April 17, 2013

This Is How We Do (Test Prep)

Did you know the TCAP test takes place in FOUR school days? You heard me - FOUR!!
I'm terrified.
 But, also, I'm excited because 1) I can see every day how much they've learned this year and 2) one way or another, it'll be over. Yeah, I just said that. But it's true. It's scary how your entire year rests in the hands of 23 giggly, goofy kiddos who don't understand how important it all is.
I've tried REALLY hard to tell them and show them how important it is. Not to prove anything to me or to anybody else, but to prove it to themselves. I think they kind of understand, but if I'm being honest, they still don't really. I don't think any 8 year old does.
But, I'll tell you this. Those 8 year olds have worked their cute little TAILS OFF the last three weeks! They have been sooooo good and so  attentive and as long as they try their best, I'll be happy.
Since I have a student teacher right now and a bunch of my kids go out for intervention twice a day (thank you, Metro funds) I'm able to basically pull small groups all day. I pretty much spend about three hours a day working with my 7 bubble kids. You know the ones. The kids who are thiiiiiiiissssss close to either passing or failing.
The biggest thing we've been working on is reading big passages. I found the following strategy on Pinterest. It's a Ruby Payne strategy and I LOVE it! Next year, I'm going to start doing this the first week of school!
The only problem? My little stinkers are spending tooooo much time reading carefully! I don't know what I was thinking showing them a strategy that is so thorough. I guess I was thinking I wanted them to be better readers - shame on me! Ha. Today I had to do a little undoing, if you will. You know, a little "Guys, I want you to just read the passage and then you can circle when you find the answer because you're NOT going to have enough time to do all of this during the test!" I know, I know. Terrible.

Here's the strategy we've been using.

And, guys?

It works.

Those kids are getting better and better at understanding what they're reading.

At recess today, one of my sweet little girls brought her Bible Study book out to the playground. She asked me if I wanted to look at, so I flipped through it. Ya'll? That sweet baby had numbered every single paragraph she had read, highlighted the topic sentence in every one and had circled the important words.

Seriously, I almost cried.

We've also been talking a lot about Evil TCAP Man. You know him, right? He's the mean man whose job it is to trick kids on the test! My kiddos are NOT A FAN of him! We talked about this guy sits in his office and laughs every time he tricks a kid. But, if he doesn't trick us, then he'll get fired because he didn't do his job! I hate to encourage the laying off of an employee in these hard times, but since he's not real...

I even made a wanted poster - because, really, there's nothing I won't try.

(Don't you just love the picture? I found it on Google. My apologies if you know this guy. It's all for a good cause, ha!)
Whenever we do test prep questions, I make them tell me how Evil TCAP Man is trying to trick them - so, they're on to his games. And, if somebody does get tricked, we may or may not do an evil laugh. It just takes the pressure off, ya know :)
One other thing we've been doing is a countdown. I saw this idea on Pinterest. I basically blew up balloons for every day leading up to the test and we pop a balloon each day and read what surprise we have that day. Most of the things are ways to make the test prep more fun and they all tie in to getting answers right.
Those are our balloons! I took this picture the first day. There are only three left - GULP!
This is an example of the different activities they got to do.
On the last day, they'll get a bag of Skittles and a letter from their parents wishing them luck and encouraging them to do their  best. I'm excited about that. I know when I'm nervous, my mom and dad are the ones who can calm me down. I may need to call them, actually... ha!
Today, I had the kids write letters to themselves to read right before the test. They could include reminders and reasons why the test is important and all that stuff. They were so cute and serious about it.
In all actuality, I have no idea what I'm doing. I'm going through this the first time and I'm scared to death. But, as I said before, whatever happens, I'm okay with it because I know I'm doing everything I can and I know my kids are too. As long as they try their best, I'm okay with the outcome.
I really am.


Jordan said...

OH!! Good luck to your kiddos! I'll say a little prayer that they get lots of sleep and work their absolute hardest. I am at a school where we are almost 80% free/reduced. We have ISTEP in 8 days! Eeek!

I can't wait to celebrate your kids' results!



mrskrevat said...

Lindsay - I love your blog and your anchor charts. I'm adding a link to your blog from my brand new blog: www:pinkwatermelons@blogspot.com. I am really at the infancy stage, but I have been inspired by you and your hard work, susan

Carey said...

Hi Lindsay! I found your blog via Pinterest and spent a little while perusing. When "TCAPs" caught my attention, I knew you must also be in Tennessee. I'm in Kingsport, far northeast corner. My son started kindergarten this year and I've been fortunate to be able to volunteer in his classroom weekly. At any rate, I just wanted to say that it looks like you are a phenomenal teacher who loves those children and puts so much effort into teaching them. I wanted to encourage you to keep it up! Your work matters and has eternal impact. : ) I hope your summer is restful!