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Archive for April, 2011

Every once in a while as a teacher, you have those rare moments where you get to see a kid totally transform. Yesterday was one of those days for me.

Three years ago, I was blessed with “the worst class to go through the building.” Though I hear that almost every year, this time, it was true. The class was rude, lazy, loud, and for the most part, didn’t care–I failed about 54/90 students for each semester. Additionally, they credited themselves with “making two teachers quit.” Despite these facts, I liked most of the kids when they were by themselves–it was the group dynamics that was the problem. But one student I affectionately nicknamed “the bane of my existence”–okay, not so affectionately. He would go out of his way to make my life miserable every single day. And he was never absent.

Well, yesterday, I got a phone call from this kid. (We are a junior high/senior high building, so he called from his classroom to mine.) “Miss Brailey? If it’s alright with my teacher, can I come down during your plan and show you a poem I wrote?”

“Sure.”

He came down sixth period to let me read his poem. In it, a boy took a journey through hell to a quiet place where God called him son and reminded him that all the flames he saw were the things from the past that he needed to forget. Those things had been necessary to make him stronger. It was honestly one of the best poems I have ever read. I complimented him and asked him if he’d considered getting it published. His response blew me away: “I don’t know. I’m kind of funny about people reading my writing. I’ve only shown you and Mrs. Price (His current teacher).” I told him I was honored that he would share it with me. He looked me in the eye and said, “Thanks, Miss Brailey.”

Somehow, I’ve found no matter how horrible a student is, there comes a time when they eventually come around. I’ve had students come back to school, talk to me at funerals, or find me in the mall to tell me how they’ve gotten their lives straightened out and thank me for caring for them. I’m so glad that with our building, I’m often there to see it happen.

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I have decided to share the tips I teach my students to help with Standardized tests:

1. Read the Question First: Often with long passages, students waste time because they read the passage, then the questions, and then have to go back through the passage to try to find the answer to the question. By reading the question first, they know what they’re looking for.

2. Number or Underline Key Words in the Question; Identify the steps you are being asked to cover: Many of my students lose points because they only answer half of the question. This teaches them to identify what they are being asked and to make sure they answer it.

3. Take your time and do your best until you have one minute left. Then, guess C: Too many students get freaked out about the time limit, so they rush. They finish with a long time to spare and don’t recheck their answers. Consequently, they miss a lot. I teach my students to tell themselves they will do their absolute best until they only have a minute to go. Then, they will guess on the remaining questions. By doing this, they will actually finish on time (most of the time), and will have done their best instead of rushing.

4. Use Process of Elimination: Every set of answers usually contains the same options–the right answer, the almost right answer, the opposite of the right answer, and one that is way off base. Just knowing that, you can easily eliminate one if not two options. I explain to my students if they just randomly guess, they have a 1 in 4 chance of getting the right answer, or 25%. By eliminating just one option, they improve their chances to 1 in 3 or 33%. Their odds go up 8% just by eliminating the “throw-away” answer. If they can eliminate 2 answers, their odds have improved another 17%.

5. Predict what goes in the blank, then look to see if it’s in the answer options: When you’re nervous, you can talk yourself into any answer being the right one. By picking an answer before you look at the choices they give, it’s easy to find the right answer and not get confused.

6. Follow the 5 point outline on Essays:

I. Introduction
II. First Point
III. Second Point
IV. Third Point
V. Conclusion

*I also show them how the writing prompt gives them their three points in the “Be sure to Include” Section.

7. Indent Every Point, even if it’s only one sentence: On our standardized test, the highest a student can get with one big paragraph is a 2/6. Just by adding indentions, even if their paragraphs are only one sentence, they raise their score to at least a 3/6.

8. The Pep talk: I give my students 2 different pep talks prior to ISTEP:

A. Facing the Giants: I show Scene 12, otherwise known as “The Death Crawl.” In the movie, a football coach has a player do the death crawl blindfolded. I discuss the fact that often, we as teachers feel like the coach in this movie, walking beside them saying, “Come on, you can do it. Come on!” I explain that for some of them, failing is all they think they’re capable of, and they’ve never really tried. I charge them to give it their best shot this year and see what they can do.

B. Plant through the rock: I have a weed I pulled out of my flower bed that had grown through a rock. I talk to them about overcoming obstacles and that while it is hard, it is possible, if they’ll be persistent.

My principal recently told me that the 8th grade (My class) was the only one in our building that had shown consistent improvement on the ISTEP. Hopefully, these tips will help you show improvement too.

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