Thursday, February 2, 2012

Strategy of the Week

Power Standards & Testing Toolkits

It's that time of year again- time to prepare for the end-of-year test. Here in Maryland, we give the MSA, and we give it in March. That means I have approximately 1 month and 1 week to ensure that my students are prepared. Whether I like it or not, administrators and district supervisors like to see the data from the standardized tests, and they like to see and hear that I did everything I could to make sure the students would pass the test. 

Power Standards
In order to figure out how to do this, I have to look back at the benchmark data, see what my students had trouble with, and then figure out what I can do to help them be successful. Since my students are ELLs, they struggle with a lot of indicators, and I know I can't possibly reloop everything thoroughly enough in the short amount of time. Here's where I choose 5 power standards that I think will help my students the most on the test. These are based on the skills that I think will help them have the most success, the indicators they struggled the most with, and the things that pop up most frequently on the test. Before the test, we will spend one week working on each of these Power Standard skills. This year, for 4th grade, my power standards are: 
  • Story Elements (with a focus on characterization)
  • Characteristics & Features of Non-Fiction Texts
  • Organizational patterns of Texts (Text Structure)
  • Context Clues
  • Inferencing/Conclusions
Testing toolkits
After I choose my power standards, I decide which order to best teach them in. I then help my students create a testing toolkit as we review. The first day of each week is a review of the skill. During the review, we add skills to our Testing Toolkit. Here's what you do:

  • Several packs of Index cards (I like 5 X 7 to give plenty of room for notes examples)
  • Binder Rings
  1. As you review each skill, have students make notes on the index cards. I like to have students put one important piece of information and an example on each index card.
  2. Have students make a cover card for each skill.
  3. Punch a hole in the upper right hand corner of the cards.
  4. Add the cards to the binder ring to keep them all together.
As students take sample tests, read practice passages, and answer practice questions, I encourage them to use their toolkits when needed. I also encourage them to take their toolkits home and study each skill for a few minutes each night.

Here's a picture of a Testing Toolkit one of my 8th graders made a few years ago:

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