Test Prep Boot Camp
*This blog was originally scheduled to post in March, but due to testing craziness and then end of year craziness, it is just now hitting the site. Enjoy!
Test prep season is already in full swing over here in Virginia. When our pacing runs out and review for the state test begins, I usually try to shake up the norm to keep things fresh and fun for my kiddos. Last year, this meant gold tags and Jumanji!
This year, however, things we a little different. I’m still in third grade, and I’m still departmentalized teaching reading, but it looks different. Instead of having two classes of readers like the previous two years, this year I have three classes. We ended up with only three third grade classes this year which meant a three way departmentalizing switch. So I’ve been teaching only reading to 65 learners all year. I love being able to focus on my passion, but by the third group I’m usually over teaching the same lesson.
I realized that gold tags were going to be too much to keep up with for 65 kids, so we (my ESOL co-teacher and I) decided to do Bootcamp.
What is the schedule?
We run Bootcamp centers Monday-Thursday for 30 minutes a day. Each day the students do one center rotation and earn stickers on their progress grid for correctly completed activities. Fridays are for the 3 R’s…rest, relfection, and rewards.
Bootcamp time on Friday is reserved self efficacy, motivation, and encouragement-focused activities. Students who’ve earned five stickers throughout the week get to choose a reward.
What are the centers and how do the students earn stickers there?
***Text Feature Poster/Computer Center: The first 5 weeks the students spent reading, analyzing, and answering questions about Nonfiction Posters that I’ve collected from Nat Geo Magazines over the years. I wrote 4 questions for each poster and the students had 3 posters a rotation. Students earned stickers by answering 8 out of 12 questions correct. They got two attempts to reach this goal. The last 2 weeks of this center was spent on the computer practicing testing tools online. Students earned a sticker at this center by highlighting evidence, highlighting keywords, and eliminating wrong answers.
***Guided Practice: At this center, students read and answered questions for a passage. There were three goals here, exposure to different texts, building stamina with longer texts, and practicing highlighting evidence for “right there” questions. The students had to answer 7 of 10 questions correct and they had two opportunities to do so. The rule at this center was that they had to highlight.
***File Folder Centers: This center helped the students work on skills in isolation. I created different hands-on file folder centers for many reading skills. This center was more of a team effort. The students received 5 file folders and either the entire group got a sticker or no one did. The students had to sort the pieces correctly and then check their group-mates’ work and talk through any differences in answers they found before I came over.
***Nonfiction TEI Task Card Centers: On our state tests, students are expected to be able to answer “TEI” (technology enhanced item) style questions. We don’t yet have the practice software to expose them to the practice they need with all the different ways these questions could be asked, so I created task cards to help them become familiar with the format. At this center, students read the nonfiction text of the week and then answer 12 test question/TEI style task cards. Students have to answer 8 of 12 correct to get their sticker and they have 2 chances to do so.
Are there any other ways that students can earn stickers?
Students also have the opportunity to earn two stickers a week from classwork and homework. Every Monday, our lesson was reading a text and taking notes. Students received a sticker for taking notes that accurately summarized the parts of the text. Then, students took the passage home for homework along with the questions that matched. This gave the parents an opportunity to see the types of questions students are asked. If students returned the questions completed (they didn’t have to be all right) then they received a sticker for effort.
(You can read more about how we take notes on passages here and check it out in my store here. I will also be updating my notes post with how I adjusted the strategy to better fit the needs of my kids this year.)
How is it all organized?
Each student has their own file folder which I keep inside a file crate. On one side inside the file folder, there is a sticker sheet that tracked the 7 weeks of Bootcamp and each center for every week. On the other side, student had incomplete Bootcamp packets paper-clipped. As students complete the packets, they are pulled out of their folder and sent home. I loved the sticker grid because it was really easy to see what the students were earning stickers for. For example, I had one student that never once got a sticker for the homework portion and another that missed a sticker every time for the TEI Task Cards. This helped me be able to target instruction for specific kids.
How do I keep track of stickers already used for a reward?
Every Friday, I laid out the rewards and would go through folders. Every student that had at least 5 stickers would get called to select a reward and I would cross out the stickers using a marker to remind myself that they’ve already received an reward for those.
What if a student earns five stickers before Friday?
My students knew that Friday was the only day I was breaking out the rewards, so even if they earned 5 before, they still had to wait until Friday. If students finished a center early, they were able to go back and work on incomplete centers from previous days or weeks. This meant that some students got 2 rewards on a Friday if they had earned 10 stickers by then.
How do you take grades when your main focus is centers?
The centers become the grade. Depending on the center, students have to get at least 70% correct to even earn a sticker. Their sticker grid, plus completed packets helped me to continually update their grades.
How do the students feel about it?
When I say my students love this, I mean they would ask to complete Bootcamp centers during indoor recess. They LOVED this! In addition to the rewards, they considered most of the centers fun and they liked being able to see all the progress they’ve made via stickers over the weeks.
Is it successful as prep?
YES! Like I mentioned above, I was the sole reading teacher in third grade this year which mean that ALL 65 reading scores fell on me. This year, our reading scores were the highest that they’ve been in at least the last five years that I’ve been at this school and I know at least in part, that is because of the focus, consistency, and effort of Bootcamp.
I know Bootcamp in your classroom probably won’t look the same as mine, but I highly suggest you at least give it a try. It is definitely worth it! Every year I’m evolving and switching things up, so I’m open to ideas. Leave me a comment of how you do things and I’ll talk to you soon!