Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Retesting - Testing 1, 2, 3?

I recently gave a test over Rome in Social Studies. Both of my classes did not do well. The students practically had all the info that would be on the test. They had it all in their interactive notebooks. (Maybe a blog post about these over the summer.) The way I typically do my interactive notebooks is that there is a reading. Followed by some sort of questions that pertain to the reading (the right side of my notebooks). Then, the left side of the notebook is something creative where the students show their learning in some sort of an alternative assessment. Think creating invitations, report cards, sensory images, comics, historical markers, speeches, etc. The following class period, we go over their notebooks and hold a discussion. So, in all reality, the students get the information four times. It's given to them in multiple ways through the reading, the questions, the creation piece, and the discussion. Before the test, I give them a review guide that goes in their notebook. I go over it with them, to make sure they have the correct answers. After that, we play a review game. I send that review game out to them and their parents so they can study at home. The questions on the review game are the same as on the notebook review sheets so those students who don't have the Internet at home can still study.

The test is the following day. I'd say the review guide tells them 99% of what will be on the test.

If a student somehow bombs the test. I say somehow, because they have the answers to the test besides maybe an essay question that they should know the answer to anyway. I will write their grade on the test and then a note to come see me for a retest. No questions asked. They can take it again.

Most don't come. I had two come last time. So my question is, is it my responsibility to find them and make them take this retest that they don't care about, didn't take it serious the first time and won't the second or is it their responsibility to put forth some effort, study a little on their own, and come see me on their own?

These are the thoughts that circle through my head at a time like this. I really struggle with it.

Am I an ineffective teacher because I'm not forcing it to them to retest? Did I not set them up for success?  I'm pretty sure that I am. Am I teaching them a lesson in effort by letting them do it on their own? Is their self-motivation so low that a 30% is acceptable to them? My school has a somewhat 80% and lower needs to retest. While I do understand the need to for students to pass/master a topic (my district is moving to mastery learning), if a student has no desire to help himself/herself should that be a reflection on me? Can I make a kid study for things? Is it my fault? One of my favorite teachers when I was in high schools said that, "Students earn their grades. They are not given." What you reap is what you sow. Am I doing enough? Am I working hard enough for my students to be successful?

Let me have some feedback and thoughts on this please.

And some quotes just because I like quotes.

The worst thing that you can do for another person is the things they can and should do for themselves.  Abraham Lincoln

If you do not have the time to do it right, when will you find the time to do it over. John Wooden

"Success comes from knowing that you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming." Wooden


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Some Recent Thoughts

I started reading a read-aloud book to my class. It's called "Stand Tall" by Joan Bauer.
We're three chapters in. Not far, but enough to determine if we want to keep reading. I honestly didn't think the students were that into it. It has somewhat a funky style with lots of short sentences. The flow seems a little different most novels. It switches topics quickly. Anyway, because I didn't think they were that excited about it, I decided to ask them what they thought so far. Unanimous. They wanted me to keep going. Sometimes, I think that maybe students aren't listening or they don't really care. I was wrong. I was surprised in their thinking. Their emotionless faces were driving me to believe that their minds were wandering. Not focused. Out the window. I was reading them wrong.

Lesson learned : Let students get invested in their learning. They might surprise you. The connection they have to the book was greater than I imagined.


I have been using photo writing prompts this year a lot. We typically do them on Friday after our spelling/vocab tests. They enjoy them. Some, actually love them. It forces them to see a single image and construct meaning and elaborate on the image/prompt at hand. They turn something simple into a constructed/created response. We usually just share them at the end as most don't have right or wrong answers and are debatable. It leads to some deep discussions.

I used this site to start. I come up with my own occasionally as well.

Here is an example of one we did today.


I need to get over the fact that authentic written assessment/feedback from me to my students is the most beneficial to them. "Get over it" as in start doing more of it. My problem is that I don't want to do it because it takes longer to do. Too bad. So sad. It's better. I need to do it.

On a related note, I tend to ask questions in my written feedback. I sometimes have students that respond back and we get a nice dialogue going. Others could care less. But I do know that they had to at least read the question and think about it.


To me the most important thing I want my students to do is to think critically about a text. I feel that if they can do this it will serve them not only within the walls of a school, but as they progress in adults. I want my students to get to asking the "why" questions and the "what" questions. To think deeply. To question things. To investigate on their own.

I found these Bloom's Flip Books I'm using for my discussion of the book Crispin by Avi.


Another thing that I like to really discuss with my students is the theme of novels/books. When the book has gone back to the shelf, what is left? That is how I explain theme. The Take Away. How can you apply what the book was about to your life? The life-lesson. The best part about theme is that it's debatable at times. Everyone takes away something different from a book. When students truly understand the theme of a book, they get that it's not the color of shirt the main character wears, or what is the 8th word on page 87. They take the book with them even when it's still on the shelf.

I found these Bloom's Flip Books I'm using for my discussion of the book Crispin by Avi.


A quote I found today that I liked.

"There is a difference between impressing someone and influencing someone."

I think it's a humility thing. When you influence someone there is a transfer of power from one person to the next. You're saying, "Hey, this is so important that I want to share it with you so that you are benefitted as well."