Thursday, April 16, 2009

Every-Day Practice Pays:
The Proof Is in the Test Scores

I’ve always been a firm believer that skills reinforced regularly are skills that stick.

When I taught third grade, my students entered the classroom every a.m., hung up their coats, then grabbed their “Daily Numbers” worksheets and put their pencils to work. The Daily Numbers sheets presented ten math problems -- word problems, calculations, greater than or less than equations, telling time, making change, place value… The sheets were corrected on the spot so students got immediate feedback (and second chances to earn a perfect score). In the course of a week, the kids practiced every skill they’d been taught at least twice; many skills were practiced daily. That every-day reinforcement was quick, fun, and painless. Every student started the day on a successful note.

Another of my students’ daily stops was at the Reading Skills Center. There they took from the wall a laminated card and practiced a skill they’d been taught. The cards were colorful and handmade. Other than that, there was nothing special about them. They weren't all that different from a standard workbook page. Just a different format. One more way to push practice their way.

And I knew the daily-practice approach was paying off.
I saw it in their work.
I saw it in their writing.
And I saw the feelings of pride and success in their faces.

Test Success

Each year, my students took a battery of tests. One test established their abilities; the others measured skill mastery. I knew the daily practice would help my students do well on their tests, but that was confirmed the day the superintendent stopped by to tell me that my class was the only class in town (nine elementary schools) in which every third grader was working at or above his or her ability.

I can’t say that I was surprised.

I knew the kids would score well because they frequently practiced every single skill they might face on those tests.

Hammer the Grammar

I was reminded of my experiences with every-day practice today as I read about a great program that teachers in one North Carolina middle school created. The program, “Hammer the Grammar,” was a school-wide effort to take the pain out of grammar instruction. Colorful grammar posters were displayed around the school. Weekly lessons were planned and taught -- and reinforced in every class. Kids were stopped in hallways and between classes and in the lunch line... and offered quick opportunities to respond to grammar challenges -- and win prizes! “Hammer the Grammar” T-shirts were proudly worn by students and staff alike. Everybody particpated!

With some effort and lots of reinforcement and even more fun -- teachers hammered (ever so gently and with a smile) all year long at the grammar demons that plagued their students’ oral and written language.

And guess what?

The students in this rural district scored third best on North Carolina’s statewide writing test.

I’m not surprised.

Read More
Read more about the Hammer the Grammar effort:
Making Grammar Improvement Enjoyable

Every-Day Resources from Education World
Education World has created a variety of resources to help you lead a Do It Daily effort in your school. If you want to raise test scores, that is.

Morning Math
Developed by Principal Larry Davis (Oakleaf K-8 School in Middleburg, Florida), these daily questions are a fun element of his school’s a.m. announcement routine.

Every-Day Edits
Use Every-Day Edits to build language skills and cultural literacy (and test scores) with students in grades 4 and above. Or use our weekly Animals A to Z editing activities at the primary level.

Every Day Activities Across the Curriculum
Classroom teachers can use these resources to develop their own every-day activities:
Every-Day Activities: Language
Every-Day Activities: Today in History
More Every-Day Activities

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