As a teacher, you have to be aware of the standardized testing your state requires at the end of the school year. You also have to be aware of your school's curriculum and your state's objectives. So, when do you teach to students' interests? How do you take advantage of teachable moments?
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The Creative Classroom and Standardized Testing
Unexpected teachable moments will pop up every day in a classroom rich with learning and enthusiasm. If you encourage these moments, you will see students excited about learning and interested in the subject. Unexpected moments may come up when a student asks a question about a related topic, over a discussion of current events, or even when reading a novel. You can never be sure what might spark a student's interest. When you do, you have to go with it despite standardized testing requirements. However, you don't have to worry about your students being unprepared for their assessments at the end of the year. With quick thinking, you can turn teaching moments into curriculum-based lessons.
There is already insufficient time to teach everything you need to teach students in one year but try not to lose sight of what is actually important about teaching. You want to create life-long learners and productive members of society.
For example, if your math objective is for students to add and subtract money or make change, then you may use a real-life example of shopping to help students understand this concept. During this lesson, a student may ask you about sales tax, even if it is not part of your original lesson. Why do they have to pay it? How is it figured? If students are asking about it, then it is probably important to students and affects their daily lives. So, why not work it into your lessons? Use sales tax to teach another objective such as multiplying with decimals or more practice for adding and subtracting decimals or even to teach some social studies objectives about taxes. With a little creativity, this teachable moment can engage students and teach important objectives.
Think about discussions you've recently had with your students. Can you steer their desire for certain knowledge toward an objective that they may see on standardized testing? This is one of the best ways to enjoy unexpected teaching moments and meet your responsibilities.
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Recognizing Time Wasters
In order to facilitate a creative classroom and standardized test preparation, the teacher must guard against time wasters.
Not all questions students ask or stories they tell are going to present teaching moments. When reading a novel about dogs, there are only so many "pet" stories you have time for during one lesson. With teaching experience, you'll know if discussions or questions will not lead to lessons that will benefit the whole class. But you also do not want to ignore students or make them feel like what they have to say is not important. So, what can you do? Standardized testing days are always lurking in the background!
If you recognize a discussion is taking up time and not leading to a teachable moment, then you can put a limit on the discussion with a comment such as, "We will need to move on in two minutes." You can also make a note of the conversation on a post-it note and find the student during recess to continue the discussion. Some teachers will schedule lunches once or twice a week with a small group of students, so they can relate to students on a more personal level and get to know more about the students in their classrooms. Discussions can always be continued during these lunches.
With creativity and a little extra time, you can take advantage of teachable moments in this standardized testing world.
Even in an educational world of state objectives, standardized tests, and school curriculums that are impossible to manage, you can allow students to guide what you teach. Students will stay engaged and love learning. With creativity and extra work, you can use student-guided lessons in your room.