|Grrr... I'm a fierce dinosaur!|
|Grrr.... me too!|
Every year, that I'm a regular classroom teacher, I always do my best to turn my class into students who 'love to read'... because, if you can read and especially if YOU LOVE to read--- not much can stop your learning... or your desire to learn... because... well, isn't that the basic KEY to learning? Wanting and being able to read?
So, I started a contest with my students... to read books and earn a certain number of points for Reading Counts. Reading Counts is a program purchased by the school and basically the way that it works is... students read a book, take an on line test (for comprehension) and if you get 7 or more of the 10 questions correct-- you will earn 1 or more points. The harder the books- the more points each story is worth. Of course, at this age... most of the books are 1-3 points!
TO help them out... any of the stories in our readers for school that were Reading Counts books-- I'd let them know. I made sure that MOST of the books that I read to my students were also Reading Counts books. (I read to my students 'no matter' what the age is daily! They can understand books 'read' to them at a higher level of understanding than they can understand when they read to themselves.)
I made sure that there were always books available, to read, when they finished with their lessons, and the books that I either checked out from the school library or any of the classroom books for supplemental reading... were labeled with a small sticker IF THEY WERE READING COUNTS BOOKS!
My plan worked!! The desire for reading improved. Reading scores increased and many of the students DOUBLED their reading scores that were given before I arrived the to my new school the last week of October when we recently re-tested for the end of the year scores!! I'm so proud of them. They love to read now!
We set up small goals... 500 points, 1,000 points, 1,200 points. AND, after they earned 1,200 points.. they decided that they'd try to earn 2,000 points by the end of school!
NOT ONLY DID they reach their goal... they reached it a month early!!! Every morning, when they came into the classroom the place on the whiteboard (where our daily score of how many points we had) was updated with the new score. My group of second graders also learned how to do 4 digit subtraction 're-grouping' because of FIGURING OUT how many points we had left to reach our goal and also I would also show the class 'how many points' they had earned the day before!
When did they have time to read and take all of these tests? First of all, the tests only take about 5 minutes to take and that includes: logging into the school's computer and into the Reading Counts website WITH THEIR OWN PASSWORDS each time. We have 4 computers in our classroom. Two are super slow, old laptops and the other two are regular PC's. So, at certain times of the day... I'd set a certain amount of time on my digital timer that the students were given to finish lessons/projects/etc. This was after I'd taught the new skills and the class/students had had time to practice the new skill, or find and/or share information, etc. And, of course, always after we'd gone over the directions for each lesson/etc. So, after that was done... I'd set 15 or more minutes on the timer... sometimes a far longer amount of time was given. THEY never could take a test NOR COULD THEY ASK about taking a Reading Counts Test-- unless I had already said something like: "IF you finish with your work you may take a RC test." I would also let them know when the last 5 minutes were on the timer... and that no one else to go up and start a test after that amount of time-- so, that anyone taking the test would be finished before we started our next subject of the day/started bathroom breaks/or went somewhere. So, they were really only given about 4 times a day to take the tests... and they had to take turns on the 4 computers.
This never turned into: a Race to finish work... or taking a test at the wrong time. OR constantly 'asking' me if they could take a RC test! In the beginning, they also had to show me their work so that I could see that it was 'finished' and I'd still do that sort of spot checking at various times. They had labeled baskets (math, science, language, etc.) where all the assignments were turned in. Each group also had a 'paper/book' pass-er/ out-er for the week. I believe in student responsibility and you also never get the: "But, I gave it to you!" excuse when work wasn't found turned in to the proper baskets. I never take any student work- no one ever turns in their lessons to me personally. Only to the labeled baskets. It's a great system and teaches responsibility.
There was only about 3 or 4 times at the most throughout the day where I'd announce that it was OK to take a Reading Counts Test! Most of that was for only 5 minutes (or only one group could go and take a test!) Everyday, after lunch, the students were given 25 minutes to: finish any previous day's work, any old work not finished (sometimes due to absences/etc.), bathroom breaks (only 1-4 children at a time), go to the library (only 1-4 students at a time for a short amount of time- the library was at the end of the hallway), and also during this time they could: READ and take READING COUNTS TESTS! When we went to computer lab on Thursdays and Fridays... 'if' they had finished a book-- they could take a reading counts tests 'first' and then they'd go to one of the other locations on the computer and work on either the Math program that our school had purchased or another program.
So, for 5 minutes at a time, one book at a time... they reached their goal. *The students also came up with each of the goals that they reached for each time. They also can only take this test at school. I also never allow the book to be 'in the computer area' at all... when they are taking the Reading Counts tests. I always tell my students that you KNOW that we were HONEST in our classroom! Every point was honestly earned!
(I'm a big fan of using a timer to keep us on task... so, we'll not be late to the various places that we go, and also some students just need a 'time is passing by' method to measure the day.)
So, for this big award of obtaining 2000 points... ... they wanted face painting done on them! I brought my face paints to school and the boys all wanted American flags across their face or to become dinosaurs. The girls? EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM WANTED A BUTTERFLY painted across their faces! (No photos of the girls... because the butterfly didn't change their appearances very much.)
*Some of my 'face painting' faces are in photos on the wall behind the last dinosaur photo-- I used to do face painting at craft shows to earn extra $$. I'm a bit rusty with the techniques now though. However, I think they turned out great and my students loved getting to wear face paint all day while we continued learning, eating lunch, and playing on the playground at recess.