Monday, April 27, 2015

Learning On The Horizon

This week my students will take the last portion of the state test, we will take math on Tuesday and Wednesday.  I'm ready for all of this to be done and behind us.  My students are ready as well.  A few weeks ago one of my students came to me with her Oklahoma History book and said..."Mrs. Seitsinger did you forget we had this book".  How sad!!  My students are curious and crave knowledge and understanding of the world around them, but all I've been able to give them for the past month is Test Prep.  

Sadly my students don't spend much time learning science, social studies, or history in third grade. I'm at a low socioeconomic school and yes we are a low performing school as well.  Last year we brought our scores up...but I often wonder if the sacrifice is too great.  When my students come to me many are bellow grade level or struggling to stay afloat in third grade.  The first half of the year is spent catching them up so that they will be prepared for test prep...yes you heard right...we have to prepare for test prep.  Don't get me wrong real teaching is going students are active learners creating interactive notebooks, posters to present, writing long as the majority of what we do can tie back to the test we're okay. I do my best to squeeze in a little science and social studies, but it's difficult to make it truly meaningful when our main focus is on reading skills.  The first part of our afternoon is filled with math, and you guessed it, many of my students are behind in math as well.  My memories of third grade are filled with timed multiplication tests and practice, even my son who attends a more affluent school in the district has earned a banana spit party by memorizing all of his multiplication facts, but that's not third grade at my school.  Most of my students haven't mastered their basic addition facts, and many lack a true understating of number.  I start with the basics with the hopes that I can guide the students to a better understanding of math in time for math test prep and the test.

You may be thinking this is a disgrace. Teachers aren't supposed to teach to the test.  If so I absolutely wholeheartedly agree!!  I hate teaching to the test, I hate that the test dictates how I run my class...but that is the harsh reality of high stakes testing.  I do a pretty good job of keeping things stimulating and engaging for the first half of the year, but after Christmas...Test Mania begins. It starts a little at at time, and by mid February we are in full on Test Prep Mode.  It's hard to make test prep fun...I try by allowing students to work in groups or having them create Anchor Charts for specific topics...but even those activities grow tiresome after awhile.  

But alas, Real Learning Is On The Horizon!!  With the test behind us we will be able to break out the science books, we'll be able to read from our Oklahoma History books, and start a novel study.  We'll read Little House on the prairie, and make corn bread.  We'll go back to practicing hands on math, so that my students will have a better understanding of math and number.  We'll explore our world through learning!!  I find it sad that so much time is wasted on one test when meaningful learning could be taking place...but I will put those feeling behind me and push on to the glorious days ahead...of exploring and learning alongside my students!  No worksheets no test prep packets...just real hands on exploration and learning.

As I approach the horizon of real learning I must not be silent.  I know I must speak up for my students...we all need to speak up for positive change in education.  

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Research Around the Room (Using Resource/Reference Materials)

There is nothing quite so meaningful as hands on learning experience, and there are few things more valuable than learning to cooperate and learn as a group.  I offer hands on and group learning on a daily basis, but Friday is usually set aside as a day of  Rotations /Centers a full day of hands on interactive learning.

Who would have imagined that students would be so excited to learn about and practice using resource/reference materials? 

The following rotations were provided, and students recorded information from each rotation in their center journal. My instructions weren't anything too fancy.  I simply wrote tasks out and taped them to tables around the room.  Students enjoyed getting up and moving around at their own pace.

Dictionary (Guide Word Practice)


Table of Contents

(I must not have photoed of this one, but students were asked to identify where certain Chapters would be found and what chapters were about)


Students were also instructed to choose one topic and write a fact about it.


Students were given 2 topics and were instructed to find each in the encyclopedia and write 2 facts about each topic.


This was a student Atlas and included more information than some more traditional Atlases.  Students were instructed to find information about specific states. 



(Students use a teacher made search engine.  Follow this link to learn how...How to Create A Custom Google Search Engine

I love hands on experience and am always excited to hear how other teachers keep their students actively engaged in learning! How do keep students actively engaged with hands on learning?