Friday, April 13, 2012

Testing Strategies....ppbbtt!!!

I feel like I've been neglecting my blogging duties lately.  Other than my giveaway, I really haven't had much to add...until tonight.  Yay, me!!

We are counting down to the Reading STAAR here in Texas.  There are six more days to cram their little noggins with every bit of information possible.  What's a teacher to do??  Usually, at this time, I am practicing test taking strategies and passages DAILY.  But, to be quite honest, I have finished doing that as of last Wednesday.  My quarters have practiced so much, that I feel they have given up.  So...I decided on a different approach.  I will review strategies the day before the test, but as of this week, I am reviewing the TEKS, or skills, in a completely new way.  We have started reading The Hunger Games.

Yes, you read that right.  I am reading The Hunger Games to my quarters.  Now, I am the one reading it.  Quarters do not have their own copies.  As the reader, I can edit parts that I don't feel are important to the message in the text or are too graphic. Before you question my abilities, hear me out.  (I had this conversation with a parent, and she said she "trusted" me with her child and has confidence in me.)

Right now, this movie is the be-all, end-all for my students.  Many of them have seen it. (I don't necessarily agree with that, but...) And all they talk about are the "killing parts".  I am a firm believer in movies as a support to texts, not in place of them.  Sometimes the message is lost in search of clever movie ideas.  In reading the text, I can discuss, and focus, on the parts of the story that are relevant and important.  For example, the oppression of the poor. I teach in a Title 1 school, so many quarters can relate to the "poor" message.  They didn't "get" that from the movie.  My hope is to have them think of the text and change their conversations. They are so desensitized to violence that they miss the point. This is my chance to talk about the story, not the gore. I am also able to introduce new, unique vocabulary, etc. We will spend the rest of the school year on it.  All parents signed the permission slip and many bought their children copies of the book.  As I told one parent, as an educator, I don't feel that it is my right to censor literature (as in not allowing them to read things they are interested in.)  However, it is the parent's right to do so.  And if that means the child cannot participate in the story, I have alternative materials for them.  They are not ostracized or put out.

Anyway, as we read, we work on all of our skills...context clues, plot, main idea, details, fact/opinion, summary, etc...the possibilities are endless.  Each night, their homework is to write about what we've read (a chapter), but I will ask them a STAAR question stem that they have to answer. (We do this in class, as well.)  This idea has really sent me on a more open learning path with them.  And it holds their interest!!

In writing, quarters are putting their research into "magazine" form.  I love this!!!  They have a written text, but the magazines put the research into perspective and they are able to see the non-fiction/informational side first hand.  This is coinciding with our poetry unit writing, so we have many things going on at once.  (Testing, practicing, and practicing has put us a little behind!!)

Here is a beginning example of their magazines:

As you can see, they use their flipbook to compile information.  They also have their internet printouts, with pictures, available.

They create a table of contents, etc.  (Ignore the spelling error!!!)  As we go along, I will post more pics and final examples.  But this is the path we are taking and the quarters are thrilled!!!!

Since I'm trying something new with my quarters, I think this quote will do:

"Never be afraid to try something new.  Remember, amateurs built the ark; professionals built the Titanic." --Unknown

I LOVE IT!!!!!



  1. I think you have taken a very interesting (and appropriate!) approach to using the book with your students. I have third graders carrying it around who can't possibly read it or understand it, but think the concept is cool. *sigh* I love the work you're doing along with it and think your students will come out as better readers and thinkers because of it.

    I'm your newest follower and can't wait to hear how it goes,
    Christi ツ
    Ms. Fultz’s Corner

  2. That's great - I think test prep should include real experiences, too, so this is a great way to do it! I hope it goes well! I'm in Texas, too - third grade. STAAR = EW.

    Buzzing with Ms. B

  3. I read "Hunger Games" two weekends ago. Read "Catching Fire" last weekend. Looking forward to blogging and reading #3 this weekend. I agree that the text can be used in the classroom. She is a talented writer and a talented teacher (yourself) can point out those elements that are lost in the movie. I also let up in my classroom and decided to play educational games for the 3 days leading up to the test. In AZ, AIMS=EW. :)

  4. What great ideas and lucky 4th graders! Our testing is a month from today. I'm supposed to start test prep Monday. EWWW. I am trying to think of a way to make it meaningful and not Boooring!

    Adventures of a Third Grade Teacher

  5. I absolutely love your approach! Great ideas...thanks for sharing. I am in the midst of test prep as well..and working hard to make it a fun, less stressful experience for both myself and my students. I am your newest follower. Come by and check out my test prep ideas.

  6. I read The Hunger Games with my 5th graders this year as an optional lunch time book club. We met once a week to discuss our reading and set the next weeks reading for the club. Since this was an optional book club I didn't have to deal with any parents questioning whether it was appropriate or not because they controlled whether or not their child participated (buying them the book). Some of my colleagues however didn't see it as appropriate so I did spend sometime (minimal-b/c I am a do my own thing kid of teacher) discussing the merits with them. We even planned an after school outing to go see the movie together (the book was better). We are currently working on reading Mockingjay, the last book in the series. I am a big fan on capitalizing on what the kids are interested in when they are interested in it. So I support you and say BRAVO!

    -Damien of The Reading Buddies

  7. Reblogging to my blog! I love your reasoning for teaching the book and the great plans you have for it.