Staring Down The Barrel of a Test

Tomorrow is a big day.  I guess it's THE big day in some ways.  Tomorrow, my 4th graders will be taking their state writing exam.

Last week was a busy week as we discussed and prepared.  I don't make the test a big deal, but I have a responsibility to make sure that my students are informed and ready.  As we talked, I've found myself saying things like "When the test is over, then we can get back to real writing."  Unfortunately, the test is real- all too real for some.  I think many of my students feel as if they are staring down the barrel of gun with no easy way out.

Many are understandably nervous.  I don't emphasize the state tests in class, but yet the anxiety remains.  So many other forces push and pull on them to try and make tomorrow into something it is not.  Parents knowingly and unknowingly put pressure on their kids to perform.  Older kids and siblings can lay it on thick as well.  Teachers before me have also shaped their feelings about it.  I'm sure I've even added to the stress.

Here is what I keep saying over and over to them (and to myself)-
It's NOT the end of the world.  It's one day.
You can't truly fail unless you fail to give your best.
Grades don't determine your learning.  You determine your learning.
We are going to get through this together.
I just hope they believe me.

Many students have blogged their feelings about our test on their blogs.  Check them out, and leave some #comments4kids.

Photo credit: rudyjuanito

Envolve: A Facebook-Like Chat Room for Your Site or Blog

I have experimented with Plugoo chat ( on my blog as a quick and easy way for students and parents to contact me. It's simple and syncs up to my Google Talk account which I use from my BlackBerry.

I saw this today on Read Write Web and it's a little different. This lets you have a multi user Facebook style chat on your blog or site. This could add an extra dimension of real time collaboration to what students are working on. It could be a viable back channel during discussions and keep everything in a one stop location.

The free plan supports up to 5 simultaneous users. Prices and numbers of simultaneous users go up from there. It might be worth looking in to if you need something like this.

Does anyone know of something better or alternatives?

Get Your Students Reading and Blogging This Summer
Summer Read-O-Rama Part 1 from Mr. Stortz on Vimeo.

During the last week of school, I told all of the students to try their best to keep up with the blogs over the summer. I encouraged everyone to make a few posts during the summer to let us know what was going on in your life. I also hinted at some summer reading activities to help everyone stay motivated to read. I'm calling it Summer Read-O-Rama. Throughout the summer I will be posting updates and new activities for everyone to take part in.

Part 1: Five for 5th

Students- pick out 5 books that you want to read before fifth grade. Get on your blog and post your titles. Check out what others are reading and leave some comments. You can even back -log titles from the last two weeks, if you have been reading them.

Free Books!

Three different bookstores are giving away free books this summer. It's okay to count the same book on multiple forms. Please click on the links below for more info.

Half Price Books: Feed Your Brain Summer Reading Program You can earn a $3 gift card every week until the end of July

Barnes & Noble: Summer Reading Earn a free book

Borders: Summer Reading Double Dog Dare Earn a free book