Test Prep

A Teacher OPTS OUT of State Testing

Keep Calm Standardized Testing MEME

I read an article from a fellow teacher blogger today that is too important not to share.  It’s from Chrissie at The Undercover Classroom and you SHOULD click here to read it.   As teachers, we know that this over-emphasis on state testing has brought more harm than good to our classrooms.  My teacher friends and I talk about it and I vote and contact my state reps all the time.  I’m not kidding when I say that I have them both on speed dial.  But I truly feel helpless.  Perhaps that’s why Chrissie’s post resonated with me.  Chrissie is doing something about it.  She’s opting her child out of state testing.

The post is great.  She explains how our testing culture is bad for students.  And it is.  I especially liked #6 on her list, on how professional development has changed since testing has taken over the classroom.  How have I not considered this?  YES!  Teachers across the nation are spending more time during PD learning to analyze testing data and prep kids for the test and less time improving their skills as educators.

And to Chrissie, I just want to say THANK YOU.  Thank you for standing up for your daughter so that she doesn’t have to spend 16 hours taking a test.  And thank you for being brave and speaking up about this testing craziness!

PS–Chrissie isn’t the only one blogging about how teachers are responding to the testing madness.  Sallie Borrink wrote a super important post that you SHOULD read too.  Many teacher-parents are leaving the classroom altogether to homeschool their own children.  Are teachers who become homeschoolers the indicator species we should be watching?  I think so.

–The Pensive Sloth

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Test Prep Blog Hop–11 Top Reading Test Prep Tips

Test Prep Blog Hop for 4th 5th and 6th Grade

Welcome to the Test Prep Blog Hop from the ladies at The Lesson Deli!  Here is how it works.  You will hop through a few blogs, pick up some freebies and maybe learn some test-prep tips, plus enter Rafflecopter drawings for some great prizes… Such as a Starbucks gift card to perk you up during testing season or an Amazon gift card to buy a few books for your classroom (or something for yourself!).  The Rafflecopter contest runs from Thursday, August 26 through Sunday, March 1, 2015.  Get to hoppin’ and have some fun!

Oh, and if you’ve got a great test-prep tip, comment below!

–The Pensive Sloth

5th Grade Reading Test Prep Tips for STAAR, FCAT, COMMON CORE, PARCC from The Pensive Sloth

Here’s my close reading FREEBIE to help with test prep…  Are you teaching students to analyze persuasive texts, identify examples of persuasive language and the effect that language has on the reader?  Want to give students concrete examples of comparison, causality, parallelism, misleading statements, exaggerated statements, and contradictory statements using a high-interest text?  Look no further!  Here’s a new lesson, “A Baby Boa?,” with embedded test prep.  The close reading passage is FREE below.  Just click the image to download.  You can find the foldable, skill activity, poster, vocabulary activity, and standardized test-prep reading comprehension questions that go with the passage in my TPT store.

5th Grade Persuasive Text Study Baby Boa Passage from The Pensive Sloth

Click the image to download this FREEBIE close reading passage.  For the foldable, skill activity, poster, vocabulary activity, and reading comprehension test prep that go with this passage, visit my TPT store.  This passage can be used to teach persuasive techniques such as comparison, causality, parallelism, exaggerated statements, misleading statements, and contradictory statements.

Ready to WIN a treat for your classroom?  You can order books or spoil yourself with this Amazon gift card! You’re a teacher.  You work HARD.  You deserve it!

Rafflecopter Test Prep Blog Hop for Amazon Gift Card from The Pensive Sloth Feb. 26 to March 1, 2015

CLICK a Rafflecopter giveaway to go to Rafflecopter’s site for a chance to win a $25 Amazon Gift Card. It’s easy and fun!

 Then go to the next stop in the hop, Simone’s Math Resources Blog, to see some MATH test prep ideas!

Test Prep Blog Hop for 4th 5th and 6th Grade Next Stop Image

My Many Anchor Charts Monday

Here’s a quick photo post about what has been happening in my classroom the last few weeks!

We read a book about the Lewis and Clark expedition then made a diagram to show Thomas Jefferson's goals for the expedition.  As a class, we did a shared writing exercise turning our diagram into a letter to TJ!  As we read, we kept a record of the animals, plants, land, water, and Indian tribes we encountered.  AND we drew pictures!  I hope you like my bison and grizzly bear.  Have I mentioned that I was not blessed with artistic talents???

We read a book about the Lewis and Clark expedition then made a diagram to show Thomas Jefferson’s goals for the expedition. As a class, we did a shared writing exercise turning our diagram into a letter to TJ! As we read, we kept a record of the animals, plants, land, water, and Indian tribes we encountered. AND we drew pictures! I hope you like my bison and grizzly bear. Have I mentioned that I was not blessed with artistic talents??? Want you kids to LOVE learning about Lewis and Clark, click the picture for a rockin’ rap about Lewis and Clark.

Students researched different territories acquired by the US in the 19th century and presented their reports to the class while I recorded their findings.  Fun!  We learned about the Oregon Country, Mexican Cession, Gadsden Purchase, Florida Acquisition, Louisiana Purchase, Texas Annexation, and what the US was like in 1783.

Students researched different territories acquired by the US in the 19th century and presented their reports to the class while I recorded their findings. Fun! We learned about the Oregon Country, Mexican Cession, Gadsden Purchase, Florida Acquisition, Louisiana Purchase, Texas Annexation, and what the US was like in 1783.

Text structure/organization anchor chart to help students understand how authors communicate relationships between ideas.

Text structure/organization anchor chart to help students understand how authors communicate relationships between ideas.

I wrote about Fraction Boot Camp in another post if you want to learn more.  As a class we set goals for common assessments and chart our progress.  When we do really well we have a picnic lunch outside.  I used smiley faces to cover up class averages.  Great activity as you prepare for state testing (STAAR).  It certainly helps with motivation!

I wrote about Fraction Boot Camp in another post. Click the picture if you want to learn more.  As a class we set goals for common assessments and chart our progress. When we do really well we have a picnic lunch outside. I used smiley faces to cover up class averages. Great activity as you prepare for state testing (STAAR). It certainly helps with motivation!

Anchor chart showing incomplete and complete metamorphosis.  Want to see our metamorphosis lab in action?  Check out the post on our Insect Zoo.

Anchor chart showing incomplete and complete metamorphosis. Want to see our metamorphosis lab in action? Click this picture to read a post on our Insect Zoo!

We had a great time launching the interdependency lesson.  Students brainstormed living and non-living things in a park environment and illustrated and wrote about how everything was connected, or interdependent on each other for survival.  Once again, feel free to giggle at my artwork!  I certainly do...but I have fun drawing!

We had a great time launching the interdependency lesson. Students brainstormed living and non-living things in a park environment and illustrated and wrote about how everything was connected, or interdependent on each other for survival. Once again, feel free to giggle at my artwork! I certainly do…but I have fun drawing!

Learning About Alternative Energy and Coal Formation

As part of our Earth science unit we spent some time this last six weeks learning about the different types of alternative energy.  Since this is my first year teaching 5th grade science, it had been a long time since I heard the word geothermal!  Students spent some time defining and drawing each type of energy and we made an anchor chart to show what we were learning.

  • goethermal–energy from heat in Earth’s core
  • biofuel/biomass–energy from once living material
  • hydroelectric–energy from moving water (My students have a little song they sing every time I say this word, I think it is part of a commercial they hear on TV all the time!)
  • solar–energy from the sun
  • wind–energy from moving air (wind)
Anchor chart for different types of alternative energy.  (geothermal, hydroelectric, solar, wind, biofuel/biomass)

Anchor chart for different types of alternative energy. (geothermal, hydroelectric, solar, wind, biofuel/biomass) HINT:  Don’t write in yellow!  Write in black and trace over in yellow!

We also spent some time learning about how coal was formed deep in the Earth.

Anchor chart and slide showing formation of coal.

Anchor chart and slide showing formation of coal.

Now, as we prepare for our STAAR test in April, we will be reviewing vocabulary associated with coal formation and alternative energy.  I’ve put together a quick vocabulary review activity for my kiddos that involves cutting, pasting, and matching the words to the definitions and then symbolizing each term.

Vocabulary Snip-it! worksheet to review alternative energy.

Vocabulary Snip-it! worksheet to review alternative energy.  Click below to download the freebie!

You can download a PDF of this Alternative Energy Worksheet or get the Earth Science Vocabulary Snip-its! pack for $1.00 at my TPT store.   The pack contains 4 pages of vocabulary including sedimentary rocks and fossil fuels, fossils, landforms, and alternative energy. Thanks for stopping by and happy teaching!

Here is the almost finished product!  Students match vocabulary terms and symbolize or illustrate each word.   Great review activity for 5th grade science STAAR test!

Here is the almost finished product! Students match vocabulary terms and symbolize or illustrate each word. Great review activity for 5th grade science STAAR test!

#thepensivesloth #teacherproblems meme #teacherhumor ecard covering walls staar

Anchor Chart Attack

OK, so if you live in Texas or another state with a big test…basically anywhere in the US…you know the challenge that anchor charts present.  I love anchor charts!  My students use them.  I don’t spend a ton of time making them pretty, but rather focus on making them meaningful for my kiddos because we create them together.  My challenge is where to put them?  I am self-contained, so I have anchor charts everywhere about everything.  Other than anchor chart overload and running out of space, when the big test comes it all has to come down or be covered.

I am trying something new this year.  I bought a few command hooks, some colorful dollar store clips, and grabbed a few plastic hangers and voila!  My anchor charts are now removable.  I could only get back far enough to see part of the wall where they are hanging, so I’m sorry about the picture.  I’ll work on getting a better one up soon.  Actually, they are hanging on cabinets above student lockers. It’s not perfect, but it should help significantly with hiding all of the learning and help before the big test!

See for yourself:

Fraction Boot Camp–Preparing for the STAAR Test

With our state test approaching we are reviewing concepts from earlier in the year to make sure we’ve got it!  Fraction Boot Camp was one way our class prepared this year.  Here’s how Fraction Boot Camp worked in my classroom:

STEP 1–Write fraction standards on chart paper, set class goals, and plan a class celebration.  Our class decided on 85% for each assessment as our goal and that we would celebrate with a picnic outside on a nice weather day when we met our goal.

STEP 2–Review each skill with a mini-lesson, have students complete a few ‘number problems’ to make sure they understand, then give partner time to work some word problems while meeting with a small group who needs a little extra help.  Number problems are simply working with the numbers.  I need to know that my students understand equivalent fractions with mixed numbers and improper fractions prior to giving them lots of word problems to solve!  Check out CC Sheets.  It is one of my favorites for number only problems.  Because I teach the TEKS and not CC, I search by skill rather than standard and grade level.

STEP 3– Assess and report class averages on the chart.  The kids love to see their progress posted in the classroom.

Valentine's Day fractions matching game for equivalent fractions, including mixed numbers and improper fractions

Valentine’s Day fractions matching game for equivalent fractions, including mixed numbers and improper fractions

This year’s Fraction Boot Camp was a big success!  Our class averages were in the 90s each time and we got to celebrate with a picnic outside.   We also played some fraction games and you can find those here!  There is a winter set, Valentine’s Day set, and St. Patrick’s Day shamrock set.

St. Patrick's Day/Shamrock Theme Game--Students sort fractions by finding equivalent fractions and matching them to the simplified (or reduced) fraction.

St. Patrick’s Day/Shamrock Theme Game–Students sort fractions by finding equivalent fractions and matching them to the simplified (or reduced) fraction.

Fun heart themed fractions games to help students practice matching equivalent fractions, including improper fractions and mixed numbers.

Fun heart themed fractions games to help students practice matching equivalent fractions, including improper fractions and mixed numbers.

un winter-themed game for students to practice equivalent fractions, including improper fractions and mixed numbers!

Fun winter-themed game for students to practice equivalent fractions, including improper fractions and mixed numbers!