The king who rained
I remember when I was little. My family were saying weird word that I didn’t know, like my sister has a frog in her throat, and my daddy says there fork in the road, or sometimes my mom tell me to get the hair spray and when I give it to her she says I am a little deer. But when I grew up the wird word they told me were hyperbole. I will never forget those word.
The test came today. I picked it up from the vice principal’s office first thing this morning. You have to count your tests to make sure you have one for all your students, then initial to indicate you received the same amount of tests that they say you did. The first thing I did after picking them up was to look inside one of them and see what genre of writing it was. Let’s just say I was happy (I’m not allowed to say what the writing genre was).
Our test directions (they call them the DFA’s – Directions for Administration) tell us exactly what we can and can’t say to the class. We have a direct script that we need to read.
I think I was more nervous this morning then the students, especially before I got to school and saw the writing prompt. Some of the writing genres are so difficult, especially the ones where the students have to read a passage and either write a summary about it or respond to it.
A lot of my students struggle with reading, and if they have to read something BEFORE they write about it, just makes the test that much more difficult. It’s almost like it’s a reading AND writing test. Which would be okay, but the reading test comes later in the year. This is just supposed to be a writing test. That is also why I wish we could read the writing prompt. It’s not very long, but believe it our not, some of my students have trouble reading it. I don’t understand why a teacher just can’t read the writing prompt to the students. That way the students can be clear on what they are supposed to write, and they don’t get penalized because they aren’t good readers.
But don’t get me started.
Spending Monday morning writing with my class. We have four genres to review: narrative summary, expository summary, personal narrative, and fictional narrative. We’ll be wiring thinking maps for all of those in the morning. And maybe putting one or two to a rough draft. But the thinking map is the key. It’s their plan. Once they get that, the rough draft should be easy. So we’ll be practicing that all morning.
For math, my district gives me a math curriculum, which comes with several teacher’s manuals and other materials to help me teach the students what they need to know. The same with science and social studies. A little with PE.
But writing? We hardly get any help from our curriculum or our district. Most of the writing in our curriculum is things like, “Writing in a Journal” or “How to Take a Phone Message.”
Really? Who cares how they write in a journal? And let their parents tell them how to take a message.
Our district (and the state) expects us to teach writing a personal narrative, a fictional narrative, a narrative summary, an expository summary, and a response to literature. Our district tests us on 4 of those. And in fourth grade we have the state writing test, which can be any of those (we don’t find out which one until the day of the test). Almost none of that is covered in our state approved, district bought curriculum. And the district sure doesn’t give us any added support. The teachers are on their own.
The state writing test is coming up in a few weeks. Wish me luck.
Weeks of build up have finally culminated today with the writing test. We spent the last two days reviewing and writing. It’s pretty uncomfortable preping the students for a writing test when you don’t know what genre it will be on until the morning of the test. For those of you playing along at home, here were the possibilities: narrative summary, expository summary, fictional narrative, personal narrative, and response to literature.
When I arrived at school this morning my VP said I could pick up the test. You know the first thing I did was to see what genre it was. Turns out it was expository summary. Not too bad. But one thing that will hurt them is that they have to read a piece first. A lot of my students are struggling readers, and reading a long passage like the one in the test will be difficult.
So that’s what they are doing now. They are all quietly reading the passage, circling important words, and listing them in their thinking map. Some of them might do okay. But honestly, it looks like a few students have circled way too many “important” words.
It makes for a quiet morning.
* * * * *
Looking around, most are finally finishing (more than an hour later). We’ve already missed our recess because only about 8 were finished at that time. Ideally, there should only be about 4 not finished, and those 4 can be escorted to another room while the rest of the class has recess. But in all the 4th grade classes there were too many students not finished. So someone came in to let me use the bathroom, and they’ll check back in about 14 minutes to see if we can go to recess.
At this point, I see a lot of students with long lists of important words (too long, in fact) that they have to put into sentences to summarize the passage. One boy’s summary I think will be longer than the original text.
I’m really frustrated. We don’t really have any curriculum for teaching any of the genres that fourth grade is expected to know. I”m tired of making up stuff. I’m tired of taking what I kind of knew and what sort of worked from a teacher 4 years ago and trying to use that again and again.
I want something, from someone, that is a plan for writing a summary. I know how to write one, and yes, I’ve told that two my students. But I want some curriculum that I can look at, tweak, and use with my students.