Saturday, January 14, 2017

How to Make Benchmark Assessment Testing Fun

It's that time of year again!  The crazy busy whirlwind called benchmark assessment testing. I love seeing the growth that each student has made, but getting it all done can be a challenge.

What if I told you there was a way to spend a large chunk of time testing AND have your students do something productive at the same time?  I know, sounds doubtful, but it isn't.  Let me introduce you to something my grade level has done for the past two years - Read-In Day.  Cue up some happy music. Each of the awesome teachers that I teach with puts his/her own spin on the Read-In Day.  This makes it a little more fun.   

Here's the basics:
1.  Schedule a Read-In Day during the testing window. Bonus points for a Friday!
2.  Have your students wear comfy cozy clothes and bring in lots of books to read.  
3.  Allow them to read while you assess.

My class has specials first thing in the morning.  When they come back I explain the way the day will work.  I start by introducing the Read & Roll structure.  Each student will get a copy of the directions and I display it on the board.

Students are allowed to read anywhere they would like in the room. (We have a lot of flexible seating options and they are used to moving around the room.) 

They read and when the timer goes off they find a friend, the dice roll, and talking about books begin. Letting them get up, find a friend, and chat serves as a movement break.  But, more importantly, they talk about books and I love listening in.  It gives me another opportunity to informally check their understanding.  

The students read fiction and nonfiction texts throughout the day.  We use a nonfiction Read & Roll, too.  I also like to sprinkle in some fun surprises throughout the day to make reading fun.  These bracelets were a hit!  We shut off all of the lights and read in the dark.

Read-In Day is one of my favorite days! If you would like to check out my Read & Roll activity click here.   

How do you make testing fun in your classroom?

Friday, January 6, 2017

How to Organize (and Love) Math Workshop in 3 Simple Steps

Math Workshop a.k.a. guided math is an amazing way to approach math instruction.  Organizing it on the other hand can be a challenge. 

1.  Create Groups with a Purpose
In order to best meet the needs of all learners students should be grouped purposefully.  The best way to do that is to figure out what your students already know.  Give a pre-test at the start of each unit and form groups based on the data.  Following up with a post test at the end of the unit will clearly show how much each student has learned.

2.  Organize Materials in the Classroom
A clear defined space for math materials makes organizing a breeze.  I organize math work by group.  Each group has a large paper basket.  Math books and interactive notebooks are kept inside.

Keeping math manipulatives together is another way to help organize for Math Workshop.  When materials are kept together students can easily find what they need to be successful at each station.

3.  Plan Ahead 
A clear plan helps Math Workshop run smoothly.  Differentiated lessons that are targeted to each group help to keep students engaged throughout each station.  I use a folder system to keep each group on track.  Work for each group is placed inside the folder along with a set of directions for the group to follow at each station.  Here is an example of the direction sheet that I use.  The direction sheets follow the order of the math stations the group follows.  If you are interested you can check it out here.

Check back soon to read more about how I use Math Workshop in my classroom.  How do you organize for your math class?