July 23, 2014

I'm Back

            Today I decided to pick up my pen and write a blog post.  Oh, I’ve written about ten this summer-all in my head!  You know how summer is, run around, do things, relax, try not to think of school, think of school CONSTANTLY, and avoid it like the plague, all at once!  I have thought and thought about what to write, have dozens of ideas, and get side tracked by family and fun.  This summer fun included something I’ve haven’t done in year, and something simply for me-sewing.  I have currently created 4 skirts, 1 shirt, 1pair of pants, and one dress.  Up on deck-1 jacket, 1 skirt, and 4 dresses!  Will I be finished before August 12th-yes!  That’s my goal!  My first official day back is August 12th, so I better get going on some blogging!  As you can see though, there is now some fun and beneficial competition for my time!  (And my wardrobe is going to be awesome!)

            First, I’d like to share that I am going to be moving to first grade.  Wow, there it is.  There has been a part of me who doesn’t want to share that yet, or make it official.  I didn’t ask for the move, but part of me is very grateful.  I have taught it for one year and I don’t feel like I’ve completed that cycle in my career.  I don’t think I’ve finished my fourth grade cycle either.  To be honest, I was just getting my grove on!  I have figured things out and had gotten a game plan together.  My test scores came in in a BIG positive, and I’m grateful for that.  And, at the same time, I’m very grateful not to have to have that pressure again this year.  It is a LOT of pressure.  I also wasn’t thrilled about teaching to the test. Yes, let’s just put that out there.  We, as a society, are definitely teaching children simply to take the test.  I swore I wouldn’t do it, that it mattered more for kids to learn simply to know and have knowledge.  To push them further than what was needed to pass a test.  I can now tell you that is an impossible feat in todays education game.  What matters to everyone is how they score, what that means for the school and the district and the state.  That is a sad reality of today.  So, to be honest, I’m not sad about stepping out of that.  What I am sad about is that I don’t get to test run great products that I have developed for next year.  I’ll share more on that in a moment.  What it does mean is that I get more opportunity to create great things that I’ll leave up to my now Book Buddy teaching partner, Lisa!  I’ll just get her to do the hard stuff, take some pics for me to post, and go from there!  Thanks Lisa!

            Now, let’s talk reality!  This year Florida will be getting on the bandwagon with Common Core writing activities and testing.  They recently released their Test Specification.  If you are from Florida and haven’t viewed them yet, you MUST!  You want to know the secret to knowing what to teach, you have to go there, get them, and study them!  Here’s the bad news-there is no rubric yet!  That’s right!  They have no idea how they are going to grade these.  I would suggest looking at Utah-click here-because we bought $5million dollars worth of their test data bank!  Anyways, back to Common Core and the writing tests that goes with them.  Here is what I noticed when I checked each one-Smart Balance, PARCC, and AIR (FL consortium).  They ALL have 3 reading parts to them.  Now this can vary.  What this means is that it can be two readings and a video or three straight out reading pieces.  This means that you can have informational pieces or narrative pieces that kids have to read.  They ALL require kids to take notes.  While they are reading, they have to gather information.  From what I’ve seen, this is done in the computer-based activity.  Read and type at the same time. (Holy Cow right!)  They ALL have write for information or opinion writing.  Notice there wasn’t any narrative.  I haven’t seen a testing sample of a narrative prompt yet.  This, I believe, is expected to be mastered and perfected before 4th grade (GULP for me!) and they want the students from 4th grade and up to be growing and mastering opinion and informational writing.  When we look at what is expected in the higher grades, this makes sense.   But, again, WOW!  They ALL are timed, yet not!  That seems weird, I know, but that’s what I’ve discovered.  The time expected on these seems to be around 70 minutes, but some say that kids can take more time than that.  This seems open ended.  (There is no indication on FL time amount yet.)  They ALL focus on content, organization, and grammar/spelling.  This is an all-encompassing assessment.  The rubrics I’ve looked at are heavier on the first two, but the convention piece is still a key component to the work! 

            So, where am I going with this?  Creating opportunities to practice this form of writing is key to generating successful writers!  And, how do we do that-by creating products that can help.  That’s the other part of my summer!  I’ve been busy writing in a different format, and I LOVE it!  I mean the writing is fun and informative to me as the writer.  Plus, I get to make them available to you as a buyer too!  Here is what I have currently available in my TPT store to help you out. 

Back-To-School Pretest:  This product is created to help you get a good handle on how the students perform in the area of writing to inform.  The reading is super easy-they range from a 2nd grade reading level to the beginning of 4th grade.  The idea is to see if they can take notes, synthesis the information, and create a writing piece-and it’s FREE!!! 

My Super Hero is Super:  This product is designed to practice the skills necessary to be successful in the area of opinion writing.  Plus, there is a fun craftivity to go with it!  They read a piece called What Makes a Hero, watch a video on the Hero’s Journey Myth, and hear a super hero story.  They are responsible for taking notes and then, here comes the fun part, make that super hero AND a comic to go with it!  They then write an opinion piece proving their super hero IS super!  (I will be doing a blog post to share the process with pics too!)

What is a Prairie?:  This product correlates to the Florida Standards Assessment and is a companion piece to A Land Remembered.  (If you don’t use this book to teach Florida History, you are missing out!)  Students need to understand the prairie that Tobias and Zec are traveling on.  This three-piece reading and writing activity will build background and allow for students to practice the important steps needed for the writing FSA in the spring! 

So, you can see, I’ve been busy!  I am working on two more right now-Interesting Animals-an opinion writing activity and Pioneer Women of Florida-a write to inform piece that goes with A Land Remembered as well.  Tons of ideas are floating around in my head, and I’d love to hear what you might need too!  So, leave a comment if you are interested in have a product created that might fit your, and other’s, needs!