Tuesday, April 30, 2013

When You Come to the Word STOP...

Yesterday I had the pleasure chore of scoring the New York State English Language Arts Test. Or more specifically, just one question - Book 4 Extended Response #73.  All.   Day.   Long.

At the risk of someone coming to break my thumbs....here are my thoughts about the testing:
1. The directions were too darn long. 
Exhibit A:
    I had to read THOSE SAME WORDS every day....for 6 days.  And REPEAT the "list of devices". Really? REALLY??  After the third day, I wanted to just say, "Okay...you know the drill...fork over your loot." But I didn't want any well-intentioned cherub to imply to their folks that I was not taking The Test seriously.  There was a surprising amount of "communications devices" collected:

    2. Two booklets in one day is too much
    On the second day of the New York State English Language Arts Test, I had to read directions for Book 2 (multiple choice), then read virtually identical directions for Book 3 (short answer/essay), and then instruct them to start with the Book 2. ?????  After 20 minutes of set-up they were burned out and confused before it even began.

    3. It's too long
    Whatever information can be gleaned from 6 days of testing could be done in four. The first day wasn't so bad, but on the second day.....the children knew just how long 90 minutes was going to feel. And despite my best efforts to keep things light, I had two students feeling ill and need to go to the nurse.

    4. A Math Test should assess MATH
    And not be focused almost exclusively on reading comprehension. The test should provide feeback on whether or not a child knows that particular SKILL.  Not their experience with the format of the question. 

    5. All the tests should be made public after the testing session is complete
    Taxpayers and parents have a right to know how the children are being assessed. We pay a lot of money for these tests. Why the secrecy?

    Simply said, I am glad they are over and we can get on with our actual goal - learning.

    Disclaimer: Before someone comes to cap my knees..... I got the picture above from a pdf of the Teacher's Directions available for inquiring minds to download here.

    Saturday, April 27, 2013

    Tips for Taking the Test

    Please read along silently as I read the directions to you....

    Here are some suggestions to help you do your best just survive 9 hours of testing...
    • Be sure to read carefully all the students in your room. Know that half will arrive hungry and give them a snack. BANANAS for everyone!  Know to preempt the drama getting starting in homeroom before the negative mojo seeps into test-taking time. Know when they're feeling tired and need an encouraging smile. Know when your antsy child is starting to flip out from sitting so long and suggest a (fully supervised) trip to the bathroom just to give them a chance to walk around.  Know when they are all flagging and need another piece of gum....   Know when they are frustrated and need a Hershey's kiss - or two - or three......   
    • Plan your time before and after the test. Before the test, keep activities studious but not too strenuous so they'll be calm but still at optimal energy levels.  Make sure they can walk around, use the restroom and sharpen those #2 pencils. After the test, make sure they have a book to read in case they finish well before the 90 minutes are up. Which they will. By like an hour.  :-|   When the test is over, hope for good weather and release them outside to play. Or......watch a movie.  Or both! Our class voted to watch Rango streamed through my Netflix account - a nice loooooong movie which lasted us through most of the post-testing doldrums. (Yes, we still did actual work in the afternoons.)
    • Read each question carefully Actually, no. You can't do that. God forbid you actually know if the content you taught matches what was tested. Or if the questions were so twisted that even if students mastered the standards, some bizarre wording or convoluted mathematical task confused them.  Ahem.
    Are there any questions?

    Monday, April 8, 2013

    Spring Break Seven

    I skipped my customary mile-long "To-Do" list this break and allowed my vacation time to flow a bit more naturally. So here are the 7 main things I did over my Spring Break...

    #1 Celebrated my daughter's 6th birthday
    Her favorite gift? A "NASA" ant farm from Grandma.

    #2 Made Almond Puffs for Easter
    I love this recipe - quick and easy...

    #3 Colored eggs with my daughters
    The Tuesday after Easter - better late than never, right?

    #4 Bought an iPad
    And keyboard cover. I am finally unchained from my downstairs computer - LOVE it.

    #5 Switched out the Worm Bin
    Got some fantastic "worm tea" and a huge bucket of casings to add to our garden beds. Our wiggly worms got fresh bedding and a cleaned home.

    #6 Made a Biography Project packet
    Students select their biographies this Thursday...
    #7 Attended my father-in-law's funeral services
    Although his passing was not unexpected (he had been battling lung disease for months), this was the first death that my daughters experienced and knowing just what to say was difficult at times. I am so grateful to the priest, nuns, altar servers, choir, and organist who volunteered their time to honor him. And I was especially touched by the two members of the honor guard who took such care in folding the flag that was presented to my husband. It was also a huge comfort to our family that so many friends and family members came to share stories and pictures. A cousin handed my husband this previously unknown photo of him as a baby with both his parents - my father-in-law rather Don Draper-esque in his sixties shades.

    Saturday, April 6, 2013

    Celebrating Pi Day - with Pie, Of Course!

    When I found out I would be teaching Math this year, one of the first things I got excited about was throwing a Pi Day Celebration. And even though Pi isn't technically in our 5th grade curriculum, some awareness couldn't hurt, right?  So here's the run-down of how my class explored Pi (and pie!) on 3/14/2013....

    #1 Build Background Knowledge about Pi (3.14....) by watching the Pi BrainPop video.  (My students love Tim & Moby, but does anyone else think those videos go WAY too fast??  I wish I could make them run at half-speed. Also - Tim and Moby look pretty glum in this shot...)

    #2 Use string to measure and explore the relationship between Circumference & Diameter with objects found in our classroom and brought from home. They turned this into a quest to see who could get closest to 3.14.  And the winner?  The group with the can of baking powder!
     #3 Watch some Pi Raps from the PiDay.org website.

    #4 Read Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi by Cindy Neuschwander.

    #5 Share some PIE!!  My student with the pie obsession brought in an apple pie to share and we also had raspberry and cherry. Mmmmmm......

    #6 Watch this video featuring a domino spiral created in the form of Pi - about TEN TIMES. It's created a thing in my class to watch domino videos on YouTube during dismissal. (Keeps them quiet during those end-of-the-day announcements when they are so antsy and can't keep still...)

    Hope you had a fantastic Pi Day!

    Tuesday, April 2, 2013

    April Currently

    I'm having a hard time in my neck of the woods even believing that it IS April!  If April showers bring May flowers, what in the world will April snow bring for us here in Central New York?  Dead flowers? I'm missing last year's balmy temperatures.  We were so spoiled!

    To my husband whistle while doing dishes in the kitchen...  :-)

    Being on Spring Break!  Having the day after Easter off is always fantastic and I SO needed a little time away from school.  And unlike Winter Break, I do not have contractors in my house all day, so I can stay in my jammies and relax with my daughters.....  playing lots of Sorry, Scrabble, and Go Fish.

    About the stack of persuasive essays that I should get graded, the Biography Project that I need to outline and prep, and the target lessons I have to plan for the State Tests in a couple weeks.  Hmmm...maybe I'll pull a Scarlett O'Hara and think about all that later. After all....

    WARM WEATHER!!  I just bought a pretty new bathing suit today (.....see?)
    and my skirts, sandals, and capris are all calling my name from the dark depths of my closet.  So...So....SICK of snow and my ratty ripped winter coat.

    To track at least 10,000 steps on my UP Jawbone today...I am always soooooo close but often stuck at 8,500. :-(

    Take lots of pictures! I always read blog posts if there is something that draws my eye in....and images help make a connection with your readers.

    So...what is your April Currently like? Hop over to Farley's and link up!