Friday, February 24, 2012

You Gotta Try...

You know, today was just "one of those days".  It is Friday, so it's testing day for my kiddos.  It's when I test my students on skills learned and practiced throughout the week.  Since we are preparing for the new STAAR test, the practice is really a reteach/relearn time.  I thought my students had a great week.  They were on the ball, responding to questions with enthusiasm and interest.  I just knew they would do well on their writing (revising/editing) test.  As I graded the papers, I was excited to see that most of them used their strategies.  My stomach fell as I realized that, while the strategies were there, the grades were not! Oh my!  I'm simply lost...

My first idea was to create a contest chart.  I have two periods of LA/SS, so I decided that I would set up a competition graph, in the hopes that they may try to do well to outdo each other.  Here is how I set it up...

It's kind of crude, I know.  But it's a "You Gotta Try" moment.  My team teacher and I are going to graph the number of students from each class that pass any kind of assessment.  Since the Writing STAAR is only about 15 days away, we probably won't run out of room! LOL!  The winning class will get a Pizza Party or treats or ... something exciting!

Few of my students in either class passed.  Most of the ones who did pass are not ELLs.  The ELLs really seem to struggle with comprehension.  So, even though they know the strategies, they have difficulty comprehending the sentences in order to understand what the correct answer should be.  I did have several students that did perfectly on the first story questions, but bombed the second set of questions.  I'm just confused by that!

Then, I talked with our CIS.  He is a former ELL himself, so he gets how these students think and process.  He suggested that I teach the students to take breaks and make sure they learn how long those breaks last.  Then, in theory, they should be able to come back to the second story fresh and ready to go.  He also thinks that maybe they are expending too much energy on the strategies! WHAT?!  I feel so guilty!  I have stressed the strategies because, otherwise, they just pick random answers and I have no way to evaluate why.  But, I can see his point.  And then I feel bad because I've made the strategies so important.  So I will spend my weekend adapting and trying to make things easier on my students.

On Tuesday, my students have a Math Benchmark.  After the benchmark, I plan to pull students out and talk to them individually about their tests from today.  I need dialogue with them to figure out why they choose the answers they do and how I can help them focus.  Hopefully, I can target the needs of each individual student and see what will work for them.  It's a definite change from my normal conferences with students.

Flexibility is the key here, I think.  I've always been able to go with the student flow, but since it's so close to student assessment time, I'm nervous about making the right choices. But I just have to figure out what's right! 

On another note, I had a couple of students really make poor choices today.  It's a difficult balance trying to determine how to handle a situation while remaining calm, respectful, and authoritative.   I have to make sure I listen without judgement and then decide consequences based on rules and procedures.  All while allowing the student to save face and have dignity.  I'm human...and it's difficult sometimes.  However, I'll leave with a quote from one of my all-time favorite movies and books, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.  (It's actually a movie quote...I don't remember it in the text.)  If I remember this, I can make the right choice...

"Words are our most powerful form of magic, able to both inflict injury and remedy it." --Albus Dumbledore

I should always remember to "remedy it..."


P.S. I am, indeed, a Potterhead!


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