Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Gimme 5: Resources for Crunch Time

your curly friend in the trenches, Suzanne

The time has come, my friends.  Or the time is coming.  Testing begins this month!  If your like me, this fills you with two panicky feelings: 
Panicky Feeling A: Our days/class periods are numbered
Panicky Feeling B: What the heck am I supposed to do during these numbered days?!

We've been in school for a long time (for some of us, a loooooong time!).  Resources are used up.  Strategies have been done.  Creativity is spent.  So what are we going to do to engage learners and reinforce skills in this home stretch?

Allow me to give you five resources/strategies to add to your crunch time toolbox:
1.  Gretchen Bernabei's Remediation Packets- These puppies were created for such a time as this.  Our pal, Gretch. compiled strategies and sample essays to reinforce writing skills leading up to the test.  Chop it up and use the pieces as you wish or proceed through in its entirety.  Either way- it's good stuff!

2.  Relevant Review- Remember that series of reading strategies we did about this time last year?  Yeah, it sorta kinda sounds familiar to us too.  Thanks to good ol' technology we have proof that it happened.  Flip through and see what strategies you haven't used (or used in a while) with this crop of kids.

3.  Short, Student Friendly Texts- Does the sight of Verdana print (that's the official STAAR font...ick) make you and your students queasy?  Likely, you need high-interest texts that you and your students can work with closely for a class period.  Two of my favorite resources are Kelly Galagher's Article of the Week (there is an archive to YEARS of past articles) and Tween Tribune.  Both of these resources come with a good critical thinking question at the end.

4.  Lightning Writing- This strategy yields high engagement because it's almost entirely verbal.  Students talk through their response to a given prompt.  Focus is placed on choosing and explaining a specific example.  The best thing is that the teacher can hear and correct immediately- no stacks of papers waiting to be thumbed through.  Click here for more details and FREE prompts.  

5.  TEA Time- Flaunt what you've got...from the state.  We have more than just tests that have been released.  One of my favorite things to use- the scoring guides! These are student essays that have been graded and include commentary on the grading.  To use with students, I usually cut the commentary off and have students score the papers using the state rubric.  Another way to use them is to pull the high scoring essays.  Have students find a sentences that does something that they particularly like- figurative language, cool sentence pattern...- have students imitate this technique with a sentence they can use in their own essay.

Also, use your PDF of released essays from last year.  

**PSA: For the past two/three year, the state has released our students' scored essays to us.  They usually come in the fall- Septemberish.  It is a PDF with essays for every student who tested on your campus the previous spring administration.  If you haven't seen them, they are worth your time to track down.  First, ask your testing coordinator.  Then, check with your principal.  If they don't have them, they should be able to talk to someone in a fancy office somewhere who will get them for you.  Such a valuable resource that way too many people don't know about!**

Check out our TpT store for even more resources:
Curly STAAR Crash Courses (can be used on a campus or classroom level):

Prompt Packs:

Words to grow (key academic and non-academic tested vocabulary):

Hopefully you've found a thing or two that can put a little pep in your instructional step!

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