So, as most everyone knows teachers and students alike are judged by standardized test scores. The high stakes associate with these test scores has sent many teachers into a “Test-prep” panic…thinking that they cannot teach the way that they would like to because they need to “cover the curriculum”.
After teaching my first year and giving my first set of these assessments to my students I can say that this idea is completely untrue.
Listed below are several reasons why I believe I was successful this year:
1. The focus for this year was the process skills and the big ideas of science…..we hit them hard everyday. Most questions on the 8th Grade Assessment focus on process skills rather than content…..if your kids know how to think critically and analyze diagrams….they will get most questions right.
2. I had my students writting …..a lot……from Day 1. Did I get a lot of “Mr. you doin’ too much!” from some students…..ooooohhhh yeah. The key is that I never gave up. Writing and explaining conclusions was part of my classroom culture that I was not willing to sacrifice no matter how hard they fought.
3. Relationships. I can’t say this enough. If your students like you….they will do anything to be successful in your class. They will write, read, ask great questions. Without these relationships, students shut down in “high needs” schools. I have seen this first hand where a student performs very well in one class but could give a care about another class (and its because of the teacher, not the content).
4. I had my students doing short timed (sometime stationed) tasks throughout the entire year. This allowed them to get an understanding of how long certain activities should take and cut down the amount of opportunities they had to be “off task”. This took time but was a well oiled machine by the end of the year and helped with the lab practical portion of the NYS Assessment.
5. Students experienced the “Big Ideas” of the curriculum. We did not get caught up in all of the detail of the curriculum….most of this was covered through student guided (through questioning) inquiry “labs”/workshops.
6. We used our summative assessments as formative assessments…as assessments FOR learning not just assessments OF learning. We would have students break down content in the test questions AND the process skills needed to answer it. They would reflect regularly on what they needed to work on for the next assessment.
7. Homework that placed content learned in my class in a different context was assigned every night. Did I get it all back everyday….no. But it got much better as the year progressed.
8. In the last ten minutes of every class my students wrote a summary of what they learned during the class period. This allowed students to piece together the fragments of information that they had floating in their heads. After the summary, we answered a “Closure Question” which was my assessment of how well they could apply what they just summarized into an unfamiliar context. This is like a ticket out the door and helped guide my planning.
9. Make it relavent.
10. Make your class a “safe place”. Do not tolerate nonsense that threatens certain members of your classroom.
11. Hold true to your expectations and do not compromise. The students overtime will buy into what you are doing with them. Have faith, remain positive and do not compromise what you believe in as a teacher because the kids giving you push back.
This year was really really really tough. I cannot emphasize this enough. Teaching the “Warner Way” takes a considerable amount of time and personal sacrifice to do everyday. But my god does it pay off in the end. Great end to my first year of teaching.