Express Yourself

Be who you are and say how you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.
--Dr. Seuss

Saturday, November 19, 2016

The Latest Information About the 4th Grade Writing Test

I attended the TETN Session at Region IV this week. It was a simulcast from Austin. All regions service centers were given information about the TEA new test blueprints. I went to find out the latest information.  Here is the latest information about the fourth grade writing test:

  • Students will have 4 hours to take the test. The test is supposedly designed so that 85% of our students can complete the test in four hours. I would say that would be true or close to being true for the other tests,since the number of questions were reduced.  Multiple choice items in the fourth grade test, compared to last year's test, increased by 6 multiple choice questions. It went from 18 to 24 questions respectively.  Last year, there were no field test questions. This year there will be an additional selection, along with 5 field test questions. The total number of questions that students will answer on the one day test will now be 29. Again, last year it was 18 questions and an expository composition. I don't think that 85% of 4th grade students will be able to  answer 29 questions, plan, and write an expository composition in a two hour window. It will definitely take more time and four hours is the maximum time allotted.
  • Last year, the raw score was based on 18 multiple choice questions and 8 possible points for the adjacently scored expository composition. The combination resulted in  a raw score of 26. The passing standard turned out to be a raw score of 14 in Spanish and 15 in English.  This year, there will be 24 multiple choice questions combined with the adjacently scored expository composition. The raw score will be a total of 24 multiple choice and 8 points for the composition. That would equal a total of 32 points. I surmise that the passing standard, if it is close to last year, would be 19-20 raw score and possible 25-26 raw score to arrive at status of academic achievement.
  • If you break down the percentages of the test, it breaks out as: 75% of the test comes from the multiple choice items and 25% of the test from the expository composition.  Of the multiple choice portion the test, 16 items will emanate from editing questions and 8 from revision.  If you break that down further, 66% of the multiple choice items are editing questions. 34% of the multiple choice questions are revision questions. 
  • TEA stated that the assessed curriculum remains the same. They also stated that the length and quantity of selections remain the same in the writing and reading test. If you want to know about the length and number of selections, you can go to the TEA website and look at the test design schematics. You can download this information. Click on the link following link Test Design Schematic.  It would also behoove you to look over the 2016 tests as well.
  • After carefully dissecting each part of the writing test, I noticed that the revision type questions have changed. I studied the released questions from the 2013-2015 tests. Some of  the 2016 questions are different. The questions that test which sentence should be added to support the central idea or which sentence should follow such and such paragraph were higher in rigor. Students need to understand deeply the idea of revision, but more than that they need to be able infer and understand how ideas fit and build coherence. It seemed to me more like a reading test than a writing test. (Yes, I know that reading and writing go together, but it seemed that students need to be critical readers to arrive at the best answer.) After task analyzing some of questions, I noticed that students need to slow down their rate of reading, draw out the images of what was written, and then infer which sentence would work best. It is cognitively taxing. Could that be because the state switched from Pearson to ETS?  I do know the Reading test have changed somewhat as well.  It would be wise to study the Pearson test and now the ETS tests to note the changes. TEA stated that they will be releasing test yearly. That will be nice so that we can see the patterns from this testing company. It is very interesting. 
  • If you are a fourth grade teacher and you haven't looked over the 2016, now is the time to do so. You need to know and understand what our students will face. It would also be a good idea to study and compare the tests from 2013-present. They tell a great story. Look for patterns.
What does all that mean for us?  The test is a monster!  The good thing is  that we know what our students will be facing. The goal is to teach authentically and build a bridge to test format.  Seventy-five percent of the test is multiple choice. Our students need to know and understand how to apply all the grammar, spelling, capitalization, and usage concepts that they will learn. They also will need to know how revision works in different situations of the expository essay and other selections. Finally, teaching explicitly the expository composition and grammar in context is fundamental. Easy task? This is not for the faint of heart. This task is massive and must require a solid plan of implementation, along with constant monitory and adjusting of student data. This data is not only a benchmark. Data comes in different forms. Daily and weekly monitoring and adjusting is essential. Format study with the incorporation of think alouds will help students connect what they are learning and how it is tested. Think alouds help students make associations and connect to metacognition. 

Funny Commercials

I have been watching some funny commercial lately. Geico always has funny commercials. I really like the new one with the raccoons. The reason why it is so funny is because it rings true. Why do we want other people to taste something that tastes bad? Growing up, my mom would always say, "Taste this. Does this taste funny to you? Does it taste bad?" Of course we would then taste it and then make a sour face. "Eww! That tastes nasty!" we would say. Why do we continue this tradition? I do the same with my daughter. If something tastes strange, why do I want others to share in its putrid nature? I suppose we want verification of our suspicions. It is a good thing, however, that we don't follow that same prescription with Ebola or other viruses.  "Does this taste like Ebola to you?  Taste it!  Does this taste like Salmonella to you?  Try it and see!" Nope! We don't share Listeria from cookie dough ice cream. I am sure that the workers at Blue Bell didn't have that conversation. "Does this taste like Listeria to you?" Nope. It is a good thing that we do not share the Listeria. I am glad that we don't. But...I think it is time that we abandon the nasty taste test. It would and could be bad for our health. This practice needs to be discontinued. Just sayin'.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Election of Peppermint Mocha

Happy election day to all. Today will be a doozy. I cannot wait to vote and get on home to see the pundits do their job until the late into the evening. I cannot wait to hear them call it.  Today, however, is more than that. Today I elected to not go with my McDonald's usual. No, I didn't go with a medium coffee with six creams. I instead elected to go with an early on the menu Peppermit Mocha. Because of my election, I predict that my day will run smoothly. If it doesn't, I can still sip my Peppermint Mocha. It usually isn't on the menu until after Thanksgiving. This one is an early surprise. What and who will you elect today? Whatever and whoever it is, I hope it is a good one. Have a great day!

Friday, November 4, 2016

Pronouns Anyone?

I have been working with fourth grade students on recognizing pronouns. I wanted them to be able to recognize the the noun as the antecedent. I also wanted them to track the path of the pronouns as referent. I asked the students if they knew what the function of a pronoun was, and they didn't seem to know. I then introduced subjective pronouns to the students. I then wrote two sentences where I introduced the noun as the subject of the sentence.I then wrote another sentence where a pronoun was the subject of the sentence. We then tracked the path of the pronouns and the noun. I had them track the antecedent (noun) from the previous sentence. I then tried to find an example in a book. I copied the two sentences. I underlined the subject noun from the first sentence. Then I looked for the pronoun subject in the second sentence. I drew an arrow to track the pronoun to the antecedent. The students then worked with a partner to find an example of the subject noun and then the find the pronoun referent in the second sentence. They had so much fun finding them. They copied their examples in their pronoun books. They shared their example with the class. The next day, the students reviewed the process and shared example. Then they included their own examples in their notebooks. I really enjoyed taking them through this process.  The photos below are from student writing. My inspiration for doing this activity came from Jeff Anderson in Mechanically Inclined and Kylene Beers's book When Kids Can't Read.

What a Great Week!

It is Friday. The end of the work week ends, and I feel very tired. My cansansio or fatigue is a good fatigue. It has been a great week, after all. I love my job. I love the fact that I get to work with students everyday and try out different teaching techniques from the masters like Gretchen Bernabei, Dr. Joyce Carroll, Fountas and Pinnell, Georgia Heard, Donalyn Miller, and  Jeff Anderson. I have the honor and pleasure of sharing my love of books with students in book clubs and guided reading. I have always enjoyed teaching 5th graders, and now I get to work with them daily. In addition to working with 5th grade students, I also work with 4th graders in the areas of reading, writing, and grammar instruction. I was also able to share some of my poetry with a 4th grade class. I read Tip to the class and Grasping at Straws. We discussed the structure of poetry, free verse, and the use of imagery.  I also was able to work with 4th graders after school. We worked on the use of subjective and objective pronouns using Grammar Keepers while we created a pronoun book.  I love it!

To make my Friday close to perfect, I worked with some wonderful and thoughtful teachers in planning future lessons. I also provided some professional development. The professionals on my campus are dedicated and appreciative. The time flew by!  This is week five working on the campus level.  I am glad I made the decision to return. It is good for my soul. I feel blessed.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

New Blueprints from TEA

The Texas Education Agency has just released new blueprints from all tested subject areas. I have uploaded them and placed them in my Box account if you would like to access the blueprints. You may also access them at the TEA website. Go to the link entitled BOX.

The 4th grade STAAR Writing test now has 24 multiple choice questions. Sixteen questions are from the editing realm. Eight questions come from the revision realm. The expository essay is also included. I am not sure how it will all be weighted. I tried to call TEA's testing division today, but there was no response. (No one answered the phone.) I will continue to try to seek clarification on how the composition is weighted. Last year there were 18 multiple choice questions and an expository essay. The expository essay was graded on a rubric of 0-4. TEA incorporated the adjacent scoring model where two people score. Their scores are added up and combined with the multiple choice questions. I am not sure if the same system will be employed. If so, then there will be 24 multiple choice questions combined with a possible score of 8 in the adjacent scoring model. That would be added up to a raw score of 32. I am not sure what the passing standard and advanced level raw scores would be.  When I know more, I will post the latest information.

4th Grade Blueprint