Truthfully, I try not to think of the school year before July and so I've settled on my two (yes two) most successful classroom moments of 2014.
Here's the big reveal:
The #2 most awesome classroom moment of 2014.... Wait for it...
This year I teach reading intervention. I do interventions with students in grades k-3 who have shown consistent difficulty on reading assessments like the DIBELS, the DRA, the STAR Enterprise, and the Wonders Reading Assessments... I give at least one "test" every other week to check on our progress. Luckily, some of the assessments only take about three minutes but the STAR Reading test is 34 long questions. I give this only once a month and we get ready for this assessment by talking about our past scores (the color band the score falls in, not the actual number) and trying to figure out how to get a better score. (By the way, YES, I HATE that this story revolves around a test. But it gets better.)
I discovered at the beginning of the school year that the majority of my students were getting terribly low scores, not because they couldn't read the test, but because they were choosing not to read the test questions. They didn't believe they could do it, so... Why try? THIS HAD TO CHANGE!
So.. I use the behavior plan that we have set up in class and give out "tokens" throughout the test when I see that the students are ACTUALLY READING THE QUESTIONS! They also get tokens for correct answers when I catch them while I am monitoring all 4 students. (Students later use the tokens to buy extra time on the iPads, computers, and prizes from the prize box.)
(You're welcome for the background.)
Now, onto the success!
I have a seven year old second grader who told me at the beginning of the year, "I'm lazy, that's why I can't read." At the time, I made a mental note to address this and moved on. Throughout the year, I have not allowed her to use this excuse throughout her thirty minute sessions with me, but she liked to employ this belief on the.... Surprise, surprise... STAR Reading test.
By November, we mostly had this thing down. You move up a color band, you get tokens, candy, and some major praise. She still didn't care much and moved up only 3-5 points each month. By November, she'd had enough. She whizzed through the test and answered all 34 questions in less than 15 minutes while I was attending to another student. "No way," I said. "You didn't read it. You are so smart and you aren't even trying. You have to show people you're smart. You are taking this again during recess tomorrow." (Now, I do NOT believe in taking recess away from kids, and so I found a time with her home room teacher to take the test the next day that did not include recess.)
The next day, she showed up. "I'm going to sit next to you and listen to you read the whole test," I said.
She began. First question timed out while she read it. Second question timed out while she read it. Third question, she just looked at me. "Try this," I said. "Remember when I said READ THE QUESTION FIRST? Let's try it." She read the question out loud. Then she started reading the paragraph and the answer was in the first sentence. She looked at me and smiled and I could actually see the light bulb go on. Got the answer. Next question, "Read the question first." She did it again. Got it. By the sixth question, she was starting to feel successful. By the eighth question, I didn't need to prompt her to read the question first. By the 34th question after over 40 minutes, she had done it. She finished the questions, read every last one, and she had really tried.
But the story doesn't end there.
We decided to look up the score (with my fingers and toes crossed that I would be able to show her what happens when you try).
And then I almost fell out of my chair. She went from the second lowest score in second grade, in the red (red, yellow, blue and green are the color bands that show the national percentiles) to the top of the BLUE!!!
My co-teacher and I started yelling and jumping up and down and said "Look! Look what happens you try! You tried, you tried! We're so happy you tried!"
"Doesn't it feel good? Doesn't it feel good that you tried?"
I printed out her score in a graph so that she could see how high her score went when she just tried. We highlighted it and passed it around and went to the office to show the ladies there. I said "Tell them what you did." ( I thought she would say something about improving her test score. )
Her smile was so big. And she was so proud.
There it is! Success!
She has not missed one "optional" homework assignment since that day.
Her score skyrocketed into the GREEN in December.
It wasn't about the test. It wasn't about the color band or the national percentile score.
She really tried.
And she's still trying.
And I'm praying that she keeps it up when we get back after break.