Thursday, April 24, 2014

Engaging Students RIGHT After State Testing Concludes, Part I.

After a decade of administering state tests, I still cannot completely describe how I feel when it comes to an end. Of course, the "coulda-woulda-shoulda" thoughts run through my mind at rampant speeds, causing me to worry if I covered everything that was presented to my students on the tests (and if my presentation of the content aligned with the questions). I question whether I was thorough and rigorous enough. I also feel this immense surge of relief that my students have concluded higher-order, exhausting high-stakes testing. Besides that, I feel drained because reading similar scripts for six days of testing and having somewhat idle 70 and 80-minute testing periods lead to a somewhat early or an obnoxiously late bedtime (because my brain is surging in this rampant Indianapolis 500 race). Usually when I administer tests, my production decreases... and I crave the weekend... so I can take 1,407,868 deep breaths. I internalize stress.

I have always wondered how my students feel. When one of my students' parents told me her son went to bed immediately when he came home from school and woke up for a little while to watch a re-run of Neil deGrasse Tyson's Cosmos, I knew. They. Must. Be. Numb. 

I scheduled time well surrounding the testing. I balanced review and relaxation well. In the mornings, I made sure I dedicated an hour or so to math review this week-- and then I gave the students silent reading and board game periods. In the afternoons, after testing, we headed out to our only recess periods of the year besides five-minute running breaks here and there/a reward recess they earned in November. I also began reading a new chapter book to the class and made sure I scheduled whole-class PowerPoint Jeopardy reviews. 

Yet now, I cannot have entire days dedicated to recess and board game wonderment. Though students often think the "year is over", it is (in my humble opinion) just beginning. 

Here are two activities I have scheduled for the next few days that are highly academic and immensely engaging as well. It is going to take a great deal of innovation for my students to carry out these wonderful projects. They are also being presented with rubrics. I will be writing separate posts about each of the projects before the end of the week. 
  • Theme Park Creation-- I completed a variation of this project in my fourth grade days, yet now. I've upped the ante. Now, my students have three things they need to accomplish to earn their grade. They must write an expository paper with five paragraphs about the theme park (describing three lands in IMMENSE detail), design a menu of a themed restaurant, and write a persuasive, informative advertisement for one of the lands in their park using emotive language. 
  • Model Bedroom Creation-- My students will be building model bedrooms in shoe boxes the next two afternoons. Students have to construct their own furniture to scale and include numerous other elements that are properly scaled as well. They will have to calculate the volume and surface area as well as the regular area of chosen elements in their rooms. I headed to Lowe's and Home Depot as well as Michael's and Walmart last night to pick up some amazing materials for the class. 
Stay tuned for more information about BOTH of these projects. Plenty of photographs will be included of each product. I appreciate you reading my weblog-- have an incredible day!

p.s. Here is Katie's newest weblog entry, called "14 Math Performance Task Links". She is one of the thirty-seven people helping with the new domains as well. 

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