February 2, 2016

NWEA Testing in the Primary Grades

Hi Friends!
Guess what?!
I'm going to be a little controversial today.
I'm going to talk about...TESTING 
(DUN, DUN, DUUUUN!!!)
I know, I know, it can be a super-scary word. There's so much talk about how we're testing students too much, (and I completely agree with this) BUT, we never talk about the positive components of testing (yes, there are some). 
This is because the focus is always on the BIG standardized tests that do absolutely NOTHING to inform our instruction. Today, I want to share about an assessment that does exactly what it should. It measures student progress and informs instruction to meet the needs of our learners.

Have you heard of the NWEA MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) assessment?



 For those of you who are not familiar with MAP, it's an online assessment that adapts to each child's learning level.  Throughout the assessment, when a child answers a question correctly, the questions get harder. As a child answers a question incorrectly, the questions get easier. The assessment adapts like this for every question. The result is that every child will have answered about 50% of the questions correctly and 50% incorrectly. Teachers will have data that shows where students are and what they are ready to learn within 24 hours of taking the test.

Now I know some of you are already thinking, this girl is crazy, kindergarteners can't take tests. They can't sit for more than 5 minutes. They don't even know how to use computers. They can't, they can't, they can't!!! 

Actually, they can
In fact, my little friends are quite remarkable and they are capable of anything, given the right supports




My goal is to share my experience with MAP in my kindergarten classroom, and encourage you to take a look at "testing" through a different perspective. I encourage you to focus on testing's purest intentions, which are to better understand our learner's needs and to inform instruction. 


 I piloted MAP with my kindergarteners during the 2012-2013 school year. At that point, I knew nothing about MAP. My principal told me that I was going to pilot it because he wanted to prove that, "if kindergarteners can do it, anyone can do it". The first year, we only gave the assessment two times (Winter and Spring). I was blown away with the amount of support that my district provided to pilot the assessment (wow this test must be a big deal, I thought!). I had at least 5 adults from different departments within the district to help me administer the test. Administering the test was cake. It was keeping up with the 25 little hands that was a bit more of a challenge. Thankfully, with 5 other adults, we were able to help our little friends adjust the volume, use the mouse pad, and re-login after they exited out of the test.
All in all, the testing itself was a success.

And so we tested...
which seemed like it should have been the hard part.

After the first test I had all this data, but I didn't really know how to look at it or how to use it.
I learned that in order to understand it, I literally had to just dive in (and yes, this task takes a considerable amount of time). 

There were all of these reports that seemed to have such valuable information but it was overwhelming to look at. As I  dabbled with the data, I learned to narrow my focus. This became key to my success in looking at the MAP data. 

The following school year,
I knew exactly what to expect when giving the test.  I also knew that I wasn't going to have the same supports that I had when I first piloted the assessment. I was able to prep my students by modeling and practicing how to use the Chromebooks and also by talking about what to do if they click out of the test, or can't hear the directions. The answer was to ALWAYS raise your hand and be patient! The Fall test is always a bit overwhelming with kindergarteners BUT they have to start somewhere and I truly believe the data is too good to pass up. 

 I also had a better idea of how I could utilize the MAP reports in planning differentiated instruction.  I am a big believer in small group instruction. I believe that our students are able to thrive much more in a small group setting where they receive  targeted instruction on skills at their level.  Once I figured out how to read the data, I couldn't get enough! I mean seriously, it is all laid out there for you. It tells you skills/standards to teach your kids AND it groups them for you! Planning for instruction has become easier (notice that I did not say "less time consuming") for me because MAP takes the guess work out.
I know exactly what my kids need. 

My goal is to share a short series of blog posts that highlight the successes and challenges I've experienced with the MAP test in my kindergarten classroom.



 I hope to share some ideas and tools to help you implement the MAP test with ease, use the data to better meet the needs of your students, and understand how to include the students in goal setting and meaningful conversations about their learning. 
I look forward to sharing my experiences with you! 
 If you have specific questions, please leave a comment and I'll try to include it in one of my upcoming posts! 
Have a fabulous week!! 


February 1, 2016

Winter Resources E-Book!

Hi Friends! 
It's hard to believe that it's the beginning of February already! The month tends to pass by quickly because it's the shortest month of the year, but also because it's full of Parent-Teacher Conferences, Valentine's Day and President's Day festivities. Since it is such a busy time, I've teamed up with some fabulous bloggers to share a FREE book of winter resources! 




Today I am going to share about how I introduce one of my favorite Social Studies units in my classroom...  American Symbols!  

Introducing Symbols
Chances are that for many of your students, this  will be their first introduction to symbols. Most students have probably seen them before but few understand the term. 
I like to start the unit by finding out what my students already know about symbols. 
They usually know very little, so I begin by explaining that a symbol is something that stands for something else. 
Of course, just saying those words is not enough. Students need to see symbols from their environment to understand the connection. 
I created this simple little powerpoint that I open up on my Smartboard. It helps to guide our discussion. You can grab the powerpoint by clicking on the image below. 


Once we understand a little bit more about symbols we go on a Symbol Hunt! 
Each of my students grab a recording sheet, a clipboard and a pencil and we line up.  We head out into the halls of the school to look for symbols within our building. The students draw pictures of the symbols they find on our hunt. 




U.S. Symbols
Once my students have a grasp of what a symbol is, we move on to exploring U.S. Symbols. 
We LOVE watching the symbols video from BrainPOP Jr. I am lucky enough that my school has a subscription to this website, so we are able to enjoy all of their videos. However, if you do not have a subscription, the U.S. Symbols video is available for FREE! Click on the image below to take you to the video! And then make sure you ask your principal to buy it for you! :) 


Over the next few weeks, we spend time learning about each of the U.S. Symbols. We like to use Google Maps to locate the monuments on the Smartboard. This allows my students to experience it without actually being there. My kids go crazy for this! You can zoom in and see what it would be like if your were standing next to the monuments. 

The White House also has a interactive tool on their website that allows you to "go inside" the Whitehouse. You are able to move from room to room. It's always fun to do this with the kids because they think it is the fanciest place on earth! 



I hope that you found something that will be helpful in teaching American Symbols with your kids! Don't forget to pick up your e-book and enter the $100 TPT giveaway below! 

You will need to keep track of my word "flannel".

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Don't forget to grab your resource book below!! :) 




Have a great week!!