Wednesday, April 2, 2014

STAAR What Did My Class Do?

STAAR! Everyone who lives in Texas knows what STAAR is. For those of you not from our fair state, STAAR stands for State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness.  Yes, Texas is one of the three or so states who will not be adopting the Common Core State Standards anytime soon. This week was the first round of our mandatory state assessments for students in grade 3-12. 
I am a first grade teacher who was "chosen" (sounds exclusive, right?) to be a testing administrator for a small group of fifth graders. This meant that I had to have my classroom equipped to be attended to by a sub. I say "attended to" because, let's face it, subs really don't do much teaching! (My apologies to my friends who are AWESOME subs!).  Our district has recently changed the company that we go to for our sub pool. Ours is a small district, so we do not have permanent subs on the payroll, nor do we have an internal sub-pool from which to draw.  So, we hire a company that can send over a sub (or two or three) with very short notice.

Some of these subs have SOME experience, but most of them have had very little experience, or very little experience with my grade level. My lesson plans that I regularly submit used to be enough from which a sub with a little bit of experience could teach.

This is not the case anymore. Our Academic Dean (Assistant Principal) has required us to now have packets with very specific instructions for desk work for my students.

Now, this is NOT how I teach and it is NOT what my students are used to as a part of their daily routine. BUT, by this time of year, my students have gotten very good at independent work, both in reading/ELA and in math.  



Independent Reading:

They have also gotten very good at transitions from reading >> small groups >> centers >> restroom >> Number of the Day >> math mini-lesson >> independent practice >> small group math >> centers.

Restroom transitions:

But, their's nothing like having your "real" teacher to help stick to the routine.

So, this week's challenge was to both give a sub easy to follow, specific instructions for doing desk work, and at the same time, keep a lot of the routine that my kids are used to. 

This was my solution:

Our regular day begins with writing.  As students arrive they already know to get out their writing folders and begin writing.  When I am there, this is the time that I do writing conferences with students.  This week we are writing about a picture that I introduced on Monday.  The assignment was to write about what is going on in the picture and to write what the man in the picture is thinking.  

My kids are getting very good at picking up where they left off the day before in their writing. During testing, I decided to keep this routine the same, since it would involve very little effort of the sub other that managing the classroom.

After our morning restroom break, we begin our Reading/ELA block.  It usually includes shared reading that leads into reading response, small groups, computer reading time independent reading and centers.  Instead of trying to explain to a sub how all of this works, (In writing, of course, because I would not have any personal contact with her!) I left a couple of activities that provided a good review AND very little work (or stress) for the sub.  Each day I left three ELA activities for the students. 

On both days, we began with one of the packets that are part of my "Cam the Frog" series of units that review basic first grade ELA skills. 

On Tuesday, we used "I Am Cam" to review state of being verbs.  This packet includes fill in the blank reading activities where student practice use the "to be" verbs while reading a simple story about Cam, the frog, and his friends.  It concludes with a writing activity about the story.    Students only needed the packet and a pencil to complete it.


The introductory packet on Wednesday, reviewed the use of the pronouns he, she and it with "Cam and Pam." This unit follows the same basic format as the day before. 


The next couple of activities are a part of The Moffatt Girls' "I can Read No Prep Packet".  The packet has several reading activities, but I chose two of the activities with a couple pages of each for the next practice packet.  The first is called I Can Read and Draw Simple Sentences.  The activity gives students a simple sentence to read.  The students then draw a detailed picture of what they just read.  Students only needed the packet and a pencil and crayons to complete it.

The second activity from The Moffat Girls' packet is called I can Read It and Match It.  Students look at a picture and choose from a group of sentences at the bottom to cut and paste.  All students needed for this activity was their packet, scissors and glue.  All of my students have permanent jobs in the classroom. My glue and scissors guys knew just what to do!
All three of these ELA activities were a great review for my students, especially for our upcoming normative assessments.  We use the Stanford-10, and the short reading activities in these three packets are very similar to what my kiddos will see on the assessment.

After students completed the packets, they could either choose more individual sheets of these same kind of activities, or choose to read independently from their leveled books boxes.

My students always know at what reading level that they are and from which book boxes they may choose.

After another short restroom break, my students usually know to begin immediately with a page from their Number of the Day Folder.  My students have been working on the Number of the Day series all year, and is the highlight of their day.  They have this routine down with very little guidance, so they did work from their Number of the Day folders during test days. 

Doing this math task, gave my students some consistency while the rest of their schedule was cattywompus on those days.  

After lunch my class came back for the rest of their math block time.  My math time normally includes a large group mini-lesson followed by small groups, independent practice, one-on-one RTI work and centers.

Again, this normal schedule of tasks would have been difficult for a sub to handle effectively.  During testing, I gave my students two math review packets each day.  The day before testing began, I passed out the papers so that they could put there own names on them.  We also worked one problem so that they would know what to expect the next couple of days.  This might seem like a little thing, but I think that it gave them a bit of familiarity when they saw the pages the next day.  It lowered their affective filter (Steven Krashen) thereby making them more confident and successful in completing their tasks.

The Tuesday packet included work with fact families and making ten to add.


The Wednesday packet reviewed other first grade spring topics like balancing equations. 

After math students went to enrichment then recess. By that time, I had finished with testing and we concluded the day with a VERY brief review of spring living things.  Then it was time to go home.

The last thing that we did was the April Fool's Joke that I had planned for yesterday (April 1st), but did not get a chance to carry out.  For the last couple of weeks, I had been telling my students that that we would be having brownies on April first.  After everyone was sitting ready with their backpacks ready to go, I passed out several brown Es made out of construction paper.   
Thank you, Mr Gonzales!

Some of my kids were not too happy with me!  Oh, well, it's never too early to learn about homophones.  This is not an original idea!  I got it from a teacher friend.

I hope that you are having a great spring.  If you haven't yet tried one of the many units from my Number of the Day series, Here is a spring FREEBIE for you to try out.


Have a great week.




2 comments:

  1. Wow! I'm amazed at all that you were still able to have your student's accomplish while you were out of the room doing testing. That is just awesome! I do NOT miss creating sub plans and the work that my students were do during that time AT ALL!

    Jennifer Smith-Sloane
    4mulaFun

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  2. What a GREAT post! You have so many interactive activities going on here! I am loving the number of the day folders! Thank you so much for shouting out our reading packet :)
    Annie

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