>I remember the days when teachers could have kids bring in candy wrappers (empty, of course) after Halloween and graph their favorite candy bars. The kids learned about bar graphs, pictographs, and the parts of a graph like the horizontal and vertical axes. It took something familiar and made it a learning experience.
Then there were the times when we could take a day or two to enrich, to teach fun activities that used the concepts they’d been learning on pencil and paper.
Now we worry that candy graphs might violate our nutrition policy and that if we take time to enrich, we might not cover the important concepts by the time testing starts. And oh, my, if they can’t remember Mean, Median, and Mode by the magic November dates, the scores might go down and the folks in D.C. might think we’re not doing our jobs.
We still find time, though, to squeeze in a few items. I find time to introduce concepts through the novels I read aloud to the class. I choose these books very, very carefully, read them myself first, analyze them for teachable moments, and even put sticky notes in the books at strategic places. Twice a day for about ten minutes the kids gather on the rug or sit at their desks and listen. Some days we stop at critical points and I let students talk about their connections with the characters, the setting, and the story itself. These connections slow down the pace but deepen the experience and their overall comprehension.
Taking the time to illustrate a writing project or make a creative booklet is another great way to find an extension and make the note-taking/ research more enjoyable. Flip books. Mini-books. Booklets with terms, illustrations, and definitions. They’re all good teaching tools — when we have time in between the bubbles.
By the tone of this post, you can probably tell I’m heading into that time of year we call Test Weeks. I need to punch out the math manipulatives for my class(es), make sure the pencils are sharpened, and create a new seating chart to ease the temptation to talk or peek at another kid or test. I know the tests are high=stakes. I understand accountability is important. But if I could address the Powers-That-Be directly I’d tell them that good teaching isn’t measured by bubble tests. Sincerely, People-in-Power, it isn’t.
I have a wonderful career and I teach in a school with a generous and caring staff. Test season is discouraging for many reasons, but great teachers surround me on all sides. We’ll all help each other get through this. We support each other as much as we support the kids.
By the way: If you’re looking for free coloring pages, look here. The Mom Blogs sent this link to all the bloggers on their lengthy lists. While pre-made coloring pages are not a creative activity, they do have many uses. I’ve printed simple pictures like these to decorate the room for specific topics or let students use one as the basis for a poster. Children who are still developing finger strength can manipulate playdough or silly putty and then color a small amount to work on strength and control.
Strength and control for real writing, not just for filling in the bubbles.