Education is much like the seasons; Fall is the time to reap what has been learned to serve as a foundation for the learning to come. Winter is time for new information to be consolidated and stored in the brain. In spring, it’s time to cultivate and measure growth, and in summer it’s time to rest with less challenging tasks.
In education our fiscal year ends in spring. This is when the blooming of knowledge and concepts are practiced and measured. Testing provides a picture of each student’s knowledge for teachers, parents, students and the government to evaluate. The test results are used as a snap shot to develop and guide instruction. The state testing results determine district and grade level instruction for the year, while frequent mini assessments guide daily instruction. For example, if you know all your students can identify a proper noun through a mini assessment, then you know it’s time to move on to another skill or concept. Teachers are measuring their students’ blooms all year long with these mini assessments.
Preparing for blooming in education is never ending. When I first started administering state assessments I had my second graders practice test-taking skills and comprehending test-taking language. Now that my students take mini assessments all year, less time is spent on learning the ins and outs of test taking. More time can now be spent learning and applying content. From the mini assessments, I have a good idea of how each of my students will do and my school’s online data system gives a clear picture of what skills are blooming and what needs cultivating.
For the students who need more cultivating, I’ve set up several after-school programs to offer them extra assistance. Parents, this is something you can do with your child if cultivation is needed. Knowing the standards of a grade level is essential. Standards can be accessed online or through your school. I collaborate with my students to create their own data sheets with the standards that are challenging. We then create a plan and set weekly goals. Using incentives for motivation, such as time on the computer or a trip to the park, helps to keep children interested in learning when it is difficult. I also plan opportunities for strategic practice, as practice is one of the most important parts.
As the intervention teacher, my principal requested that I work with 2nd and 3rd grade students who were performing below proficiency level in Language Arts. In small groups, we make sure students are clear on the academic language and content. For example; The standard is to divide words into syllables. A student must recognize the word syllable and know how to apply the rules of syllabication. They would also work with partners and time each other reading as many words as they could read within the pre-determined amount of time.
On Fridays, my students had some fun with Mini Assessment and the Hot Seat. My partner pulls groups aside and administers the week’s Mini Assessment, while I begin the Hot Seat game. The game is very simple; two students sit in two chairs (this can be done with teams or individuals), the first student who correctly answers a question remains in the game and takes on a new challenger. The content of the questions is a review of the material that was covered during the previous weeks. Quick recall is something the brain needs to practice and the students quickly learn the value of quickly recalling learned material. I have played this game with students from Kindergarten through the upper grades. They all love it!
While I’m running the game my partner has given and reviewed the results of the Mini Assessments with each student. The students will use these results to create or revisit goals for the new week. The program lasted about 6 weeks right up to the state testing time. Strategic planning, small group instruction, student buy-in and vocabulary development are key components in planning test prep opportunities.
As a parent and teacher, I remind myself to be cognizant of students’ springtime blooming and utilize assessment tools to determine growth. Measuring growth in Spring creates opportunities for perseverance, goal setting and personal development that can last throughout the seasons. Giving students opportunities to take their buds of knowledge and, like the sun, warm them with opportunities for practice to assure their fullest bloom.