Whether we like it or not, high stakes testing has arrived. One of our main responsibilities as educators is to prepare students for success on these tests. For students to succeed, we must get students’ buy in on the importance of these tests. If students own their growth in their test scores, they are more likely to take the test seriously. They are also more likely to invest time into their education, which is what we ultimately are trying to achieve.
At the beginning of the school year, I have students listen to Macklemore’s “Ten Thousand Hours.” After listening to the entire song, I hand out a copy of an excerpt of the lyrics for students to read independently.
As students read the excerpt for a second time, they mark the text using the following symbols:
- Underline the main idea
- Circle keywords
- * important information
- ? anything you have a question about
After students have marked the text, they share their markings with a partner, comparing what they have marked independently, and discussing the main idea of the text. Once they have interacted with the text in this way, we have a class discussion centered around the main message of the song.
When students understand that Macklemore’s messages are: 1) you can achieve your goals if you put your mind to them and 2) you must put in a lot of time and effort (ten thousand hours!) to achieve expert status in your field, it is time to set individual goals.
Students have the opportunity to review their fall Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test scores for Reading and Math. They then select one of the two (reading or math) and set a growth goal that they would like to achieve by the time they take the test again in the spring. For example one student’s goal might read: “I will make an 8 point gain in my Reading MAP score by reading 30 min. each night.” Students then write their goal on Star cutouts.
To make these goals visible throughout the year, I create a bulletin board display. The centerpiece of the display is a poster, with selected quotes from the song lyrics that highlight the main messages of the song, printed on High Impact Poster Maker Paper. Around the poster, I display the student’s cutouts containing their goals. This brightly colored bulletin board makes for a great tool that we refer to throughout the year as we continue our discussions about student growth.
Julia Cremin is a 6th grade Reading, Language Arts and Math teacher at O'Keeffe Middle School in Madison, WI. She is certified in Elementary Education (grades 1-9) with a minor in Mathematics. This is her fourth year teaching middle school.