During a recent class meeting with my 4th graders, they were sharing both their positive and negative experiences with all the mandated testing. After listening to them, I posed three questions for them: 1. What is your perspective on testing?, 2. What is your perspective on being a 4th grade student?, and 3. What else would you like me to know about your feelings, as related to school?
In their words:
- takes too much time
- make it easier by cutting the amount of tests
- would be so much easier for me if there were no time constraints
- makes me feel stressed out
- timing us makes us get worried we will not finish
- short amounts if testing each day makes it easy
- makes me nervous and anxious
- could be easier if we had short breaks
- pacing and timing make it difficult to focus and do my best
- would be easier if my teacher could explain things to me when stuck on questions
Being a Fourth Grader:
- is hard most of the time
- makes me feel like a stronger individual
- fills my brain with information
- a struggle for me
- makes me feel like a better student
- fun and easy
- hard work most of the time
Other Feelings about School:
- Great teacher
- Need Recess
- My teacher is firm and fair
- Give me more independent work
- Love my class
- Why do we have assigned seats?
- Gets better for me each day
- Give me more homework
- My teacher pushes me to excel and always do my best
How often do you “listen” to your students? Do you take their feedback and act on it? What have you done to actively involve our students throughout the day, week, and/or year? Have you used their “voices” to make a positive impact on teaching and learning in your classroom and/or school?
I find myself frequently reflecting on the Common Core Standards. While there continues to be great debate over the effectiveness and/or usefulness of these standards, one must remember the deliberate intent of “raising the bar” in the hopes of narrowing the achievement gaps in both a complex and rigorous manner.
Three strengths of the Common Core Standards: clear expectations, rigor, and consistency, continue to have a huge impact on my teaching and student learning. Specific examples include more active learning (i.e. more students doing and talking), increased amounts of flexible groupings, increased amounts of higher order thinking, increased amounts of cooperative learning and collaborative learning activities, and most importantly increased amounts of formative assessments to guide day to day instruction.
What have you done to adapt your teaching to the rigor and/or demands of the Common Core Standards in your day to teaching and/or planning?
The authors of “Staying the Course: Improvement in Urban Schools” warn about the consequences of simultaneously implementing multiple initiatives. It is noted that attention and capacity for full implementation may be sacrificed.
This is an issue that we are faced with, particularly at the beginning of each new school year. How do we adapt?
Often times I find myself overwhelmed, but in the end always feel a sense of accomplishment. This year has been rather difficult in terms of making sure students are prepared for the “new writing” that we will encounter with PARCC.
Instead of reacting to the “newness”, my colleagues and I were more proactive and worked with what we already had, and simply enhanced when and where we needed to. We spent a huge amount of time in the beginning teaching the specific structure and/or format of each mode. Once students had practiced and mastered, we were able to move on to using these modes in response to text. We have seen incredible growth and success and feel that students are now ready to shine on the PARCC assessment, scheduled in the very near future.
Think about how you react to change and/or implement change? What kind of sacrifices do you make to ensure that all or most students will be successful?