Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Help Me Obi-Wan!

So, I saw a bumper sticker on Monday morning that cracked me up.  Take a look

Haha! Vote for Obi-Wan Kenobi “Our Only Hope”.

And then I went to work. And through conversations and emails with teachers, administrators, coaches, and district staff, I heard a lot of anxiety about the upcoming middle school midterm exams and the high school semester exams.

  • What is on the exam?
  • What should my kids study?
  • How can I prep my students?
  • How should I make a study guide?
  • Are we ready?

With Obi-Wan Kenobi as my only hope in my mind, I thought about what might be OUR hope as we prepare for high stakes tests coming to so many of us next month.

(Help me, Obi Wan Kenobi. You’re my only hope!)

I don’t think we have an ONLY hope. Not just one Obi-Wan. I think that we have several tools and Obi-Wans that should give us hope. What are they and how can I use them? Let’s look.

  1. If we have followed our curriculum guides, the force will be with them.  
Our curriculum guides were written by PCSB teachers with benchmarks and test blueprints in hand. They weren’t decided by “those people” at the district or state..
2.            If we have stayed on pace, the force will be with them.

            Again, our pacing guides were written by PCSB teachers with curriculum guides and benchmarks and test blueprints in front of them. They were crafted by regular teachers at PCSB schools who were trying to teach all the benchmarks in the best time frame. Standards and benchmarks are dictated by the state DOE. Our colleagues did a great job putting those benchmarks into the most do-able calendar they could.
3.            If we have spent time in our blueprints, the force will be with them.
            Our blueprints tell us what is on the test. If you have spent time digging into that, you know what’s on the test. You know which benchmarks are assessed, how many questions are on each benchmark, and how many questions per benchmark are at each level of complexity.
4.            If we have broken down our benchmarks, dug into what each is really asking for and taught the benchmark instead of the topic, the force will be with them.
Our kids are assessed on their benchmarks, not their broad topical content knowledge. So, they need to understand the benchmark, not everything about the topic. They need to (SS.912.A.4.1)Analyze the major factors that drove United States imperialism, but they don’t need to know the minor factors or the details behind those factors.  

Can you exhale a little yet? If you have been doing all the things that Linda and Matt and your department head have been telling you, your kids (in general) should be ok. The force will be with them.

For those of you who are still nervous and feel the need to take additional action, we still have time to use the force...

Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi! You’re my only hope! I have two suggestions to help you better get the force to be with your kids.  

  1. Stimuli
Give your kids more and more practice analyzing and interpreting stimuli. In your 

assessments, the term “stimulus” will refer to maps, charts, graphs, document excerpts, images, political cartoons, quotes, or graphics. Most of the assessments for required SS classes are modeled after the state EOCs which ask for roughly 70% stimulus-based questions. So, throw some stimuli up on the screen or board for bellwork or exit slips.  Slip more stimuli into reading assignments and class activities. Use more stimulus-based questions on your classroom tests, quizzes, and formative assessments. The more comfortable and familiar and skilled your students are in dealing with stimuli, the better they’ll handle the tests.
  1. Higher order questions. So, the questions on the test are one of three levels of complexity.
Level one is recall level.
Level two is moderately complex (two-steps of thinking).
Level three is high complexity (multi-steps of thinking).
Our state EOCs and many of our district-developed EOCS are written at a 20-60-20 ratio. Meaning, 20% are level one questions, 60% are level two questions, and 20% are level three questions. Your Civics and HS US teachers should be able to rock this. The rest of us aren’t quite as confident in our figuring out which questions are which level.

It would be nice if we had practice questions, like a question bank we could use, huh?

So here’s the last battle you can do. You can come to the “Up Your Game Assessment” PD on Dec 2 (the Tuesday after Thanksgiving Break). High school is a 3pm. Middle school is at 5pm. We will spend some time discussing and going over the levels of complexity and how to write Level 2 & 3 questions.

Then, we’ll write some questions and put them in a question bank that we can all use.

The more people there at the training, the more questions we have in our question bank. It’s that simple.

So, as you plan for your week off and maybe give a thought or two to what your world looks like when you come back, please consider coming to the “Up Your Game Assessment “ training on Dec 2. It will help you, in your classroom, to write classroom test questions that look like higher-level EOC questions. But it can help all of us in writing those question bank questions so we can use them in the few weeks before the assessments.

I’m attaching the flyer so you can sign up on LMS. If you bring a friend, you can qualify for door prizes. The more folks we have, the better shape we’re all in, test-wise.

Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi! Help me, colleagues, and friends! You’re our only hope!


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