All About That Tech: Online State Test Prep

Hello darlings!  Checkout my blog post at All About 3rd Grade!  I've provided five excellent (tried and true) resources for practicing ONLINE for state testing!  You don't want to miss this!


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Reading and Writing as a Researcher



In third grade, we complete a unit based on Lucy Calkins Readings as Researchers.  We adapted the unit to fit our needs and to make it more engaging with a room transformation.  In this unit, students work in research clubs.  This means they get in groups with students who are interested in the same research topic.  Students must read as researchers, take notes in various ways, and then present their findings in some way that shows their understanding of main idea and supporting details.  

We decided to have students use their research to create life sized animals with Zoo Placards to display their information.  We transformed our room into an African Savanna and invited parents and other classrooms in to view our life sized diorama!  



A huge problem we always have with this unit is not having enough nonfiction books for each topic.  We have to share as a grade level so we decided to pick a topic.  Each third grade class decided to research a different habitat to fit in with our Animal Unit.  We chose the African Savanna.  Once students chose the habitat, they researched the different animals that could be found there.  I then scouted our library and public library to narrow down the search of resources available.  

We then wrote the names of animals that we were interested in researching on an anchor chart and students signed up for their two favorite choices.  I then picked final groups based on their interests and behavior factors.  LOL!

Once students had their research clubs, we started figuring out WHAT we wanted to research.  We took a day or two just to look thought the headings and subtopics of animal nonfiction books, looking at text structure and how authors organize information.  From their, we figured out that most animal books contain informational sections about Adaptations, Diet, Young and Families, Habitat, and Dangers.  Based on that, I created a research journal for them to keep notes in.  We decorated manila folders for them to store their research for the unit.  I also gave them their rubrics so they knew what was expected of them for the end of the unit.


Once students had met with their research groups and and gathered all the books needed, I also gave them access to a Symbaloo which is just a bookmarking site that stores all your websites in one place.  If you click the picture below, it will take you to our Symbaloo of trusted websites that contain lots of info on different animals.  You can save the link and push it out in Google Classroom.


My mini lessons each day consisted of modeling what I expected them to do in their Research Clubs.  I modeled with an animal that no one was researching, but one that fit our habitat.  We researched a giraffe together.  I taught them how to look in multiple sources for each subtopic.  We learned how to use the Table of Contents and Index to help find specific information.  We learned that we do not read nonfiction from cover to cover when we are researching.  I modeled how to use those multiple books and websites to take notes with boxes and bullets.  The boxes were the main idea or topic and the bullets were the supporting details.  We also learned how to create diagrams, charts, and key word boxes.  

Once students had finished researching together for about 1-2 weeks, we came together and learned how to turn our research into paragraphs.  We discussed how to only use important information and how to use descriptive language to turn our notes into sentences.  We don't just turn each bullet point into a complete sentence.   As you can tell in the pictures, I write all of my examples in real time with them.  I make mistakes on purpose so that we can edit as we go and so that we can come back later and edit.  This shows them that it is ok to make mistakes, but we have to pay attention as we go.









Once students gathered all of their research they decided as a team who would complete the final report for each subtopic.  Students had to create some kind of presentation on Google Slides to prove their knowledge of their subtopic.  They knew that these would be printed out and hung up in the room to serve as a Zoo Placard. They could add pictures and any other resource they found to be helpful.

When they finished, they had to have their presentation approved by each of their group members. Each group member had to read the report and fill out the peer review sheet. Students then went back and made any changes needed.  Because I have set up a very encouraging climate in my classroom, students were grateful for the constructive criticism and did not get upset. Students just need to know that our friends are there to help us, not to make us feel bad.




While students are putting the finishing touches on their final copies, each group takes a turn tracing their animal onto butcher paper.  This was perfect to bring in skills from our measurement unit.  Students already had researched the height and width of each animal.  They had to measure out the height and width of the animal on the projector and I blew it up on my computer to as close to their measurements as possible.  As you can tell with the lion, they had to complete the top of his body and then hot glue the bottom of his body together since he was so large. 

Students then cut out the body and traced it onto another sheet of butcher paper to make a back.  When they were ready, I hot glued to pieces together so they could stuff it with recycled paper.   





While students worked on coloring and stuffing their animals, I had them come to confer with me one on one.  Together we reviewed their notes and Zoo Placard final copy.  We completed the rubrics for their grade together.  This was very powerful because they took a sense of ownership in assessing themselves.



This entire room transformation was inspired by Hope King at Elementary Shenanigans. She teaches at the Ron Clark Academy and is always "setting the state to engage!"

Here is a video our room from last year.  This is a copy of my live periscope broadcast, so please excuse me talking to the people leaving live comments in the video!  LOL! I promise, I am not talking to myself!



In the video I talk about a Creature Feature Freebie.  It is no longer free as I added an editable version and  included a research page and rubrics for you, but you can grab it here. 

You can grab resources for this unit here.
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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!


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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!

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