Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Testingmom.com - What's it all about?


So I recently came across an interesting website called testingmom.com . Have you seen it? It looks like a website that parents might use to help their students practice or prepare for all kinds of testing and it sparked my interest. In particular, when I see something made for parents who want to help their children, I wonder if I could learn anything from it. I decided to take a closer look.

When you go to Testing Mom's Home Page, it has clear images, easy to read font and several sections to look at.Some of the categories on the home page were: (under the heading Start Here)  Practice Questions, Online Games, Kindergarten  Readiness,  and State Tests and Common Core. The other sections you could click on were two other websites called Study Island and Show What you Know, which I did not look at,
Parent Resources,  a Testing Mom Tip (one day I saw this interesting one: "Dyslexia runs in the family. Six gene variations have been linked to the condition. If you are dyslexic, look out for it in your child"), and links to other fun educational websites such as Brain Pop Jr.

Here's a screen shot of the home page.




First off, if you're going to Testing Mom, I assume most people want to learn about testing and see how they can help their child so they would click on Start Here, so I took a look at that section first.

If you click on Select Practice Questions,  a menu pops up where you choose what test you are interested in. Just a few of them are: WIAT, WISC, Wrtiitng Assessments, Woodcock Johnson, NYC Gifted Test, NYC Private School test, ERB,  ITB Iowa Test, CTBS (Canadian test of basic skills). There were a whole bunch more. State Standards was one of the options as well so I clicked on that. Up popped up several tabs to choose from: Overview and Strategies, Practice Questions View and Print, Online Games,Daily E-mail Questions, My Notes, and Coming Soon Create Your Own Test. If you selected the Overview Tab, you got to look at 5 detailed lessons which had really helpful information that was explained in pretty clear language. Once in while there might be a word that some parents wouldn't know, such as curricula, but overall I would guess the website has tried hard to make everything clear. Parents are probably coming here for information and much of what they get is confusing, so being clear is important and appreciated.

The Lessons had different topics. Lesson One explains state standards and achievement tests. It gives a lot of information but all of it is pertinent if your child is attending a school that either uses CCSS, its own state standards, and/or administers achievement tests to its students. Lesson 2 explains more about CCSS in the different subject areas. Lesson 3 is all about understanding test scores and I was excited to see that! As a teacher I get a lot of questions about test scores and I can get confused myself. All different types of scoring were explained here, from raw scores to norm-references scoring and more! Lesson  4 explained in more detail answers to questions such as: What are achievement tests? Why do they matter? It gave parents more information about CCSS, ways to help your child succeed not just on tests but in general in school (read to them, communicate with their teacher, help students get a quiet spot to do their homework, make education a priority, and more. My favorite tip, coming from a teacher's perspective was to remember that as a parent, you play an important role in your child's school experience and that teachers works very hard but remember to help when you may need to and if you don't know how to help your child, just ask). Finally, Lesson 5 included some tips for parents to help your child do better on tests.

The Practice Questions tab had a lot of choices, so I chose a few sections to explore. I took a look at 3rd grade test A. I like how testingmom.com recommended that parents do this practice test with their child over 3 sessions and gave estimates for how many minutes they should allot for each part. There were mostly multiple choice questions and a few short and extended response questions. Testingmom.com recommended that parents review the short and extended responses with their children afterward. There was an answer key for the multiple choice questions.  The answer key repeated the  problems and all of the possible answers, told what standard it measured, what the correct answer was, and why the correct answer is right. I was thrilled they also included some rationales for why students may have chosen other responses.  For example, one explanation of why a student might have chosen a wrong answer for a multiplication question was: "the student appears to have selected a response based on the sum of the numbers in the questions".  I love this! I am always looking at student responses and trying to figure out why they may have chosen what they did. I can learn from that to become a better teacher. This is great information for parents and they could also discuss it with their children. Sometimes I have these discussions with my class- I ask them questions like, "Why do you think as a possible answer for 8+2, one of the choices was 6?" It is interesting to see if anyone figures out that is the answer if you do subtraction instead, and the lesson is to pay close attention to the operation in the problem. There were also some survival guides for every state. I only clicked on my state, but when I did it just brought up a link to the same CCSS practice tests. Maybe for some states something else came up, but I can't speak to that.

On the home page there were links to online games (beta) . The online games were interesting. They include a mix of questions from different tests as well as pattern completion, folding questions, and pattern tiles - simple and advanced. If you selected the first option, you then would choose a grade, and then a test. There were fewer tests here and some I was not familiar with, but I recognized a few like the Stanford Binet and the Woodcock Johnson. I tried out the first and second grade sections for a few of them. If you got the answer right a little alien told you were correct and you moved on. If you got it wrong, the alien basically asked you to go back and think again. I would imagine kids would be doing some of this independently and wish there was more of an explanation for them as to why they got it right or wrong. I would also recommend they add an audio option so directions can be read aloud. I also peeked at PreK and K questions and for younger students, there is  too much reading. For example, a kindergarten question in a game asks, "In the top row the pictures go together in a certain way. Now look at the bottom row. Do you see the empty box? Which of the 4 pictures on the side goes with the picture in the bottom box the same way the 2 pictures in the top row go together?"

 It is clear that parents would need to sit with their kids the whole time and read these and maybe clarify directions. I suppose that would benefit students and give more information to parents about how their children are doing and the way they are thinking, but maybe at some point some of the games could also be a little more independent. For the online games, there also is a cute Space Baby Creator that can be used for fun or as a "reward" for students. My students love designing avatars on Class Dojo and this seems very similar. I bet it would be a hit.

Also, getting back to the links on the home page to other fun and educational websites, I clicked a couple links and it looked like with a membership to testingmom.com you get a password to get on the other sites which is great (let me know if I am mistaken about this) since some of these websites have very limited content. For example, there are links to Learn With Professor Garfield (yay!) which has a lot of fun activities related to life skills. Also were links to high quality sites like Brain Pop Jr and Brittanica Learning Zone.

The daily e-mail question section seemed to have a list of previous questions sent, broken down into grade levels such as 1-2 and 5-6. I couldn't find anywhere to sign up for current e-mails (e-mails would contain practice test questions), but that doesn't mean it isn't there somewhere!

Kindergarten Readiness is for preschoolers and toddlers and in broken down to similar sections as when you click on "select practice questions": Overview, Practice Questions, Online Games, Daily E-mail questions,. My Notes, etc. One of the sample activities was related to color identification.

There is so much on this website, it is fascinating. As a public school teacher, my only question is with a lot of these tests, such as Woodcock-Johnson and Wisc, why would parents want to help their child do better? My experience in my district is that these tests are used to determine if students have special needs and may need to be on IEPs and receive extra help. As a teacher, if I thought a student needed help I would not necessarily want them to practice to get better on these tests. My guess is some other schools, maybe private schools, use some of the tests to determine the opposite - how well students are doing - to make admissions decisions. Does anyone have some insight on this?

Other then a couple little things, I was honestly impressed with testingmom.com . Someone (or some   people) have worked extremely hard to provide thorough, relevant information, suggestions to parents and practice and advice for students. I'd recommend checking it out if you haven't seen it yet. Click here to head over and please comment with your thoughts.

By the way, I went to the web version of this, and I noticed the mobile version looked a bit different, had the same things though, but also a link to an app which was free and called "Ready or Not". I didn't download it though because my phone is almost out of memory!




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Friday, February 21, 2014

Five for Friday


It is Friday and I am back with Five for Friday! Linking up with Doodlebugs Teaching!



 I always have to have a pic of my handsome boy, so here is an adorable (IMHO) shot of him sleeping away. He looks sooo tired!




 We JUST Had our 100th day of school last week. Here are some of my favorite writing responses from the day.

This one was too "I have been told 100 times". The kids had a blast doing this one.




   This one was so sweet. Most kiddos wrote about something that annoyed them but it was nice to see a couple of positive "I have been told 100 times" responses.


Take a "brake" from that Xbox! Cute!


This girl is adorable. She feels bored when her parents tell her to go to bed.

 This guy spent a long time on his picture. It looks like he initially was going to draw himself slumped over his homework but changed his mind. I love his mom's speech bubble:  "Honey your homework!"





Also some kiddos and I dressed up like 100 year olds. This girl was cute. She was leaning on her cane and really making the most of it!

And these two were adorable. They asked if they could play "Old Person Shuffleboard" and showed me how they were doing it with an empty crayon box. Very creative. And I wonder where they got the idea that elderly folks might play shuffleboard..
 It is school vacation week! I Spent the first 5 days with a nasty head cold but I was determined to drag myself to Mohegan Sun to see Kings Of Leon and not waste my hotel room . My teaching buddy Jenney and I had a great time! My new fave is the SATC game. The bonuses are super fun. When I go to Vegas this summer I will SO be on the lookout for those!





 It is STILL snowing. It was even supposed to rain last night but we did get some snow mixed in - just enough to make some slush but still!

In honor of it, I sent my friend's daughter this book for her birthday and bought myself a new copy. The cover is all sparkly - can you tell??

 And here is what my mom's porch looks like. That is her grill on the right. LOL.

 And finally my favorite spelling error ever : this kiddo was trying to write "sprain" but instead came out with my mother's maiden name, Spang! Shout out to all the Spangs out there! Cute!


BONUS: Oh and it was Valentine's Day and I found a trillion awesome ideas at you may recall from my posts on mailboxes, valentine's ideas etc. (Mailbox Ideas Post, Valentine's Ideas, Valentine's Books and Crafts) . I decided to go with the "I'm Stuck on You" glue stick ideas from  Relocated Living since my class had been having a SERIOUS glue stick shortage! Here's how mine looked  (would have been cuter if my washi tape was pink or red but still!):


I printed out the freebie at Relocated's page and then I did actually get the glue sticks from Amazon - I am a prime member and needed them fast and they were a good price. Here's the link (Click on the image below to go to Amazon).

Okay... they are even cheaper now! Less than $8 for 30!  LOL


Also, thanks to Glitter Meets Glue who created those sparkly numbers. I grabbed some of them when she was on an Educents deal.

And thanks to Jason R., who I hear reads every one of my blog posts (at least that's the word on the streets!)! If you're reading this Jason, you rock!



 Hope you are having a restful week everyone! 


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Dr. Seuss!

Wow! How can it be almost Dr. Seuss' birthday? Wasn't Christmas just like last week?! Well, I put together a resource list of some terrific Dr. Seuss books below. Clicking on the cover will bring you to Amazon for more information. If you follow my post down, I also have some freebie resources I will share with you. I also might be working on my own Dr. Seuss freebie for you! Stay tuned!





Dr. Seuss books make me think of a few of my favorite books that are not by him, but published as Dr. Seuss-type books (I don't know if he started his own publishing company or what). You know the ones by Theo LeSieg, PD Eastman and so on. Ok, by the way, I just found out thanks to Tori (link below) that Theo LeSieg is actually also Dr. Seuss. LeSieg = Geisel (his real last name) backwards. He didn't illustrate the LeSieg books though. Thanks for the tidbit, Tori ! Here are a couple that I adored as a child and have bought my friends' kids recently.


         
 


Also below are some of the Dr. Seuss Freebies and resources I have come across. If you have your own or links to add, please comment below and let us know!

Hojo's Teaching Adventures - Dr. Seuss Facts and Opinions Freebie: Great for grades 3-5

First Grade Fantabulous- Trio of Dr. Seuss Freebies

 Tori's Teaching Tips- Dr.. Seuss Word Problems

 Smiling in Second Grade- A Class ABC book Template

 Mrs. Bremer's Class - Resources for Math and Reading Centers for K and 1   

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Spring Training Has Started! A Ballpark Estimate Freebie!

For those of us in New England that got buried with 8 more inches of snow, it is hard to believe but spring training has started! To celebrate and try and get myself out of the winter blahs, I am working on a ballpark estimate product. Those of you who do Everyday Math know the dreaded ballpark estimates (at least my 2nd graders dread them) and we need a lot of extra practice! It is not totally done yet but can share this freebie - a one page practice sheet you could use for in class, homework or even a quick assessment. Click on the images below to grab it from google docs. Enjoy!




Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

Freebie Fridays

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Snow Day Sale!

(Thanks to Carla from Comprehension Connection for the cute pic)

Some of you are having a snow day and even though I am not, why not join in the fun! Maybe we will have one tomorrow. Two of my products are on sale for just $1.00 today only ! Also a bunch of other teacher bloggers are doing the same and we are linking up. To see who is involved, check out the linky information below.

As for me, I am putting on sale two "wintery" products I guess you'd say.

First my Winter Writing Prompt Collection: 
It includes 9 prompts with checklists, writing response paper in 2 styles (Handwriting Without Tears and regular lined paper) and cute but ink savings black and white borders. Some of the prompts are holiday themed but some are not. You can use them both this year and next year!  To grab them for only $1 from Teachers Notebook, click on the images below. To get them from my other stores, follow the links below this post.





The other product I am having a sale for the snow day sale is my Seasonal Grammar Games. Included are three games to help your students practice synonyms and homophones! Included are my Fall Synonym Fun, Winter Synonym Fun, and Valentine's Homophone Fun. (Yes I know I have a typo on the cover of Fall Synonym Fun but the rest is a-ok. I will get on that!)










If you want these products at Teachers Pay Teachers, Buysellteach, or EPals Tools for School, instead, follow the links below.

Winter Writing Prompt Collection:

Seasonal Grammar Games:



Monday, February 3, 2014

Valentine Ideas -Candy, No-Candy, Crafty and More!


Valentine's Day  is approaching, Groundhog Day has passed. Where did the time go?


I had my students make a class list as a handwriting lesson and they brought it home to help them address their Valentines. One girl goes, "Oh I already addressed all mine." This was on January 30, 16 days before Valentine's Day. Wow, way to be prepared! In any case, most are probably just trying to decide what to do so I compiled this list of super creative Valentines that you can make. Most are free (unless you have to buy candy) but there are a couple that are on Etsy.

I decided to make a couple different lists:  Paper (non-candy) Valentine Crafts, Candy Valentines, Valentines for teachers, coworkers, or your guy, and Creative Valentines that require some arts and crafts supplies or buying something else (bubbles, play doh, etc.) For each, click on the link below the picture and it will link you to the website to get information on how to make it. There will also be a couple bonus ideas that didn't make it into the pictures. Click on those to go to learn more. Enjoy!


Now for the No- Candy Crafty Valentines:
No-candy crafty Valentines from Reading and Writing Redhead
Image MapThe Wilson World's Play Doh Valentines
Living Locurto's iPad Valentines
Passion for Kids' Bubbles Valentines
Crafty Morning's Heart Shape Crab Valentine
Ollie and Lulu's Bee Mine Valentines (Paid item on Etsy)
Crafting Chick's Bouncing Ball Valentines
Dandee Designs' Love Bug Valentines
Back to Organic's You Rule Valentines


A few more ideas...

Mad Libs

No-candy crafty Valentines


Bingo 
No-candy crafty Valentines

Cupid's Arrow
No-candy crafty Valentines
Mustache
No-candy crafty Valentines
Light Saber
No-candy crafty Valentines
Rainbow Loom idea
No-candy crafty Valentines
Crazy Straws
No-candy crafty Valentines

If you're looking for no-candy, and with paper as basically the only supply, here are the  
Paper Valentines:
Paper valentines- no candy from Reading and Writing Redhead
Pictured:
No Time for Flashcard's Paper Hugs
Positively Splendid's Bookmark Valentines 
Crafty Engineer's Have a Fan-Tache-Tic Day
My Kids Make's I love Ewe Valentines
The Rubber Punkin's Red and Pink Love Valentines
Pumpkin and Posies' Free Printables
At Home with Kim Valee You're a Hoot Valentines

Some others:
Paper valentines- no candy



 Pigskins and Pigtails' Tic Tac Toe Valentines
Paper valentines- no candy
 Mer Mag's Pirate Valentines
Paper valentines- no candy
Paper valentines- no candy
Paper valentines- no candy
       Image Map And finally...

Valentines for Teachers, Co-Workers, and Your Guy
Valentines for Teachers, Coworkers, and Your Guy from Reading and Writing Redhead

A Night Owl's Blog's There's No Teacher I love S'more than You
The Thriftiness Miss' I Love You Forever and then S'More
The Dating Diva's Valentines Basket for Your Guy
The Frugal Girl's You're So Hot Valentine

Man-Approved Valentines

Valentine ideas for guys from Reading and Writing Redhead

Pre-planned date nights
Valentine ideas for guys from Reading and Writing Redhead