This past week was testing week for reading, which was really exciting for me. I already had a pretty good idea of how much each of my kids was growing and around what level they had moved to but this test makes it official and tells me exactly how much they have grown. I am so impressed with them! They have been working SO hard and have really blown me away with how much they have grown. Most of my kids came to me reading on about a kindergarten or first grade reading level and they have to be ready for third grade next year in order for them to be on track to be successful. So my goal for every student in my class was for them to make 2 years of reading growth in 1 year. Moving up 4 reading levels is equal to 1 year of growth so I want them all to move up 8 reading levels by the end of the year. This is a huge goal but I really think we can do it!
Toward the middle of the first semester I was struggling a little bit with motivating my kids to make this kind of growth. I wanted them to understand how much growth we need to make and how hard we need to work to do that. So after talking to my absolutely amazing MTLD, Meg, she shared with me something that she did in her class when she was a middle school teacher in California. So when I went home for Thanksgiving break, I stole her idea and got everything ready to start a competition in my class.
On the first day back from break, I told my students that I when I went home to Texas I ran into another second grade teacher who told me that she thinks her class is smarter than my class. So I told that teacher that we should have a competition between our two schools. The competition is whoever moves up the most reading levels AND gets the most effort points by the end of the year wins. I showed them a powerpoint to get them pumped up for the competition and help them understand how it would work. The (fake) school is called Texas Prepatory Charter Academy. I showed them a picture of a really fancy looking school, a group of really fancy looking kids in uniforms that we are competing against and also a picture of the competing teacher at Texas Prep, AKA the villain, my MTLD Meg!
My kids are pretty feisty and they are extremely motivated by any kind of competition so they were pumped. After the first week, I told them we should write a letter to the Texas Prep class to tell them why we are going to win. Here are some quotes from some of their letters:
“I know we are going to win because we work harder than your class and our brains are bigger than yours.”
“I know we are going to win because Ms. A is a better teacher than your teacher and she loves us and we read every day and we try really hard and she even lets us borrow her books.” (with a picture of him with a really huge brain)
“When our class wins your class is going to give our class a trophy. Look at the picture I drew of your class giving our class a trophy. Do you like it?” (with a picture of me and my class smiling and cheering with a huge trophy and their class crying and bleeding)
“I know we are going to win because Ms. A teaches us tons of stuff and I read all the time. P.S. We know how to write even longer letters than this.” (with a picture of me smiling and saying “We won!” and picture of the Texas Prep teacher saying “My clothes are torn!”)
So I’d say they are pretty invested in this thing.
(Sidenote: I never said anything about a trophy and I definitely didn’t say anything about any fighting which is the only thing I can think of that would result in bleeding or clothes being torn… Maybe I got them a little too riled up? Whoops.)
To keep the investment going, Meg makes videos of herself talking about how great her Texas Prep class is doing and how my class is going to need to step it up. Since she is my MTLD, sometimes she has to come and observe me teaching, but when she comes she is going to tell my kids that Texas Prep flew her out to KC to check out what we are doing to make such great growth. I also make up fake newsletters that I say I found on the Texas Prep website talking about the second grade reading competition against a school in Kansas City…
Okay, I know I know. Maybe I am a terrible, horrible person to make up such an elaborate lie to tell to all of my sweet kids. And maybe I get very nervous that they are going to find out this is all a huge lie and there is no such thing as Texas Prepatory Charter Academy. But I just tell myself that lying in the name of student achievement is perfectly okay, right? And, it’s working!