Ahhh...."The TEST". We all know it exists. I mean, it takes up two weeks of our wonderful school year, is always mentioned in the news media, and is the subject of countless PD sessions. Yet many of us push it to the backburner and forget about it....until 2 weeks before. Then we scramble, cram, goad, scream, hustle, prod, cry, and generally try to get the students ready so they can possibly do halfway decent on "The TEST". Yeah, you know it's true. I mean, I was one of those very same teachers....until a few years ago when I decided I had just had enough.
So what did I change in my year-long plan to prepare the students for "The TEST"? Well, many things.
* Weekly Language Arts, Math, and Science quizzes
* Spiral math homework written in the style of the state test
* Intervention groups teaching test taking skills using released test questions
* Constant and direct instruction to the state STANDARDS.
The last bullet is what I am going to talk about today. Teaching to the standards. Like it or not (I actually happen to love it), the state test is based on the standards that we have. The questions come from those standards and, if we are teaching the standards well, the kids should do well on the test. To me, it only makes sense then NOT to teach anything that is NOT part of our state mandated standards (and therefore not on the test) Whenever I plan a lesson, I make sure multiple standards are hit. I think about how the lesson I am planning will engage and further the knowledge of my students regarding those standards. If this means that I need to leave out a lesson in my basal that has NOTHING to do with my state standards, so be it (I hear the text book police pulling up now....)
To keep myself organized, I created a standards checklist. All of the Language Arts standards (for 4th and 5th grade in CA) are here on the chart. As I am planning, I look at the list and see how I can combine certain standards. Then, as I have taught them, I input a date on the chart. As the year progresses, I can see how many times I have hit a certain standard. If I haven't touched it in a while, I know to revisit. If I have never taught it, I know it is time. :) Here is the checklist for you. It is a free download, in Word. Feel free to customize it to meet your own needs.