Day 5 of Big Test – We’re doing M&M Math!

May 28, 2007 at 10:19 pm | Posted in graphic organizers, high stakes testing, learning modality, math, third grade | 2 Comments


Originally uploaded by cityteacher
For math tomorrow, we’re going to use real m&ms to sort, tally, and graph. Lots of valuable math skills involved. We’re also using many different modalities and two graphic organizers. Math should be like this every day! The kids love this every year! I usually do this with the third graders, but with a little modification, you can do the same with younger students and older students.

Make sure you bring enough m&m bags for everyone. I will have the students work in pairs, but everyone should have their own bag of m&m to eat.

There are two pages to this activity.  The first page is the sorting, tallying, and graphing sheet.  The second page has the questions that students must answer using their graphic organizers.

You can download both pages as PDF from my

Day 4 of Big Test- All’s Well that Ends Well

May 25, 2007 at 7:08 pm | Posted in behavior, education, elementary, high stakes testing, Special Education | Leave a comment

I conferenced with the New Boy to see how his week went.  He enjoyed himself.  Didn’t get into much trouble.  Felt he did well on the Big Test.

The other kids were happy to have music class and then a health assembly after lunch.  Over all, not much academic learning took place, but the kids all had a great time.  They’re groaning at having to take more tests next week, but so long as I promised to bring Gummi Worms to snack on during the test, they’ll be happy.

They wonder, same as me, why they have to do this for EIGHT days.  Some other grade levels are excited to be done with their tests already.

My three special education students will stay with me for the entire test, though their IEPs (special education plans) specify that they should have  modifications such as extended time and a quiet place to work.  We, that is, all the adults involved, agree that the best place for them would be with me in the classroom as that is where they are most comfortable and would have a quiet, minimal stress environment in which to work.  They did very well so far.  One tries very hard to read and answer all the questions laboriously.  One does the best she can in as quick a time as she can.  The other one just quickly fills in the bubble and will go back to take a look at a few questions if I specifically asks him to go back and check.

For him, I wish the resource teacher was more accommodating.  I dream that perhaps she could keep him focused one question at a time whereas I could only keep him focused every five to ten minutes as I make my rounds throughout the classroom.

Day 2 and Day 3 of BIG TEST – The natives are getting restless

May 23, 2007 at 8:28 pm | Posted in behavior, education, high stakes testing | 1 Comment

And I swear they are planning a rebellion on Friday. Shudder in fear all you teachers!

The new boy as well as five of my most hyper boys and two of my most absent-minded girls are testing my patience sorely. They got several good talking to today, in private during class time and during recess. The speech started out as “I understand you feel tired and restless, but you still have to follow the rules yadiya.” Then, as the day wore on, the conversation turned to, “I don’t EVEN need to to tell you why you’re here with me. YOU tell me why you’re here.” Predictably, they are dead-on for why they are having the discussion with me. That’s clear expectations for you.

We are having great fun playing with the tangrams during math. Didn’t miss a single session of physical education, otherwise known as “jog off that excess energy”. The only problem is our language arts program must continue on as scheduled.

New Student on Day 1 of Big Test – Went Well!

May 21, 2007 at 11:20 pm | Posted in behavior, education, high stakes testing | 3 Comments

Went very well!

Actually, I was agog at how well my students behaved in the morning.  Usually, they are well behaved (months of training of course) and get right on task doing their morning routines and morning activity.  Today, they did everything they’re supposed to, and quiet as a mouse!

With all my students working, the new student joined in and just picked up our routines as if he was an old pro.  It was funny watching him read the morning routines one step at a time and following it, one step at a time.  Everyone else just do things automatically by now.

By 8:10 all my students were at their desks, working on their vocabulary activities.  I told them to continue working quietly while I give them direction for getting ready for the test.  I directed the students to move to their test-taking seats, passed out the dividers (you know, the test dividers so students can’t peek at each other’s work?), got everyone books to read should they finish the test early…and the whole time I was prepping the classroom, the students were all working quietly, including the new student.

By 8:20, we were ready for the test.  Reminded them of the rules and expectations.  Reviewed some test taking strategies.  Then, they got busy for two hours.  I walked around whispering encouraging comments like, “I like the way you are reading the passage carefully.”  Tried to keep one of my girls awake. (She was homeless for a long time and now lives in one of those small, crowded, noisy hotels.  She doesn’t get much sleep at night.) Other than that, the kids behaved very well and tried their best.

Later, after lunch, for math, we cut up construction papers to make our tangrams for tomorrow’s math activities.  It’s a hands-on activity using a lot of geometry vocabulary and builds spatial sense.  Everyone was very excited and very engaged.  They also used words like “parallelogram, rhombus, and right triangle” which thrilled me.   My new boy was completely focused on the activity and very excited to demonstrate to me that he was smart in math.

Things look promising!  On to Day 2!

New Student on Day 1 of Big Test

May 20, 2007 at 9:59 pm | Posted in behavior, education, high stakes testing, teachers | 4 Comments

Tomorrow is the first of eight days of our high stakes testing period. I shall receive a new student from a fellow teacher at my school because, as the principal puts it, “it’s for the student’s safety and the teacher’s own good.” Apparently, the teacher’s been screaming at the student and putting his hands on the student.

Tomorrow is clearly not a good day for the student to begin adjustments to a new classroom, a new teacher, and a new environment. Definitely not the ideal day for me to establish a working, respectful relationship with a new student, though we shall both try very hard.

Honestly, I’m dreading it. I know the boy because he was part of that class that I substituted five days in. I’ve already taught him for five days (which is a big plus). I know a bit of what he’s capable of academically and behaviorally. He and I will probably do quite well together. BUT he’s had a bad experience in the classroom for the past two months or so with his previous teacher. To start Day 1 with me being put in a high-stress situation isn’t going to endear me to him.

Is the boy a huge discipline problem? Not really from what I saw. He was very bright, a bit of an attention getter, definitely testing his limits with me, a born leader. I don’t know what his home situation is like, though I met his mother and him, introduced myself, and she completely, rudely ignored me AND her son trying to get her attention (she was being irate at one of the office staff members over lunch tickets), so I can guess that him home situation might not be ideal. He really is extremely bright, which tells me that if I don’t challenge his mind, his behavior will be very disrespectful because he doesn’t respect me. My guess is, that’s exactly what happened with his last teacher. Unfortunately, in the middle of these stupid BIG TESTs, I won’t exactly be pulling out all sorts of amazing lessons throughout the day, will I? It’s going to be, “Sit down quietly for the next three hours.” Not exactly best practice is it?!

We shall see.

What p-d me off is, “WHY DID THE PRINCIPAL PUT HIM IN MY CLASS NOW?!” I mean really, ya couldna picked a better time? Last week would have been perfect! She discussed the possibility with me and I told her, yes, I would welcome him of course, but I didn’t think I had to remind her of the BIG TEST coming up and perhaps she should pick an appropriate moment to move him into my class?! Didn’t even occur to me that that was something I had to tell her.

California Standards Test and Star Testing This week

May 20, 2007 at 5:07 pm | Posted in education, elementary, high stakes testing | 5 Comments

In third grade, we get 8 days worth of standardized testing.  It starts on Monday for us.  I’ve been prepping my students, not with just test practice, but with strategies, you can do it, stay calm, let’s make it fun, etc.  My kids are well aware of what’s going to happen on Monday.  Nonetheless, it’s going to be a stressful week and a half.

I’m wondering what kind of fun I can bring into the curriculum to ease the stress in the afternoon.  Got to keep them excited about school and motivated to come to school everyday, without tiring them out.

What do you guys do?

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