One look at Ms. Ward’s twitter account is all the proof you need that instruction in her classroom involves much more than pencil and paper. You’ll find images of students creating geometric shapes with straws, using manipulatives for math and answering “what is thermal energy?” by drawing bubble maps with markers and poster board.
Ms. Ward encourages her students to work with their hands, “It helps them retain information. We try to get away from the teacher standing before the class. They do much better on assessments.”
The focus on assessments is key for this particular group. As third graders at D.H. Stanton Elementary School, this will be the first time these students will experience standardized testing in the district. This year though, the test will be new to all APS students with the debut of the Georgia Milestones, which replaces the CRCT. Perhaps the biggest change is the addition of constructed response questions which will require students to not only answer the question but explain how they came to that conclusion.
Ms. Ward is preparing her students regularly by reviewing standards, keeping student data in a designated notebook and then meeting with students in small groups to work with them in areas where she sees a need for improvement. She admits the idea of constructed response questions can be a little scary but she’s giving students insight on what to expect and arming them with testing strategies. “How we attack it is to talk through it,” explains Ms. Ward.
While she is spending plenty of time talking about Milestones, she is wasting no time in preparing students with sample questions and other opportunities that allow them to illustrate their thought processes.
Ms. Ward has been a teacher 15 years, two of them at APS. She has worked as a tech specialist and also spent two years teaching English and Math to kindergarteners in Abu Dhabi. You can find her on twitter @.