I am very happy to report that week one of The Future is NOW! project was a big success. The kids and I all had a great time incorporating a career theme in to their learning, and I'd like to think that it had something to do with the increase in effort that I saw from them.
On Monday I was gone for a little while that morning, but when I got back, I handed out very official looking name tags to all the kids. Their names were all written on there with Dr. in front of them, and it had a special logo and the name of veterinarian clinic. On that day, we just discussed some of the things we'd be during throughout the week.
On Tuesday, I had a stethoscope wrapped around my neck, and a stuffed, pink monkey hooked to my waist when the kids arrived. I was wearing my name tag that matched theirs, and several of the kids brought their own stuffed animals. For math, I made up official looking invoice sheets for them to do some billing for the vet clinic. It was a tough challenge. They had to multiply, add, and subtract in order to get a sub total for the order. But, I was extremely pleased with how well they handled it. I know that if I had given them a word problem with the same math steps on it, they'd have probably told me it was too hard. Seeing the work in that format really made them jump on board with having a go at it, and they really did a great job plowing through the obstacles.
On Wednesday, we learned about service animals. We watched a video about how guide dogs were trained and cared for, and how they help blind people. Later that afternoon, we discussed some bigger animals and how vets also have to work with zoo animals, exotic pets, etc. We discussed learning about their needs, the ecosystems that they rely on, and parasites and hosts. It was a fascinating discussion on fleas, ticks, mosquitoes, and worms. What they don't realize is that was our regular science lesson that we would have done whether we were learning about vets or not. But, it sure makes focus a lot better when they think they are learning about the stuff because it's specially formulated to the week's theme.
Thursday was the day I got to see some hard work really pay off. We had a visit from Dr. Beard, a real vet that came and spoke to the kids about his profession. He did a fantastic job. He spoke to the kids about how most people think of vets as people that make their pets better if they're sick. He then went on to explain the many professions that can be done by being a vet. He discussed working for the USDA, the military, working in cancer and disease research, and working in zoos and on animal reserves. He did a great job letting the kids know that it's not just working with cats, dogs, and farm animals. Dr. Beard told them how important education was, and how hard it is to be accepted in to veterinarian school. One thing that I loved was how he discussed the application process, and how the schools only pick the "cream of the crop" of applicants. He told the kids that there are only 29 veterinarian schools in the country, so not everyone that wants to be a vet can just go to school to do it. He discussed how the administration at the schools look at grades, personality, and motivation as their deciding factors about who gets accepted and who doesn't.
The kids asked some great questions, and I could really see their interest level peak. Even though I only had two kids that were interested in being a vet before he came, half the class later said that being a vet is something that now interests them. I see that as a win for career motivation.
After lunch, the kids had to take their quarterly STAR test for reading. Now, at the beginning of the year, the majority of my kids tested to be reading at a 2nd grade level. In fact I only had two students reading at a 4th grade level, two kids reading on a low 3rd grade level, and twelve kids reading on a low 2nd grade level. I had a long conversation with them before they went for their test. We discussed how hard they'd been working, the research and higher level thinking they'd been doing. I reminded them the fact that we'd been reading Charlotte's Web every day, which is a 4th grade level book. I showed them the stack of new books I'd bought at the book fair that ranged from a 3rd grade to a 5th grade level. And I ended with the fact that I knew I didn't have 2nd grade readers, anymore. I now had a class that had come such a long way, and it was the STAR test that would show that.
I wish I could have captured the focus and drive on the faces of my students as they were taking the test. I've never seen anything like it. As each student finished the test, they came up to find out their new reading level. Student after student blew me away with the growth that they had made. I couldn't believe my eyes.
When it was all said and done, I finished with one student reading at a 6th grade level, three students reading at a high 4th grade level, nine students reading at an upper 3rd grade level, and two students reading at a 2nd grade level that was several months higher than they originally started. I still have one student that has to test, but overall that's flippin' FANTASTIC! Many of my students had made 6 months to a year of progress in the two months since their last test. Our class average went up six months, and I couldn't be happier about that. I think that's an amazing increase in just two months of work.
Now, I'm not going to sit here and say that they made such great progress from just a week's worth of changing the way I do things. But, I know it helped. I know that the conversation I had with them helped. I know that Dr. Beard's discussion with them helped. I know that the interventions and extra work they've been doing helped. And it reinforced my drive to keep doing what I'm doing... because I've got to be doing something right.
Next week we have the STAR math test, and I'm expecting to see the same type of growth. These kids have found their drive, and it's not going away any time soon.
On Friday, I really wanted to reward them for all of their hard work. When I asked them how they'd like to receive that reward, you wanna know what they said? They wanted extra reading time. Yep. You read that right. Their idea of a reward was to have more time to read independently. WIN!!!!
They got their wish, and we spent our normal whole group reading time with them reading independently. Then, the last 40 minutes of the day, I put on a movie for them to watch. As much as I love to hear that reading is a reward, I also wanted to do something a little more, so I figured a movie was a good way to do that.
At the end of the day, several of the kids were buzzing about what next week's career was going to be. Several of the kids asked me, and I told them they'd have to wait and find out. That's exactly how I wanted it to be. I want them ending the week excited about what the next week has in store, and I think I got that this week.
After work, I finally got their graduation photos on the wall. That was something I'd meant to do all last week, but with as crazy as the week was I didn't get around to it. Now, their photos will be greeting them as they walk in the door on Monday, and I think I've put them in a place that will keep them focused and motivated.
Today is a cold, rainy day. Perfect weather for me to curl up on the couch and do nothing. Except that's not what I'm going to do. Instead, I'm going to be sitting at my dining room table hashing out all of my plans and ideas for next week. I'm excited and ready, due to how important I know that it is to them. I owe it to them to stay on my game and make each week even better than the week before.
So, it's time for me to get to work.
Have an awesome Saturday, everyone!