Archives for March 2014

Test Prep Rewind: 2 Weeks of STAAR Writing Review

It’s done.  Our two weeks of test prep are over.  It went by so quickly that I hardly even remember it!  I took some pictures of my kiddos as they worked this week.

They thoroughly enjoyed the task cards I made.  And the best part of it was the conversations I heard as I walked around, listening in on what they had to say.  It’s always nice to hear them discussing the reasons why they choose their answer AND why the other answers are wrong.  To me, that speaks volumes to the amount that they actually know.  They were able to explain and justify all of their answers.  Here are some pics of them with their task cards this week.

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Any time I can use QR codes, I do it.  My kids LOVE using their iPads to check their work.  Even though they are doing the EXACT SAME THING as they do on a worksheet, they think it’s “so much fun!!!”  Silly kids!  😉

On Friday, I was limited to only about an hour and a half for each of my two groups (for math AND writing) due to interruptions in our schedule, so I had to change my plans.  We went ahead and drew our pictures of the STAAR graders.  One the left side of their pictures, they drew how they looked after reading countless boring, unorganized, repetitive, and unfocused papers–BEFORE they read their papers.  On the right side they drew how the STAAR grader looked after reading their AH-mazing papers!  They crack me up.

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You have to click on the pictures to make them bigger to REALLY see what they drew.  Some of them are hilarious!  😉  They had a great time, and our time together was full of smiles and laughs.  What a great way to end the week!

Tomorrow, we will do our gallery walk.  I’m going to print several of the writing samples that I have here on my blog for them to look at and discuss.  Before we do that, we will take a look at the narrative and expository STAAR writing rubrics and talk about what makes a 3 or 4 point paper.  Why waste time on the 1 and 2, right?  They will see that they are ALL capable of writing a 3 or 4 once our discussion is over.  I need them to KNOW that they can do it.  Confidence is key going into this test.  I don’t want nervous kids–I want kids that know that they can ROCK that test!

As an added bonus, I will have them write down which score they think the papers should receive.  I’m using papers that should probably score a 3 or 4.  No matter how much you look at the rubric, it’s all still subjective.  That’s why they have 2 graders look at them, and they may or may not agree with each other on the scores.  Funny how that works, huh?!

Here are some links to some papers I will be using tomorrow:

Narrative Writing Samples: A Positive Note Home, Please, Blog post with 3 narrative samples (open in Word).

Expository Writing Samples: Go Meet Your Teacher Night, Football, Summer, Dance Season, Winter, Fantastic Friends, Multi-Tool Knife

You are welcome to use these if you are going to do a gallery walk, but I would suggest using your own students’ writing to make it more personal.  However–I know how it is to have to look back through a bunch of papers to try to find some worth posting!  That’s one reason I’m glad I have a blog.  It helps me keep track of things like that and makes it so much easier to go back and print things.

If you don’t like those, I have several posts that link to both narrative and expository writing samples.  You can search for them at the top right side of your screen.

What are your plans (those of you who are from Texas) for the last day before THE test?  What else do I need to do?  Do you have a cute/creative way to pump them up?  I would LOVE to know!

If I don’t hear from you before Tuesday, GOOD LUCK!!  May the odds be ever in your favor!  😉


Your Opinion, Please!

Good afternoon! Apparently I just can’t stay away from blogging for long periods of time. I might have a blogging problem. 😉

I just wanted to drop in quickly to get some feedback from my followers. If you have time, I would like you to respond to a couple of questions.

1. What products do you wish you had to promote learning in your classroom–as in a downloadable product?

2. What could you use to help prepare your kiddos for their upcoming tests? Task cards? Quizzes? PowerPoint presentations? Worksheets? Daily skill review? Bell work? And what subject?

I’m done creating writing task cards–for now–and would like to create some products that would help you and/or your students in these upcoming weeks to help them need up their skills. Leave me a comment with your wishes, and if I can help you out, I’ll get you yours for free. 😉

How does that sound?


Last Minute Mixed Skills Review

Wow!  I’ve posted 9 sets of task cards to my TpT store over the past 2 weeks.  For those of you who don’t follow my store, I wanted to let you know that I have several sets that review both individual skills and mixed skills.  My latest set has 15 questions that go with an expository piece and cover MANY skills, such as doubling the final consonant, deleting the final e, silent letters, homophones, a/an, combining sentences, inserting sentences, concluding sentence, and commas. If you need some last minute test prep for tomorrow or Monday, these would be perfect–and it keeps the test prep FUN!  😉


You can get your set here.

I’ll may be MIA until it’s all over with, so if that’s the case, good luck to you and your students.  Know that all of your hard work will pay off in the end.  Your questions have helped me take a look at things that I might not have otherwise.  For that, THANK YOU!! I hope that I have, in some way, helped you in your endeavors with teaching writing this year.  I’m rooting for you!!

Until next time…


It Will Be OK: The Final Days of Writing Test Prep

I don’t know about you, but these last few days have absolutely FLOWN by! My days are slipping away incredibly fast. Is there a way to just stop the clock…even for just a little bit? If only…

So…I just wanted to drop in to say…it will be ok! Breathe. Relax. It will be ok.

I know we are all cramming as much as we can into little minds that are probably overwhelmed already. Our little minions are required to know SO much…maybe even more than we think they should be held accountable for, but that’s life, right?

For this reason, I have decided to slow it down a little. Last week, my kiddos were getting frustrated that they weren’t able to actually finish a piece of writing until Friday, so this week I chose to give them only 2 prompts for the week, rather than 4. I want to be sure that they can get from plan to final copy without getting “writing hiccups.”

Do your kids ever pull new tricks out of their hats right before the test that make you cringe? Oh, say…start writing half a page or forgetting their purpose for writing? Yeah…mine, too. I just want to pull my hair out when that happens, but I also know that they are just getting nervous and that…it will be ok.

I’m planning to do a gallery walk on Friday. I’m going to post well-written papers, both narrative and expository, around the room for students to read and write down their noticings. I think this will be a great wrap-up from the week. Instead of cramming even more, I’ll ease up a bit and do lots of discussing.

Our principal has been a great supporter of our efforts in writing, too. Each morning this week, I have chosen one student to read an awesome paper during announcements for the whole school to hear. The students are ecstatic to be chosen, and it shows the rest of the campus how hard we have been working. It’s a win-win!

On Monday, I’m going to give the students their very first piece of writing to look at. This is always fun. It shows them how incredibly far they have come this year. Kids don’t always realize how much they learn, so this visual really hits home with them. In fact, some of them even tell me that “it’s not [their] paper.” When I show them their name at the top, it’s indisputable. Some of them are embarrassed. Others are in awe of what their writing looks like now. Whatever the case, it’s so fun to watch. 😉

We will end our time (after a little review) with drawing pictures. Pictures, you say? Yes, pictures. I have the students draw a line down the middle of a piece of white paper. On one side, we will draw a picture of the test grader BEFORE he/she grades our paper. The other side will be their face AFTER he/she reads our paper. The “before” side is always funny–steam coming out of the ears, eyes rolling in the back of the head, foaming at the mouth–you name it. The “after” side is always a face with a huge smile.

How will you end the last couple of days? Are your kids tired? Are YOU tired? Just remember…IT WILL BE OK!!


Revising Test Prep

Another short post.  Can you tell I’m tired?  I’ve been busy again today creating new task cards to accompany my 2 week lesson plans I posted last week.

No time for pics today.  Just wanted to drop in to let you know that I have 2 new sets of task cards with QR codes in my store.  Many of you have been wanting these, so here they are!   Just click on the links below to grab a set…or two.  :)

Combining Sentences Task Cards

Topic, Concluding, and Supporting Detail Sentences Task Cards

I hope you and your students enjoy these as much as we do!  My kiddos are eating up these task cards!  They are actually ENJOYING test prep!  Can I get a hallelujah?  😉


More Task Cards!

I just posted a new set of task cards to my TpT store that go along with the Crunch Time Lesson Plans.  Apparently I can’t even follow my own plans…I did Thursday’s lesson today, so tomorrow we will be doing Wednesday’s lesson.  Can we say overworked?  :)

Grammar Task Cards with QR Codes Change y to iThese cards (with QR codes, of course!) practice a spelling rule: Change “y” to “i” and add -es, -ly, and -est.  There are also some answer choices that review the rules from earlier in the week, even though they are not the focus of the question.

Thanks to all of you who have already purchased sets this week.  I’ve been working hard on them, and I appreciate your purchases!  :)