Spring Break is next week. YAY!!!!!! But you know what happens after Spring Break? Teachers become crazy people because testing season is officially upon us. NOT YAY!!! In just a couple of weeks schools across Texas will be practically shutting down all for the sake of the STAAR test.
There is no need for me to voice my opinion of the STAAR test because you probably already know my opinion because I am sure it is the same as yours!
Regardless of my feelings towards this test, we must administer it anyways. And we must prepare our students with all of the knowledge, skills, and methods to be as successful as they can on this test. I don’t teach in a testing grade currently, but I did spend a couple years in 3rd grade so I know what you all are dealing with. I thought I would take a few minutes to share about how I engaged my students in STAAR prep when I was in 3rd grade.
Two weeks prior to the test I completely shifted my classroom into a full on campsite. I put paper up on the walls to simulate the sky. I played “soundscapes” that sounded like the outdoors. Pretty much anyway I could make my classroom feel like the outdoors, I did it. (Important note: This was my first year teaching. I can’t say I would have the same enthusiasm in Year 5.)
The kids came barreling in Monday (after I spent a good six hours on Sunday prepping) and were so excited to see the transformation!
The decorations were fun, believe me! But they were just there to set the stage of intense learning that would be happening over the next two weeks. We spent half a day in reading stations and the other half of the day in math stations. My kids met with me each day, twice a day, so that we could review and practice.
Math STAAR Stations
I had four stations set up. Then I grouped the kids into four groups based on their math abilities. They would spend 20-25 minutes at each station. I set a timer and they worked until the timer was up then we would rotate to the next station.
This station was for them to practice their basic math facts (all operations). They could hang out in the tent and practice with a partner or individually. I had the tent positioned so that I could see directly into it.
The next station offered some kind of cooperative learning activity. In this picture above the students are doing a Showdown (Kagan) activity with multiple choice questions. I got these questions out of a STAAR work book, printed them on colored paper, laminated and cut them out. Then the “showdown captain” would draw a question, read it, and everyone would solve the problem. Then they would come together and discuss their answer.
Word problems are SUPER important in math. This station had various word problems on colored construction paper that they could solve independently or with a partner.
The final station was where they got to work with me. We would work on word problems and questions similar to those found on the STAAR test. Depending on the group, I would vary my approach. My lower groups worked along with me while my higher groups worked at their own pace with my coaching.
Reading STAAR Stations
The reading station management was set up just like math stations. I still only had four stations that they rotated through for 20-25 minutes at each station.
I wanted the kids to have the chance to read quietly and read things that they WANTED to read. So it was important to me to have a D.E.A.R station. Right next to the “campfire” or in the tent was the perfect spot!
At this station students had a small reading passage that they would read and answer questions on. Here they could practice their strategies for reading tests that we had been practicing all year long. Students were able to work alone or with a partner if they felt more successful that way.
Of course there was a station in which they met with me. Here we just practiced reading passages and strategies for answering questions
The final station was a Word Work station. This allowed students to do phonics, parts of speech, conventions, etc. activities to review. (I couldn’t find any pictures of this, I’m sorry!)
I know that STAAR (or whatever test your state gives) is overwhelming, exhausting, and that no one likes it. But sadly it is here to stay. I hope that you can find fun and engaging ways to prep your students for the dreaded test.
And remember, you or your students are NOT defined by the results of some stupid test. That test doesn’t see the football star Kyree is out on the field. Nor does it see the growth Eric has made after a year of intervention. It doesn’t see that despite the fact Maggie is still below grade level, she had made multiple gains in math this year. It doesn’t see the smile on Calanda’s face when she finally gets it! The test doesn’t get to see the way Naomi came out of her shell. No, STAAR test, you don’t get to see those things! And for that, you don’t get to define my success as a teacher.
Until next time,
Also….while I was looking through pictures from when I did my first STAAR camp I found pictures of my little bear and the mess he left me one day while I was at work.
It’s fun to go back and find pictures of things I have forgotten ever happened. Luckily, we are past this phase with Mr. Milo.