[Prepped]

My palms and feet are drenched. This wavy mop on my head is desperately in need of some tender love and care. Student anxiety is sky rocketing.  You know what time it is yet?

One week before state standardized testing.

Below are some articles I’ve come across in regards to the standardized testing debate. Regardless of my views of the culture of standardized testing and how to measure intelligence, my kids and I are preparing to endure two weeks of bubble sheets, schedule changes, and unwanted nerves.

http://www.chicagonow.com/chicago-public-fools/2014/02/its-almost-testing-season-in-chicago-opt-out-at-your-peril/

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/schools/testing/

http://www.fairtest.org/facts/whatwron.htm

http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/education-experts-debate-high-stakes-testing-public-schools-v20855554

http://blog.gradeable.com/2014/02/20/real-problem-high-stakes-testing/

Despite the added stress and pressure, my students and I have spent the month searching for inner peace to help calm those flustered butterflies in our bellies. I’m confident my students are prepared to kick some major butt, but I need my students to feel confident as well. We have integrated labs, discussion, literacy, and guided instruction into science class to maximize our instructional block. When your ELA standard deviation is in the double digits, how else can you meet everyone’s needs?

To help boost confidence and develop intrinsic motivation, my students have been earning ‘science whiz charms’ this month as they demonstrate mastery of a science standard. In other words, my 7th graders are earning a measly bead to add to their metal beaded chain. How primary, right? It is extremely amusing to me that my middle schoolers, both boy and girls, are sporting necklaces all day to showcase what science standards they have mastered using Study Island.

What’s Study Island? A standards based web tool used to review and practice academic content. During the school year, I pre-assess my students before a unit using the program. After completing the unit, my students will complete some kind of performance task in addition to a post test using the same SI program. Study Island provides standards based practice, lessons, video clips, interactive modules, and more. The data is organized instantly showing the time it took the students to complete the task, how many times the students took activity, the questions answered incorrectly, and student/class/school performance graphs.

Students earn whiz charms by completing 10 practice questions with 85% mastery or higher. After every 4 charms, students can earn a ‘super whiz charm’ to honor their achievement. When can students earn a charm? After the mini-lesson (I-do), cooperative practice (We-do), and independent practice (You-do), students have the option to access SI at their own pace to brush up on content we have studied this year and last year since students are tested on the 6th grade science curriculum too. Students track their scores on a tracker and collect their charms in between guided groups.

My Science Standard Tracker

Students log their progress here.

Students log their progress here.

I’m cracking up right thinking about the quasi-tantrum someone had because they forgot their necklace at home, but earned two charms on Friday. The classroom policy states the chain must be present to receive your charm.

Here is what our whiz chains look like…[Yes, we are calling them chains, not a necklace. They are middle schoolers, geeze!] The ‘super whiz’ charms are super awesome! They include fun animal shapes such as turtles, lobsters, tropical fish, bees, and more.

Who wouldn't want to rock this on their neck?

Who wouldn’t want to rock this on their neck?

What you need to make Whiz Chains:

I’m sure you could totally buy cheaper beads from the craft store, but I really needed to make sure student buy in was there for my pre-teens to actually wear them. The extra $$ was totally worth it. Underclassman keep asking my students how they can get a charm or chain and the common reply is, “You gotta be a whiz!”

Someone also said, “This charm is for 12 E, earth processes.”

She knew the standard so well she could plug them into all my lesson plans…

My students’ nerves have been calmed because we are all science whizzes for crying out loud!

Happy Testing,

Ms. G

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