Although the all important test will not be administered until April my colleagues and I are already concerned. Can nine year old students or any students for that matter really retain all of the needed information for the next nine months? Apparently politicos and educrats believe they can, and it is up to me to make sure students do.
It’s not easy.
Of course, if it’s nearing the end of August then EHT’s students are taking a look at Native Americans in North America prior to the 1500s. The Georgia Standard students are required to master (SS4H1) reads as follows: (a.) Locate where the American Indians settled with emphasis on the Artic (Inuit), Northwest (Kwakiutl), Plateau (Nez Perce), Southwest (Hopi), Plains (Pawnee), and Southwestern (Seminole) regions and (b.) Describe how American Indians used their environment to obtain food, clothing, and shelter.
What this means is students have to know how six different regions are alike and different as well as how the climate, physical features, and resources assisted natives in meeting their basic needs. It is very easy for students to become confused over which area is which and which tribes belong to which region.
I can choose many different ways to assess students, however the state uses a multiple-choice format the questions are somewhat limited. Luckily the state provides a website of banked questions for students to use in practicing for the test. These questions are also great indicators for educators so they know how the questions will be presented for students.
Additionally I assess students in many different ways. I give them opportunities to work on a project that involves one Native American region; I present the information in chart form, web form, outline notes, and bullet lists. Each student creates a matrix chart where they fill-in the information once the content is presented. They must use their own notes to do this. We also use images…many images. You can’t know what the Plains looked like if you haven’t been there. Many of my students have never been taken more than five miles from their homes. Students need visuals.
The image I used for last week’s Wordless post is presented here. Last week’s participants were great photo analyzers. Some commented that the photo might be Polynesia…I can see why….and a couple noticed the difference between the modern clothing some were wearing and the regalia the folks in the foreground were sporting. Jenny was the first one to mention Washington State, Jumpback mentioned the Great Northwest, and finally Alasandra brought up cedar bark clothing. Great job…gold stars all around.
The image shows members of the Kwakiutl tribe dressed in clothing made from cedar bark. Why did they wear cedar bark clothing? Well, it was what their environment provided----many, many cedar trees. I use that particular image in my power point presentation I show students as I introduce the Northwest region while students are taking notes. The notes are included in the presentation and the images help clarify what we are discussing. I like the image of the Kwakiutl because my standard mentions that tribe in particular plus the many trees are shown, a body of water is shown, and cedar bark clothing is shown. A grand slam if you ask me.
After we complete the unit on Native American regions I will periodically spiral back to review with students. One way I do this is through images. Such as this one:
I’ll pop it up on the television screen and ask, “On your paper I want you to jot down everything you can tell me about who lived in this environment before 1500 and how the environment helped them meet their basic needs.” I say go and give students a few minutes. When I call time I might ask students to share their jottings with their the other students they sit with. Where they right in identifying the region? Did they remember everything they could? Did a fellow student have something on their list that they didn’t? I allow students to change their answers and add to them if necessary before moving on to the next image.
As a class opener I might write two lists up on the board describing a particular region and as students come in the room I ask them to read through the lists and try to visualize what the region would look like. After everyone is in place and has had a chance to read through the lists I pop an image on the screen that matches one of the lists. “Which list describes the image?” I ask. I might pass out small slips of paper and ask students to provide the answer on the slip. Then I take them up and assess if students are remembering the content or not. I wouldn’t grade something like this, but I am mining for data. Data that will tell me which direction I need to go in and with which students.
For example, if a large number of kids continually get these mini-assessments wrong then they need remediation in the content area. I might give them extra time with little books that discuss the region, a Kids Discover magazine on particular regions, or I might send them to the classroom computers to review the power point presentations I used with each lesson…some one-on-one doesn’t hurt either.
We play games where student teams must identify regions based on image and/or a list of descriptors. We draw maps and label the regions to the point they should be able to do it in their sleep. I want them to get to the point they see the information in their mind’s eye.
It’s not easy, but it is a “must do.”