True Grit part 2: My little guy & the “big test”

In my last blog post – I talked about having Grit...

My kids had to show more a lot of grit with the new test.

And I have one sweet, eager to please friend… that sometimes struggles with reading.

He fell apart during day 1 of Reading.  Got stuck, didn’t know what to do, and just went around in circles.  I could see the panic in his eyes.

I rubbed his back every now and then, and slipped him an extra couple of mints.  I did everything the rule book would allow.  Which wasn’t much.  It’s all I could do.

But I had to face the truth – they were all falling apart a little bit.  This was the their first time ever with high-stakes testing and it showed.  Almost two years of teaching the SAME strategies, and about 2 kids used them.  I wanted to just melt.   I felt I had failed my students.  I had armed them with a tool box full of tools that they didn’t know when to use during go-time.  And this was only Day 1.

I needed to have grit.

So – I knew we needed to debrief and reflect – as much as the rule book would allow. Which wasn’t much.  But it’s all I could do.

Often we are often tempted to ask kids things like “how do you think you did?” – and they honestly don’t really know.  Or  “Was it hard/easy?” which doesn’t really allow them to reflect and build.

So instead – I posed these questions to them to reflect on

  • “What strategies did you use?”  (they should have used reading the text with a pencil, close reading the questions, rereading the text/looking back in the text to confirm answer choices,  eliminating clearly wrong answer choices, creating a graphic organizer for their writing on scratch paper).
  •  “Where there any strategies that you didn’t use that you should have?”  “If not .. why?” 
  • “Did you manage your time okay?” “Did you have too much time left over or not enough time?”
  • “Did you use most of the all the space for writing (or did you run out of room?)  If you didn’t use all the space, why not?”

I even shared these questions with parents in an email

I started out the next day before our testing session with the usual pre-test pep talk, and I pulled a note from the sports world and told them “close your eyes, imagine using your strategies. What does it look like?  What are you doing?”

And later that morning we began testing.  And I did see a big improvement overall. Perhaps I hadn’t failed them after all.  Between getting that first day under their belts, the self-analysis, and the visualization – they were doing a much better of applying their strategies. They were showing their grit.

But this really made my heart soar.  My little guy – my struggler from the day before, started out the test by listing all the strategies I had taught them that on his scrap paper.  He was so proud of his list.  He said it would help him if he got stuck.  And he used it.  And he finished feeling good.  He had a goal, he made a plan, and he knew what to do when he got stuck.

That was TRUE GRIT!

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