Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Putting An (eo) I In Team

I have really tried to put the Thumper maxim into play when it comes to testing this year. I haven't been able to say much that is nice, so I haven't said anything (ok, much. I have said a few things) at all.

I stand by all my gripes. Won't back down on any of 'em. It's time, though, to tell the good stuff. My English II team has managed to pull of some educational goodness, and it should be shared. With a nod to my edu-blog-ness, I will even share some of our tricks.

Administration wants to see us turning flips to raise these scores. We've played the game by combining our classes. All the English II classes have been meeting together and will until testing. Our former colleague at the State Dept. told us the parts where kids score the lowest and lesson plans were made accordingly. We rotate teaching duties so that the day you are on, you are on ALL DAY. No plan time, no breathers. There's a ton of kids in the room and you'd better be singing and dancing the whole time.

We are! I will admit I was afraid of bringing my kids into the whole thing and even more afraid to bring myself. I was fully confident in my primary area (Speech/Drama), but it's taking some time to become a "real English teacher". What if my kids revealed some weakness in my teaching or worse, what if on my day up I bombed and the rubber English teacher mask was yanked from my face to reveal my elective teaching true self?

Didn't happen. Didn't even come close. My day of figurative language fun was good! In fact, I even found kids savoring lines of the poetry I chose. I had that moment you always laughed at in High School when your English teacher sort of half closed her eyes and leaned her head back with a goofy grin as she recited some poetry. Real is the word, it was real English teaching.

My sister teachers walk the room while the lead teacher works, and we enjoy together. We enjoy the material, and we enjoy our kids. Over lunch, we compliment or commiserate over each other's kids. It's some of the most gratifying teaching I have done.

So, here's some of the tricks that are working for us. If you want any extra info, email me, fellow Educats.
  1. Fear not the arts and crafts, even with High School kids. We have made two booklets with literary terms and testing strategies. Here are directions for the easiest one to explain--1 colored paper, 1 plain (I printed the terms we'd be using on the right hand side of the paper with cutting lines between as a timesaver.) Both papers folded lengthwise. if you've printed on the plain paper, put it on the outside. Glue one inside the other, cut the tabs with your terms to make peek-a-boo flaps. You now have all that flap space to definitions of the term, examples of the term, or whatever else.
  2. Word maps for vocabulary are lovely. Let me know if you'd like one.
  3. Who could have known of the magic of sticky notes!? Read the test questions before reading the passage, paraphrase them on sticky notes, then stick them near the passage as you read.

Maybe this is the idea of adversity bringing strength. If these equal higher scores, bully for us. What we're getting, though, is some much needed variety and good teaching.


elementaryhistoryteacher said...

Thanks for posting your team's test review strategies. I like how you were all responsible for an area.

Early on this year we found out students would be allowed to make marks in their test booklets. We spent time to teach them how to mark the text to locate certain passages that were focus areas for questions. Several students marked their text during the test. I'm interested to see if this process has any bearing on scores. Aren't post-it notes great? I wish I had invented them.

educat said...

Thanks, eht. I have discovered through this process that testing literacy is another type of literacy. It's not the only type, but another one. They'll use it in life just as any other kind of literacy.

Isn't it hilarious that we never thought of marking on the sacred books? It's that same revelation that brought us to teach this kind of literacy.

I don't know that this deserves a whole entry, I so desperately want to blog about something other than testing, but our administration is messing with our tried and true testing schedule so I hope our efforts show. I also hope that if they pay off, they won't be chalked up to our wretched new testing schedule.

Jennyta said...

Just discovered your blog this morning and I'm very pleased to find a fellow teacher on the blogging circuit. I am a primary teacher, doing supply work now but I recognise the obsession with testing which has taken most of the enjoyment and professional job satisfaction out of teaching over here. Your 'team teaching' arrangement sounds great.