The lessons housed within this unit all provide practice on specific skills or strategies. Some lessons were written to see what students remember and/or can do at the beginning of the year. Others were used to re-teach groups of students who hadn’t quite mastered the chosen skill when it was first introduced. Still others were designed to give students meaningful practice while I conducted required testing.
All lessons used texts that were familiar or easily decodable so that students’ energies were spent on skill practice rather than trying to just make sense of the text itself. Many lessons include reproducibles that were made with graphics from Kevin and Amanda’s Fonts, Teaching in a Small Town, and Melonheadz Illustrating.
Every four and a half weeks, students take a short cycle assessment (SCA). It is designed to test them on all that they’ve learned throughout the month and is written in a format similar to our end of the year state test. The assessment gives students practice for the big test while providing valuable data for the teachers.
Typically we spend a day or two reviewing before taking a SCA. I'll find an example test that resembles concepts covered during our unit and make a review sheet for a homework or in class assignment. However, our last test did not go well at all and I wanted to make a drastic change in how we reviewed for our next assessment. Looking over the data, it was evident that students weren’t answering what the questions were asking. If a question had more than one part, they would answer the first and move on without completing the rest. They would rely on their memory of the story rather than going back to find textual evidence for their answers. This was incredibly frustrating because we’ve spent weeks – months – practicing this skill in class and on homework assignments. Students simply weren’t applying the strategies they learned in class to their assessments.
So – I created an activity that would force students to break apart each question, attend to what was being asked, and go back in the text to find proof for their thinking before answering questions.
The review packet was divided into three parts and lasted as many days in my classroom. Students worked with the same partner each day to complete their work. To begin each day, they had to read the selection together. They could choose how to do this – by paragraph, by page, etc. – but both partners were responsible for reading the text. Then, they worked their way through that day’s guided questions.
I designed the packet so that it was completely self-explanatory. Students could complete it independently without any assistance from me. While they worked, I walked the room listening to conversations and making notes of any concepts that required a last minute review on my part.