make an anchor chart and solve unknown words with my students.  I had already read them the book You Wouldn’t Want to Explore with Lewis and Clark!  so I pulled some sentences from there and we went through each type of Context Clue.

Definition:  I call this an Author's Whisper because the author will come right out and say what the word means like he or she is whispering to you.  This is often found with the word and definition separated by commas , the word "or", and often parenthesis are used to surround the definition. (common in Nonfiction)

Example:  This is another Author's Whisper.  This is often used with key words such as "such as" (see what I did there? LOL!) or "like..."  The examples will often be in the same sentence (common in Nonfiction)

Synonym:  This is when an idea is repeated or said in a different way that means the same thing as the unknown word.

Antonym:  This is when the word means the opposite of the ideas expressed.  Key words such as "but.." "however..." "in contrast..." "although.." "or..."

Inference:  I tell my kiddos that this is the strategy they will use the most in Fiction text.  They have to figure out the :gist" of the paragraph or sentences around the word.

I hope this is helpful for you and your students!  You can grab the FREEBIE here!

Persuasive Writing Game

Hello darlings!  We are currently working on Persuasive writing.  In third grade, our kiddos are expected to write an introduction with a thesis statement, 3 detailed reason paragraphs, and a conclusion.

When we start off, I always model an entire Persuasive piece and we work together as a class.  This year my kiddos wanted to persuade the principal to allow us to have two recesses a day instead of just one.

When I start to get kiddos to write on their own, we start off simply by learning how to write one paragraph with a strong opinion backed up with solid details.  To do this, we play a game using our whiteboards.  If you don't have a whiteboard for each of your kiddos you are truly, truly missing out on so much good learning and instant assessment!!

I have each kiddo grab their whiteboard and sit on top of their desks.  The novelty of being on top of their desk adds to the excitement.  Next, I have them write one paragraph telling their favorite season of the year and explaining why with specific details.

Once they finish, they place their board on the carpet and we each pick someone else's board to take and read.  Before students read the board, we discuss what makes that paragraph a 3, 2, or 1.  I use my Learning Scales Freebie to talk about the expectations.

I assign different spots around the room for them to stand if they think the paragraph they wrote was a 3, 2, or 1.  For example, if they think the paragraph is a 3, they go stand by the door.  If they think it is a 2, they go stand on the rug, etc.  Once there, they talk with a few people to explain their reasoning.

Because there are no names on the boards, I am able to ask a few students to share the paragraph they grabbed and we talk about the quality of the opinion and reasons given.

Students put the boards back on the carpet so the owners can go grab them and then, we erase and start over, trying to add descriptive and detailed reasons to our opinion.

Instead of saying...
My favorite season is fall.  It is a really fun season.  I like it because it has Halloween and I can dress up. I can carve pumpkins.  Fall is my favorite season.

We add details such as...
My favorite season is fall.  I love fall the most because there are so many things to do.  I love to rake the falling leaves and jump in them.  I also enjoy carving pumpkins and drinking apple cider.  Another reason I love fall is because I can dress up on Halloween and go trick or treating.  Fall is definitely an exciting and busy season!

Once students have a chance to rewrite their opinion paragraphs, we repeat the whole process over again.  This time, they use a lot more details and they take pride in their work because they realize their peers are going to be "grading" them.  We might repeat this process a few more times until most kiddos are standing at the 3 spot in the room.

I love this activity because the kiddos are writing up a storm but they don't even realize it because they are up moving around and are so active.  They also love it because they get to be the teacher and decide if their peers wrote a quality paragraph.

This activity can be used for so many different subjects!

Our final project for Persuasive Writing is so much fun!

During writing time, we read 'Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving.  It's a cute little book that is modeled after 'Twas the Night Before Christmas but takes a group of students to the farm of Farmer Mack Nuggett.  They meet a group of turkey who are going to be cooked for Thanksgiving and they end up sneaking the turkeys onto the school bus and taking them home to save them.  

You can watch the book read aloud here.

Next, I have my students pretend that they are a turkey and Farmer Mack Nuggett found them and wants to eat them for Thanksgiving.  They have to write him a letter and persuade him NOT to eat them.  I have included a lot of information and ideas for the lesson as well as an anchor chart.

Students have a graphic organizer and a fun craft to create a turkey. There are multiple rubrics to choose from for grading and a ribbon you can award students who do not get eaten!!  My kiddos LOVE this!   

Grab this writing resource here.

I hope you enjoy your writing time!

There Their They're: There's No Excuse to Use Them Incorrectly

Hello darlings!  One of my pet peeves is seeing adults still using there, their, and they're incorrectly.  It gives me the heebie jeebies.  One of the things I work hard on with my kiddos is knowing the difference between the words and using them correctly the entire year!

I downloaded this cute flipbook freebie from Teach With Laughter.  I'm going to show you how I used it in my classroom.

I like to get my kiddos up and moving as much as possible.  One of the ways I like to do this is by having kiddos get up and complete a task in someone ELSE's notebook!  Kiddos think it is crazy to be able to write in someone else's notebook and they take more pride in their work when they know someone will be reading it.  It holds them accountable.

Kiddos glued the flipbook in their notebooks and I used Teach With Laughter's free Powerpoint to review the meaning of each word.  

Next, kiddos wrote a sentence using the word correctly underneath the flip.  They underlined the word and wrote their initials beside it.

 Once they finished a sentence in their own notebooks, they had to find another notebook that was available and write a brand NEW sentence using the word correctly and initialing it.

Once the first "there" flap was completed, students went back to their own notebooks and checked the work of their peers.  If they noticed a missing capital, punctuation mark, or other mistake, they politely asked the person to fix it.  Another way to keep each other accountable.

Finally, we repeated the same process for each flap.  I noticed my kiddos were writing neater, taking their time, and writing quality sentences.  They knew their peers would be reading their work and they took pride in it. 

This can be done with any subject or any worksheet/interactive notebook.  I use this technique all the time!

From Boring to Brilliant: Adding Strong Emotions in Narrative Writing

Hello darlings!  We've been back to school for about two weeks now and we are digging into our Lucy Calkins Narrative Writing Unit for 3rd grade.  One of the things my third graders struggle with is writing with strong emotions.  They always want to say, "I was scared!" "I was happy."  "It was fun." blah, blah, blah.

I tell them that they learned how to write stories in k-2nd grade and in 3rd grade they are learning how to make those stories come alive for their readers.  No one wants to be TOLD how someone feels, they want to FEEL it themselves.  That's when writing comes to life; when the reader can make a connection with the story.

In reading we call this "walking in the character's shoes" or empathy, but how do we create that as writers?  One way I have my students do that is to think about emotions and then ask themselves the following questions.

When you feel (insert emotion here)....
1. What happens to your face?
2. What happens to your heartbeat?
3. What happens to the rest of your body?

When you see someone who feels (insert emotion here)...
1. What happens to his/her face?
2. What happens to his/her voice?
3. What do you notice the person doing?

I put the following sentence on the board (PowerPoint slide).  "I was so scared!"  I then had students copy this sentence down in their Writer's Notebooks.  I gave them about two minutes to answer the questions from above.  They created a bulleted list of ideas.

Next, I had students walk around to each person's desk and read what others wrote down.  I had them grab a sticky note and pick the one sentence or phrase that stuck out to them that they might want to try in their own writing.  They copied that onto the sticky note. (remind kiddos not to touch the sticky part of the sticky note because the oils in their hands will take the adhesive away)

After each student has a sticky note, I froze the projector and each student came up one at a time and read their new idea and stuck it on the smartboard. This was cool for two reasons.  One, students were able to hear other ideas for a second time and students got to listen to see if someone chose their idea.  

We took the sticky notes off the projector and stuck them in our notebooks for inspiration.  We repeated this entire process for "I was so happy." Now that students knew the process, it was a lot faster and they came up with better ideas because they knew their classmates would be reading their ideas and selecting their favorites.

Once we finished sharing the ideas for "happy", I had students return to their desks and find a place in their writing that they used an emotion.  (With Workshop style writing, students have many different flash drafts with different narrative stories)  They chose a place that they named the emotion and they highlighted it.

Next, they took a sticky note and chose a more descriptive way to write the emotion.

The next day I give them a little assessment using another piece of their writing to see if they understand or need more practice.

You can grab the powerpoints and assessment here!

RTI Organization- Perfect for Fast Finishers Too!

Click here to get this FREE resource!

 Grab the Poetry cards from The Lesson Plan Diva here.

Grab the Spelling Task Cards from Amy Lemons here.

Grab the Spelling words from me here

Check out Math Games I use here.

Check out www.multiplication.com and  xtramath.org

I hope this resource is helpful to you!  Don't forget to follow me with your email to get the latest updates and freebies!

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