Isn’t it nice when you find a friend that gets you? Isn’t it ever nicer, as a teacher, to find those people in your school who build you up, encourage you, and make your job more enjoyable? The tale of 2BrightBlondes is really more like a tale of two friends who started teaching together and grew to be those teachers that build each other up. So, we decided to branch out. We had already been making activities (out of desperation, really) for our classrooms. That may or may not have something to do with how we like everything to look cute. No Times New Roman for these girls, no sir!! After a little tweaking, we started to post products in our 2BrightBlondes TpT store, which you can visit by clicking here. The next step was to get our blog up and running, and here we are! It’s very new and we are most definitely still learning, but please take a second to subscribe through email and leave some comments and feedback!
Maybe this is too soon to post, seeing as my class doesn’t complete the ELA sessions until 2 days from now, but I think you’ll all agree that it’s not the TEST day that’s stressful-it’s the preparation. Trying to cram as much knowledge into your students’ heads in the middle of 4th quarter is like trying to fill a bucket to overflowing while poking holes in the side. Am I right? Anyway, this is my 5th year giving the MAP test, and therefore preparing for it, so I have nailed down a few things that I like to do with my class before.
- Get a test prep bundle worth spending lots and lots of time on. Use it consistently. Everyday do a little piece. Or a lot of pieces, depending on the mood and needs of your students. Some days I could just tell they were checked out, and we switched it up. But starting about 3-4 weeks ahead of time, I worked in MAP prep to every reading and math block. Here’s what I used, and I LOVE it. In love with it. Amazed by it. A little jealous of it, because why didn’t I think of this myself?
I’m telling you, this TpT author has it figured out. @Tied2Teaching, this is an exceptional product! Definitely check out her bundles. They’re worth it. This huge bundle has reading, grammar, and math all in one, but you can buy them separately. I used all three. My students knew when Crunch Time came out it was time to work. I made it a part of our routine. I went into the Math sessions feeling confident that I had reviewed as well as I possibly could.
2. Be real with your students. They want to know. They want to be prepared. Or at least, most of them do. That doesn’t mean you have to detail every single pitfall of testing, or how long and hairy the questions will be, but be honest. Tell them it can be difficult. Tell them it’s ok if they come across a problem they don’t have the answer to. Work with them to find strategies they can use if that happens. On the reading sessions especially, I try to emphasize that it is OK and PERFECTLY ACCEPTABLE to get fatigued while reading all those passages. I give them strategies such as, push back from your computer. Do some neck rolls. Massage your temples. Put your head down for a minute. Rest. Do what you need to do to be successful and know that I will NOT be disappointed that you needed a break or that it takes you a little longer to finish because you stopped.
3. Do a run-though with your students the day before. Give them the materials you expect them to have during the test and have them practice coming in, sitting down, getting ready, etc. Go through the steps (off script) for signing in and if your state has a practice version of the test you can look at, DO IT! More than once. They NEED TO KNOW what it’s going to look like for real. Then, if you are like most teachers I know, you probably assemble some kind of kit or bag for the students to have during the test. Mine are really simple-I sharpen 2 nice Ticonderoga pencils, and they get 3-4 peppermints. I put this inside a gallon-sized bag, which seems like overkill, but hear me out. Then I have the kids choose 1-2 CHAPTER books to take with them into the testing room to read when they are done, and those usually fit nicely into the gallon bag. For the math portions, I also have them put 2 pieces of blank computer paper. That way, they’re not trying to juggle a bunch of different items. It’s all in one bag and they can easily pack it back into the bag when they’re done. BONUS idea I finally wised up and did this year: number the bags with your student numbers. That way, they can use them for both the math and reading sessions, and you can COLLECT THEM AND USE THEM AGAIN NEXT YEAR WITH MINIMAL PREP. That makes me happy.
4. Find something light to do with your kids on test day when they’re done. Yes, I know there are all kinds of math concepts that need reviewing/reteaching, and you want to get to that lit set as soon as possible, but if you feel comfortable, try to just enjoy the rest of the day. I usually try to find some kind of Magic School Bus episode that goes along with our science unit, or a funny book on EPIC to read with them that they’ll have fun with.
Those are some of my best tips. They have helped me in the past and this year as I am currently finishing up this post on the night before my kids are going to take the reading test. I think they’ll do fine and you know what? If their scores are not what I had hoped, that does NOT mean I’m a bad teacher. It doesn’t mean I failed them. It doesn’t define my teaching career. And it doesn’t define them, either. They still have strengths in different ways, even if testing is not one of them. I always looks back on testing season and pray that if nothing else, I instilled in them a sense of working hard even when it seems too hard, and that as long as they can honesty say they did their best, we’re all good.
I’d love to hear your testing tips! Share below!
So I thought we could start by posting a little about each of our classrooms. Now, I (Sara) teach third grade and have now for…4 years. Yes, 4 years. However, my classroom has evolved MAJORLY each year, not just in color and theme, but also in function, practicality, and organization. I’ll share some pictures with you about what my room looks like and how I choose to set it up. Basically, give you an idea of what works for me and my kiddos.
First up: the “hub” of my classroom. The mecca if you will…the center, the core…whatever you want to call it. Insert any synonym you’d like.
I do flexible seating in my room, but the one thing I did not change is a place to meet on the carpet as a class. We do a class meeting at the end of every day. It’s when our Leadership Captain shares (more about that later, if you want to know now and you can’t STAND waiting, shoot me an email) and we do wins, shout outs, issues, questions…it’s really where we come together as a family and hash out any issues and congratulate each other on jobs well done. So everyone is required to find a seat. Some sit in the “upper level” a.k.a. the desks, but most sit on the floor.
Here is a shot of more where the students work during the day. I try to arrange a good mix of high spaces, low spaces, single spaces, partner spaces…you get the idea. A variety. That’s what flexible seating is all about, right? My students know how to choose their spot (again, that’s another post) and they also know they do NOT get to move the furniture. It stays put.
I have most definitely NOT left my room set up this way all year long. It’s been moved multiple times, I’ve hated some arrangements and loved others, so it’s all about what your kiddos need and how/where they work best.
I totally redid my color scheme this year from pink, blue and black to really more of a black, burlap and aqua. It toned it down SO MUCH and I no longer feel like I am teaching in a Justice store. Ha. These areas are where I keep my anchor charts (by subject) and my math and reading workshop boards.
This is the “information station” so to speak, where my kiddos come in every morning and take attendance, view the lunch menu, drop off notes or money, etc. They also use this space to sign out for bathroom breaks on the class log. In the lovely ombre rolling cart I happened across at Aldi’s (no joke there, people) is where they turn in work. And, because I thought this would be a great idea, even for third graders, I organized my spelling or word work hands-on stations into tubs and stored them in that bookcase. Spelling tubs did not pan out like I had hoped. Another post, maybe. “The Pitfalls of Word Work Tubs” perhaps.
So, that’s all the areas of my room I could get good pictures of, apart from my own corner, but I’ll snap some pictures of that when it’s cleaner and share about all the ways I’ve set it up and the pros and cons I’ve discovered.
Now I want to hear about your classrooms! What do you do? How do you set it up? Have you ever tried flexible seating? Comment below!