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It's that time of year...

It's much anticipated, highly prepared for, and it's here: test taking season! All over the country kids are starting to take their yearly high stakes tests. My fifth graders are no exception- they just took their Reading Comprehension test last week. Of course, we've been working hard on our reading skills all year long, but I was still worried about how my kids would perform. I've noticed that they have had difficulty answering the questions given to them on practice tests because they just don't understand the question. I decided to do a week long mini unit on testing, and consider it to be a "genre" in order to help them understand the specific vocabulary. I called it "Testing as a Genre: Understanding the Language of Testing."

It makes sense if you think of it. The kids are being asked to use some very specific skills in isolation. It's not every day you are asked to bubble in a circle to answer a specific reading comprehension question! Not only that, but often times the questions we ask in guided reading are different than the ones you may encounter on the test. To start my mini-unit, I visited one of my favorite teaching tool websites: Flocabulary

Have you heard of this company? They create hip-hop songs (and accompanying music videos) for kids. They are educationally rich, and the songs are actually really catchy! My kids LOVE them. Lucky for me, they have a Test-Taking Vocabulary rap.

This particular rap is about a kid who has been charged with vandalism, and his lawyer defending him. During the song, they give the word that you  need to understand, define it, and then give an example. For instance:
You accuse my client of stealing your car,
Please describe everything you saw.
Get specific with the details, don't be vague,
"I saw Rod in my yard right around 8."
And how did you identify or recognize Rod?
Explain or tell me why, 'cause that seems odd.
"Yeah, I could see his shirt, and I could see his hat,"
What color was his hat? "I think it was black."
So you took an educated guess, inferred
That Rod was the person you observed?

The test taking terms are also clickable links, which give you the definition and another example.

If this weren't enough, it also comes with printable lyrics, a fill in the blank lyric sheet, and an activity for students to do in which they use all the vocabulary words (for example, "Look at the person sitting next to you. Describe their outfit." 

My kids LOVED the flocab video and work! Usually, you have to pay to access their content, but the test taking vocabulary video and activities are free. It's a great way to try out their service and see if it's a fit with your kids. It definitely worked for me!

After this, we played a game made by one of my favorite bloggers- Mandy Neal from Teaching with Simplicity. Her Test Prep Vocabulary kit is fantastic AND it is free on TpT! It includes an "I Have, Who Has" game and question/answer flashcards. 

After we played the "I Have, Who Has" game, I had about 30 minutes left until recess. Like the rest of the country, we have had a LONG winter, and my kids have been pretty antsy. They were having a hard time holding down the chatter, so I decided to use the question/answer card set in a more interactive way. I randomly gave every student one question card and one answer card, and then made a "contest" to see who could find the people who had their matching cards the fastest. They were a little loud, no doubt, but they were engaged and on task. I was so impressed as I heard two students talking about the differences between describing and analyzing! 

Overall, I think they prepared well and had a good time. We all know test taking can be pretty monotonous, but these activities really help to make preparing more engaging for kids. So, I've got to know- what works for you?

Quick post

What a tough week. My little darlings have been off the walls! I think they are just as sick of winter as the rest of us. I hung this in my classroom tonight to inspire a writing prompt tomorrow morning.

Did you miss the flash freebie the other day? Follow me on Facebook so you don't miss the next one!

Five for Friday

What a crazy few weeks! Is anyone else over this cold and snowy winter weather? I know I live in in a region that generally has pretty harsh winters, but I feel like this one took the cake. It's been brutally cold and exceptionally snowy. Ugh! The weatherman keeps saying that spring is coming, but I'll believe it when I see it this year!

I'm linking up with doodle bugs for Five for Friday!

1. My little one is getting big! I am 29 weeks, but measuring pretty far ahead- at all my doctor's appointments. So much so that I have to go for an ultrasound next week to check out just how big he is getting! Meanwhile, I'm patiently counting the days until I get to meet him (and wear non-maternity clothes!).

2. The tile is up in our bathroom! This picture is before it was grouted, but I am loving it. It's looking like our never-ending renovation will be (mostly) done by the end of the month. We can't wait to move in! Beyond that, we can't wait to get our normal lives back. :)

3. I saw this on the way to breakfast with a friend last Sunday. I couldn't stop laughing! The best part is hat it's on an old, beat up minivan. Hank's just keeping it real, people. 

4. My cat's new favorite place to sleep is under the covers, wrapped in my body pillow. What a strange place for a kitty to snuggle! I don't mind, though, it keeps the bed nice and warm for when I finally climb in at the end of the day. 

5. Watch for a freebie tomorrow... I've been working on a post outlining a fantastic ELA project!

Happy Pi Day! Hope you enjoyed a nice slice of pie to celebrate pi. :)

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