Backward Map Review – A Great Way to do Test Prep

If you want your kids to feel comfortable with all the material, you need to get them familiar with it now. Using the past test to go over and review with the kids is like gold.

With about 20 days left to the California Standards Test (CST), it is challenging how to spend your teaching tie. Of course, the free mind of a teacher can analyze similar tests and divine what to reteach. This is only a little useful. The best way to do test prep is to analyze the data of your assessments and then “backward map” reteaching the questions that 50% or less missed. This is when an item analysis report comes in handy.

I have my data and it’s magneted up on my white board. Every day for the past week and now into the next days before the standards test I have been teaching test prep and reteaching the concepts where it appears only less than 50% understood. When direct lessons are happening it feels like the best way to teach. Of course you can’s always teach this way. You need to apply yourself to solid, direct instruction and doing backward mapping will help your teaching be more relevant and of more value on the CST. If you want your kids to feel comfortable with all the material, you need to get them familiar with it now. Using the past test to go over and review with the kids is like gold. (It works!)

A Snapshot of How I Make Lesson Plans

Every weekend, after the laundry and wrestling with the chores, I am faced once again with the same professional challenge: making a weekly lesson plan schedule. The obvious reason for this is to have a backbone for the activities and learning that go on in my classroom all week. The other reason is to ensure to myself and others that I am not just “winging it” without a plan. Good teachers make weekly plans. I have been at this for 16+ years and I won’t say I am a “good teacher” I will let others say that if they wish. I have found that making weekly plans yields smiles and growth returns from my students. Finding the weaknesses of my students’ scores as well as the way I have taught up to this point is the goal of my weekend planning time. Here’s a very broad presentation of how I sometimes do it.

NOTE: In this field, while I seek only to help teachers from a peer-to-peer perspective, there are an abundance of snooty types who seek to criticize and devour ideas different from their own. I would like it known that this is a very personal sharing post and is certainly not meant to be perfect nor the “only” way one can prepare for a powerful week of teaching. For you to get something out of it, you may have to do a bit of “reading between the lines.” having said that, I would not be as excited to share this with you were I not extremely excited about what I do and they way I do it in this particular situation. Thank you for having an open mind as you continue. Incidentally, why are so many teachers the “snooty” type? Hmmm. I’ll let you address that in the comments. Now for: “How to Make a Weekly Lesson Plan Schedule.”

I Start with a rolling cart. I put a minimum of books and TE’s I need into the rolling cart so I have the access I need at home on the weekend. You may not be sure what to bring. In that case, let me give you my choices as an example: a math TE, the district pacing guide, ELA curriculum (Mine is a PDF so is always at home with me), a Google Calendar printout from the week below (read about how I make the Google calendar printouts here), the state standards blueprint, the state standards released test questions, and finally a printout of my students’ most recent assessment scores. (Photos are not the most recent Common Core standards that I use in accordance with district standards.)

I start with their assessment scores. 1) I identify the lowest standards and write them daily into the lessons. This is often called “backward mapping,” whatever they tested low in, teach again. 2) Then I find matching curriculum and write that into the Google Calendar lesson plan. The former is pretty simply since I have access to Oars.net. This is a great online program that aggregates assessment data for teachers. I can see in an instant what standards are high and need only be spiraled and I can also see the low stuff needing intervention. The way I go through my day teaching these lessons in in almost constant evolution. Having said that, watch for a post in the next week or two where I will share how the weekly lesson plan looks in a given teaching day. What do you think about my art of planning a teaching week? Have you anything to add? That would be great. I comment and link back!

Teacher Tips for Relieving Anxiety

Teachers sometimes experience high levels of stress. Of course, all professionals do to some degree. Usually it doesn’t last long but when it does, it should be addressed. It can be a small deal or something that prevents you from relaxing at work or at home. Everyone has some measure of anxiety. When you are anxious, it is difficult to relax and when you can’t relax it can produce ill side effects. Mental health treatment centers are best avoided since you have to be at work each morning teaching your students! I am a big proponent of “mental hygiene” to keep one mellow.  For me that includes a fairly regular habit of relaxation. I try to get in 10-20 minutes a day in addition to exercise. Here are some healthy tips my doctor gave me for coping with everyday anxiety. If you are not able to relax, talk to your doctor:

Control your worry. Make a time to worry each day for 30 minutes. Try not to dwell on what “might” happen but rather focus on what is happening. Then let go of the worry and go on with your day.

Learn ways to relax. These may include yoga or deep breathing.

Use muscle relaxation.

Exercise.

Get plenty of sleep.

Avoid alcohol and drug abuse.

Limit caffeine to 1-2 cups of coffee a day.

Steps to deep breathing: 1) Lie down on a flat surface. 2) Place one hand on your stomach, just above your navel. Place the other hand on your chest. 3) Breathe in slowly and try to make your stomach rise a little.

Meditation and relaxation has medical healing benefits just like exercise. These are some tips for coping with anxiety.

dynamitelessonplan Blog Back Online!

12506845744_0120be8609My blog is officially moved in at a new more powerful host! Thank you for all the help Bluehost! A new post is scheduled for tomorrow. Thanks for hanging in there and being patient through the migration dust! The foundation is more secure than ever! See you all tomorrow with my first teaching post in a long time. I am looking forward to it. I have learned a lot lately.

Seriously Considering Growing a Beard as Motivation for the Standards Test

20130316-124049.jpgCall me the David Blaine of education. I’m thinking of growing a beard to get my students excited about the Standards test. We are in the midst of pretty rigorous test prep and Perhaps my facial hair endurance test will get them on board.

In the past I have written a song as motivation, done a countdown every morning, and other things. I’m usually self conscious about beards and growing my male-pattern-baldness hair out. All the more reason for them to realize the importance of the test and of paying attention. What do think? Good motivator?

Parent Conferences Tip – Listen to Parents About Their Child

Here are a few ways to encourage parents to talk about their child. Once they start talking, be sure and take note and/or just listen.


Every year about Thanksgiving time, the parent conference occurs. I’ve been scheduling and hosting them for 14 years. These can be fluid and helpful to both parent and teacher but without this tip, they can be useless. You can offer positive parenting tips You may think you know the student very well because you have seen them every day in class since August.

Face the reality however that the parent knows them much better than you. In most cases, they were there with the child at birth. If you have kids of your own, you know the significance of the parent/child relationship. Even if you don’t have kids you can recall your relationship with your own parents. Should a teacher assume to know as much about one of their 25-35 students? I say no. It can be tempting to want to give educational tips for parents but remember a balance. Continue reading “Parent Conferences Tip – Listen to Parents About Their Child”

Avoiding Procrustes’ Bed

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If you haven’t heard the myth of Procrustes and his bed, it’s the story of a man who invited weary travelers to lay in his guest bed. Once in, if they were too tall he lopped off their feet and if too short, he’d stretch them to fit. Horrifying I know and yet aren’t we as educators often guilty of trying to get our students to “fit” the curriculum? Continue reading “Avoiding Procrustes’ Bed”

Free Online Learning Sites: Any Suggestions?

Give us your online learning site suggestions! Here are a few you may or may not heard of. The idea of this post is to start a collection of urls in the comments.

You know there was a time when the comment section on a blog or forum was where you got the really good stuff online. That’s fading with social media. I say let’s bring it back a little with this post. Here are a couple I found the other day searching.

Scholastic
Discovery Education

Here’s another interesting list though all are not K12 learning sites. Some are though:

Beat The System With This List Of 40 Free Educational Websites

I’ve noticed Prodigy is a good one but my kids have told me you need to pay for it. I have Lexia, Compass Math, and Renaissance Learning in class usage now but they are on paid licences. Ixl used to be a great one but now it’s a paid service. How about it, can you share with the community here what you know about? Thanks in advance for your time!

50 Days to the Test – and how to prepare

20130203-085422.jpgThe countdown to the California Standards Test sits at 50 teaching days. At this point, there are strategic things I do for test prep. The day remains mostly as it has been all year but focal points and activities turn to lowering the affective filter and familiarizing the kids with the test platform.

The focal point of my teaching at this point is based on data. I review their tests to see what standard they have done well on. Obviously I don’t focus on those standards as much at this point. I list the challenging standards and those become my focal points for teaching in this final stretch. It’s that “Aim at something and you might miss but …”

Another important part of this last section of the year is to do daily test prep and weekly testing that looks and tests like the standards test. I’ve shared here many times about the “briar patch” test philosophy. In the Southern fable, the fox escaped through the briar patch because he knew his way around in there. He was familiar with it from birth. In the same way I aim to lower stress and anxiety for my students but recurrent exposure to the testing “theater” or scenario.

I know those may sound like common solutions but I think they are fundamental.