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standardized testing
Before we begin, I want to address the issue of standardized testing.  It is getting a pretty bad rap in the media and among teachers--and for good reason.  We test more than ever.  We spend more time PRACTICING to test than ever.  The stakes are higher than ever.  And this saddens me...because standardized testing DOES have a purpose when done in a reasonable way.  The simple truth is, we DO need a way to monitor our schools and our programs.  If my district finds that its elementary scores in fractions are dropping--we need to look at why.  If we notice trends in our special populations--we need to look at why.
teaching estimation lessons
So...as you may know, using math concept sorts is one of my absolute favorite strategies to get students thinking and talking about math.  I often used them sporadically in my units....sometimes as a "kick off" to see what they know...sometimes in the middle...sometimes as a review.

Today I thought I'd use one of my sorts that we didn't get to earlier as a great test prep review of multiplication and estimation.  I thought, "This will be an easy one...a good 25 minute warm up."

Chances are, if you teach third through fifth grades, the term "line plots" has become a part of your vocabulary.  If you give standardized tests, you've probably realized that test makers love them!  Unfortunately, many textbooks and other resources really don't seem to provide many rich and meaningful experiences with line plots.  Most activities are simple "create the plot" activities or are sets of questions that ask very basic information about the plots.  I wanted to find a way to make line plots more meaningful to my students, so I started by thinking of the following questions:
teaching narrative writing
We are digging into a fun narrative writing unit to complement our historical fiction unit.  I know many of you write personal narratives...many write realistic fiction...mysteries--you name it.  One of our fun writing projects is to take a scene from one of their historical fiction book club books and rewriting it through the eyes of a different character.  It's so much fun to talk about point of view and how we can take a very "known" event and make it our own.
math process standards
When you have students that struggle, they spend an awful lot of time feeling frustration with the lessons and other activities we do.  They often "check out"--and the cycle continues.

One thing I have started to do about this time of year is to go back to some of the activities earlier in the year that I know some of my less able students really struggled with--and weren't even willing to try doing and pull them out again--sometimes with a new twist, but always with a "You know...this fall, I know this was tricky for you, but I have seen how much you've grown and I know you're ready for it now!" type of comment.
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