It’s almost that time of year again. Before we know it the season of standardized testing will be upon us once again. Whether or not I agree with the effectiveness of standardized testing I know that we, as educators, are all held accountable for each and every student’s success or failure. This all adds up to some intense pressure and stress. Believe me…I know that feeling well. I hope this post will help to ease some of that stress.
Over the course of my career teaching 8th grade science (11 years and counting) I have always wanted a way to help my students review for STAAR more effectively. I always felt rushed trying to review and didn’t feel like my approach “flowed” like it should. This absolutely bothered me, so this past year I decided to create a STAAR Review Booklet that I could use with my students. This booklet is broken up into the 4 STAAR Science reporting categories and covers every single readiness and supporting TEKS. Four individual mini assessments are also included to help gauge student knowledge and comprehension.
So how is a review booklet going to help my students? I have compiled a list of 5 ways to use this booklet within your classroom to increase its effectiveness.
1. Flip Your Classroom– Assign your students a page each night to read and study at home. Tell them to highlight key information and to write down any questions they may want to ask in class the next day. I generally have my students create a “K-W-L” chart. They write what they already know (K), what they want to know (W), and what they have learned (L). This simple activity creates amazing conversations in class and it also promotes “buy in” from the students because they are the ones leading the discussion. My classes love it!
2. Let Students Teach – Group your students in pairs or allow them to choose a partner if you are brave! Assign a page of the booklet to each group. Instruct the groups that they must become an expert of the concept they were assigned. Allow the students to construct a visual aid and short presentation that will review/re-teach their concept to the entire class (examples of visual aids include: posters, brochures, PowerPoint, anchor charts, etc.). I have learned that the kids have that special connection with one another. They are able to explain concepts to one another amazingly well. My advanced students truly enjoy being able to take charge of the class.
3. Daily Starter – Take 5 minutes at the start or end of each class period. Try a “snowball fight” as a daily starter. You’ll get 100% participation and it’s quite possibly one of the quickest ways to review. Have the students take out a sheet of paper. They do not need to put their name on their paper. They will take more risks and be more willing to participate if it is anonymous. Turn to a random page of the booklet (or a page previously selected) and read the title of the page to the students. Give the students 15-20 seconds to write something on their paper that relates to the concept. The students will then crumple up their paper, like a snowball, and throw it across the room. All students need to pick up a “snowball”, unwrap it, and read it. The teacher can ask for volunteers to share some ideas that were written. This process can continue as long as you would like. I usually do 2-3 rounds with my students before moving on.
4. Small Group/Tutorials – You know your students. You know their strengths and weaknesses. I like to invite my struggling students to tutorials that take place before school, during lunch, or after school. I separate these students into groups based on the concepts they struggle with the most. I use old tests, assessments, labs, or homework assignments as my data. I keep the groups small with no more than 6-8 students in each session. In these tutorials I use the STAAR booklet to review vocabulary and key concepts. A short rotation with teacher check points usually brings our session to an end. Students are given the opportunity to voice their concerns and ask questions about anything they do not understand. This is a great way to build better relationships with your students. Start this early in the year and it will be life changing.
5. Mini Assessments – Use this booklet as a supplement to your STAAR review. At the end of each day or week assess your students’ comprehension of the concepts covered in class. This resource contains 4 assessments by reporting category that are ready to print and be used. You may even choose to use the assessments as a pre-assessment tool. Students that perform extremely well on the pre-assessment can help to peer teach other students. You may even differentiate your classroom to allow these students to work on some other enrichment activity or student choice activity (with teacher approval).
There are so may other beneficial ways to use this resource, but I hope that this gives you a glimpse of its possibilities. My good friend, Kesler Science, has created a blog post with several other ideas and resources to help review for STAAR. It’s a must read. Finally, you can teach your students to “hack” the STAAR Test by clicking here. It’s a wonderful strategy. You’ll definitely want to check it out!
I appreciate you taking the time to read this post and I wish you all the best in the upcoming season of testing! Good luck! 🙂