Something happened today that has never happened to me in the 19 years I’ve been teaching. And, after organizing our classroom into what we’ve called, “The Six Week Scramble”, I think that is the very reason! On three different occasions today, without hearing each other, three of my students made a statement about how ready he/she feels for the End of Grade tests. For those of you not from North Carolina, these are the holy grail assessments of our state. Kids, teachers, and administrators live and die by these assessments every May.
Needless to say, I was overwhelmed and thrilled! Much of the research I’ve read supports the idea that half the battle in getting kids to be successful is in helping them feel positive about their academic abilities. Well, if nothing else, our “Six Week Scramble” has helped with this. Today I heard, “Mrs. C. I can’t wait to take the EOG’s!”, “Mrs. C., I’m so smart I think the EOG’s will be easy!”, and “Mrs. C. I wish the EOG was tomorrow!” I’m serious!
As I wrote in an earlier post, in an effort to continue using our netbooks as a tool to accomplish what we need to in our learning, I restructured our schedule and routine into 20 minute reefs (centers). Not only has this made our review activities less monotonous and boring, it supports current brain research. Our language arts reefs have included many things! One constant is our literature circle reef. We have had such fun reading books in small groups! We start the reef every day with the kids taking a 5 question quick quiz using Quia on their netbooks, which they LOVE! I also love it because it only takes me a few minutes to throw a quiz together and then Quia grades it for me! Hooray! If you haven’t tried Quia, you need to!! The other reefs include activities out of various EOG review booklets (but hey, 20 minutes at a time is manageable). We also use Classscape, Pearsonsuccessnet, Spellingcity, and other great sites to learn and review many reading, grammar, and spelling concepts. The kids have also used Wordle, our Blog, and PowerPoint to create projects associated with our review. It’s been very fun to plan, and the kids LOVE the change every 20 minutes. Math has been very similar! You can check out what our days have looked like by visiting the “Today’s Jobs” section of our website!
I was worried at first that the kids would rush to finish things in the 20 minutes just to get done. So I made a laminated poster for each of them with their name on it. Every time they score a 100 on any of our activities (and there are 8 opportunities each day in reading and math combined), they get to put a sticker on their poster. We dole out stickers every 3 days or so. Those kids with 30 or more stickers at the end of the scramble will be invited to a pizza party. Yes, I know, there are mixed feelings about this type of “extrinsic reward”, but practicing for a high stakes, multiple choice test is not fun, and if it motivates them to work hard, I’ll do it. Think of the things we do for the scanty bonuses (or in our world “stipends”) offered! Since adding this component to our scramble, the kids have worked harder, are understanding more, and scores are continually rising! Hence, the unbelievable amount of self-confidence I’ve seen this week, our 4th week of the scramble!
Each day our daily schedule also includes 1/2 hour of whole group time in reading and math. During these times we go over “most missed” problems on yesterday’s “jobs” and have great discussions about the vocabulary of the tests. This has been a vital part of our review, and the amount of questions from missed problems is decreasing. Now, whether this will translate into higher test scores I don’t know, but it has been worth all of the evening grading just to have my kids feel smart and on top of the material!
Never thought I’d say this but, I can’t wait ’till the EOG’s!