Thursday, February 14, 2013

Seventh Grade Writing Test Tips

Though this is my eighth year of teaching, it is my first year teaching seventh grade English. Overall the transition has been smooth (especially thanks to my awesome partner teacher), but one thing struck fear into my heart as soon as I heard I would be teaching seventh grade: the State Writing Test (cue scary music).

If you aren't aware, all seventh graders in California take a writing test each March. There are four possible genres (Narrative, Response to Literature, Persuasion, and Summary). The kids have as long as they need on that day to write a response, and these scores count for our API/AYP. At my school there are two seventh grade English teachers, so I feel pressure for my kids to do well.

I wanted to share some strategies that I think have been helpful this year (though I guess I won't know for sure until I get their scores), and also ask any other seventh grade teachers how you prepare. What are you best tips/lessons?

Here are ours:

*Obviously the kids need to do a lot of writing. For each genre, we've done a process piece, where they follow a format, look at examples, and write their own. They can get help from me or each other, we do peer editing, and a final draft that they type. Then, immediately after the first piece, we do an in-class writing of the same genre, to simulate the test. On this one, they can't get much help (I will occasionally answer a question, but no notes or asking each other). We score this on a four-point scale, just as the state does. We've also done a few extra pieces throughout the year (one extra response to lit and one extra narrative). We also gave a narrative prompt as an extra credit assignment over Christmas Break. Not a ton of kids did it, but the ones who did got some extra practice.

*We've created handouts that have the "formula" for each genre, that the kids keep in their notebooks. Of course, not all writing follows a formula, but since they're first learning I've found this to be helpful.

*We have also gone through the state rubric with them. The timed-writings we've done have all been former test questions that the state has released. After they write, we show them examples of a four, three, and two point essay for the prompt. (We also show them the one pointers, just to amuse them. They are pretty terrible.) They pair-share and discuss what each person did well, and what they got marked down for. This has helped them identify what makes a good essay/story. Then, they trade papers and grade each other's with a more detailed rubric that we've created. For homework, they can take it home and fix their essays to get a three or a four.

*Next week we are going to put the kids in groups and have them make posters. Each group will have a genre to make a "how-to" poster about. They will then present the posters as a reminder for each genre.

*The last week before we are going to have them rate themselves on each genre. Then they will have to write a essay/story for the genre they rank themselves the lowest on. Because we're evil like that. We will provide support and mini-lessons to the kids in each group.

*The day before the test we are doing a sorting activity. We are going to cut up versions of our formula handouts for each genre. With a partner, they are going to put them in order and talk about anything they don't remember. This gives them a last-minute review, that is hopefully low-stress and at least a little fun.

After that, we just hope and pray that it's not a response to literature prompt! I would love to see persuasion, but obviously there's no way of knowing what we'll get.

So, other seventh grade teachers, I'd love to hear your advice. What's worked well for you in the past?

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Odyssey Test Answers

I stopped writing in this blog, but then I went back and read parts of the teacher things...and I decided I want to start writing in this one again. Though, I am starting three weeks before the end of the year. Oh well!

Here's a taste of what kinds of ridiculous and awesome things my kids write:

The question reads: Odysseus gets in a lot of trouble because he is always shooting off his mouth. If you were one of his crew how would you persuade him that this isn't wise? Remember, he's your boss and you can't disrespect him.
"I would say chief you're nice but don't you think you're being a little mean or disrespectful? Just a little bit, not a lot. Just be a little bit more sweeter or nicer."
"To persuade him I would say Captain Odysseus stop talking like that or no one will cooperate with you. If you're nice to use we will follow your directions. So if you tell us to mop the deck we will do it."
"My leader, Odyssues, sir, I'm not questioning your decision. With your greatness and looks sir. I'm just saying sir we need to make better decisions. Again I'm just saying just think about it. Also, maybe some of us crew members could make decisions."
"I would say that the enemies will know where you live and take revenge on your home and your dearly beloved Penelope who awaits for you in your dwelling."
This is my favorite one: "I would tell Odysseus to be quiet because you can be a mystery. People will always think who was the guy who got away from the cyclops? If you stay quiet you can be the most famous man in the world. I would also say every girl in Ithaca will love you after you tell them secretly. Your wife would be so happy, she could always count on your to protect her." 

That girl knows how to male ego works. Damn!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Summer Projects

During the summer, I like to try to get a lot done...I have more time and energy than the rest of the year. I decided to post my to-do list now and then check back in September to see how I did. Without further ado...

*Go to all medical appointments: eye doctor, dentist, and annual checkup
*Clean out linen closet
*Clean out hall storage closet
*Clean out under my bed
*Clean out my trunk
*Organize my home file cabinet
*Go on at least four hikes
*Go kayaking four times
*Try surfing again
*Read at least 8 new books
*Lose ten pounds
*Organize the posters in my classroom
*Get all classroom filing done(!)
*Don't get sunburned(!)
*Get credit cards paid off in August paycheck

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Oh yeah, this blog.

Raspberries, though delicious, must be eaten within about 15 seconds of coming home from the grocery store, otherwise they all mold. So even when they're on sale, I have to think of how many I can eat in the same day.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Why Walk?

On Saturday, May 8th I will be participating in the Revlon Run/Walk for women's cancers in memory of a fellow Carnegie teacher who passed away this school year. I am joining other teachers, staff, students, and their families in a team in order to fight women's cancers. I am also participating as a role-model to my students, to show that it's important to do something about causes that are important to you.

If you'd like to donate, here is my fundraising site:

Thanks friends.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

So, you know how I'm a teacher?

In the last month, two students have thrown up in my classroom. Both of these boys threw up on their desks. Like, didn't even make a move to run out of the room or to a trash can. Just barfed on their notebooks. Seriously?!?!

On the Ancient Israel test, they had to list five of the ten commandments. One boy wrote all of his as excalamations. As in, "You shall not commit adultery!" and "You shall not have other gods before me!" It's like the ten commandments are on the back of a DVD cover, describing a wacky adventure!

I was talking the other day and said, "Okay my children..." and a boy said, "Yes, my lady?" I told him not to call me that because it was creepy. He's called me that for the last three days straight.