Ok, I know that we’re all not wanting to think those dreaded three words “Back to School”, let alone start thinking about the even more dreaded standardized tests that will occur in the Spring. I unfortunately had that philosophy too a few years ago – but then it hit me. Why do we, or I, feel like once January hits that it’s time to ‘prepare’ the students for these tests – why don’t we start doing that on day one? I mean, yes, I know everything I’m doing/teaching is going to help them. But I wanted to do something to really prepare them on a deeper level.
So that got me thinking…
When it comes to ‘the test’ – what do my students struggle with the most? After talking it through with a few colleagues I finally figured it out!! Picture this.. Walking around looking at the test for the first time as the kids are taking it. You’re reading the questions and thinking to yourself – Yes!!! They KNOW this!! But then you read their answers as you’re walking and you can’t believe what you’re reading – what’s going on!? I KNOW I taught this over and over again – why aren’t they getting it!? Then you reread the question… and BAM! There is it – its not what the question was asking – its HOW they worded the question. They used some large verb and wording that the kids aren’t used to seeing or reading. Could they answer it with the knowledge you’ve given them? Absolutely!! Are they just confused because of how they asked it? Absolutely!!
So – here’s what I thought. All of those big words and verbs and wordage that we see on these tests that CONFUSE our kids.. let’s teach it to them. I know – you’re probably thinking DUH!? But – when it comes to trying to prepare them for the test with everything else we have/need to teach them AND then throw this on top, it gets overwhelming! I needed something that will help my kids conquer these words slowly but surely.
So I came up with a program called Vocabulary Voyage. Let’s just say – I LOVE IT!! What it does, is basically teach the students these important and strong words that are commonly used when testing. It teaches them, not just what the words mean, but also what a question that has that word in it, means! What is that question asking!? I used it all last year and it. was.. amazing! My kids ROCKED the tests at the end of the year. I had 100% pass our state standardized test. No joke!
So here’s the break down in photos:
I have over 90 words in the program and we learn 1 word a day. BUT we repeat those words the next week too. So in 2 weeks we’ve learned 5 words. Slow and steady wins the race! All of the words are on cards like so…
And then put on rings… like so…
Then outside my door I have a poster put up and two hooks so the words can hang outside my door. Each day, the ‘word of the day’ is shown. Every time the kids enter the room they have to touch and say the word. This gets them familiar with seeing and reading the words.
It ends up looking like this…
So that’s part of it – we read and say the words. Easy peasy! Here’s what’s next.
Like I said – we learn 1 word a day but we repeat those words the next week. So Monday – Friday week 1 we’re learning the word, how to read it, identify it, and define it. All of the kids get this paper and each day we write the word and its definition. It literally takes 5 minutes. That’s it – just 5 minutes each day. This helps to build that word foundation which is what they’re essentially missing when it comes to not knowing how to answer those questions on the test.
But there’s more… On week 2 – we repeat the 5 words we learned last week. On the back of the above paper, would be copied this paper. So now that we’ve learned the definitions – we essentially need to practice being able to see that word in a question and answer it. So here’s what they do – Just like last week, we find 5 minutes in our day and get out the Vocab Voyage paper. On it is a question for each of the words we learned last week. These questions can be answered with any book and I let the kids answer it using any book they want – whether it be their independent reading book or the book we’re reading together. So again, we take 5 minutes – they write out their answer to the question (in their writing journal) and we discuss. What’s great about these discussions is that our answers sound ‘different’ because they’re using different books to answer them – however – we are able to find the pieces of the answers that are similar. And why are they similar? Because those are the components that the answer must have in order for it to be ‘right’ – that’s what the question is asking for!!!
So – I know this post is getting long, and I promise I’ll try to wrap it up soon – but can you tell I’m totally in LOVE with this program.
So the program has over 90 words, which if started at the beginning of the school year, will last you the entire year! So by the time testing comes around – your kids will have been exposed to and have practiced answering these questions and KNOWING what the question is asking!! The program has questions ready to go for each of the words as well. These words include a variety of reading and math terms, Blooms Verbs, etc. A great mixture for any testing grade! I wish I had picture of the kids using this or even better, a video of their discussions of what the question is asking and how to answer it – we even grade each other’s answers verbally if we have time. It only takes me about 5-10 minutes a day so I don’t even have to try to squeeze it in.
Click HERE to download the first week for free! (download the preview)
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