Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Pacing the Standards: PARCC Practice Test

This morning I took the PARCC practice test for 5th grade.

I recommend that any teacher whose students are taking the PARCC this year, put aside the time to take the test.

It was a challenging mental exercise that matched the CCSS standards in many ways.

Taking the test introduced me to some new language and question types that I'll incorporate into my classroom teaching and assessments.

Once again, like the CCSS, the test demonstrated to me that students will be asked to think deeply as they perform multi-step tasks to solve problems. They'll also need proficiency with facts, vocabulary, and computation.

I've got a lot to do to prepare my fifth graders for this test. I don't want to "teach to the test," but I do want to facilitate an engaging, blended math program that leads to success with the test as well as engagement and interest in math.

What strategies will I employ?

Unpacking the Standard
I'll continue to use the process of unpacking the standard I learned last year at a UClass professional learning event.

Khan Academy
I'll continue to employ Khan Academy for my own learning and student learning.  I like Khan Academy for the following reasons:
  • It's a quick-feedback platform that includes CCSS vocabulary and standards with problem-based questions.
  • It's a grow-at-your-own-pace program so I can easily differentiate with this tool.
  • Khan Academy includes models, words, and numbers with each standard.
Explicit Teaching
Though a bit dull for some, I'll employ explicit teaching, whole class discussion, and debates at some times during each unit to develop our collective knowledge of each standard. 

I'll use the multiple data points I have to coach each child forward. In fact, that's going to be the main focus of my teaching for the next two weeks. I want to make sure that every child understands our blended math program well so they can access all the great tools out there for math learning and use those tools well to learn. 

Project Work and Collaboration
Students will break up into small groups often to complete math projects, projects they'll later share with each other and students outside our classroom. 

Learning Menus
I will continually update the "learning menu" that exists on the class website. This menu provides lots of differentiated options for study and learning. 

Math Website
I'll continue to update the math website to best support student learning. 

Fortunately due to the teaching model that leads my work this year, I have lots of time to devote to math. Learning and employing the new standards in student-worthy ways is a full time job--a job that can bring lots of satisfaction if done well.  There's lots to learn, but I continue to think that the new standards are worth the time and effort with regard to teaching well so I'm ready for the learning. Onward.

We were on a good roll with this learning and prep, yet once the testing, both system and State, started in February, our time for deep, rich learning has been compromised. It would be best to think about the timing and number of these tests a bit differently in order to protect the time we need to dive in and teach each content area with depth, strength, and continuity. When the learning is choppy students quickly forget and don't have the time to embed concepts in their long term memory.