Standardized Urban Lifes
By: Kelsi Hinnenkamp
When going through Metropolitan State University's Urban Teaching Program I noticed a common trend among my classes. This trend was to ensure that the material we teach to our students would be relevant. Material that is relevant to their lives and that it would be applicable. I also came across standardized testing. Standardized tests are around to ensure that our students are understanding the state requirement and are learning and growing. According to MN Report Card not all student's make the score desired for state standardized tests. Some people argue it is because of standards that we can't teach what our students should learn that is applicable for their lives in urban communities.
When I was in elementary school, I never knew what I was doing when taking standardized tests. I just believed they were another test until I got older and realized it wasn't a part of my grades in school I stopped caring. I would easily get bored with the content and just fill in answers so I could finish the test. This experience made me think of the students I work with and I wonder if they go through the same thoughts that I did when I was in school. It also made me think what can we do as educators to make our students motivated to learn even when we have to teach to the standards? How do we make the material relevant to their lives? This inquiry is attempting to look at the opinions of others and see what they think about this subject. The participants will be asked the question: How do teachers provide instruction that relates to student's lives and still prepare them for standardized testing? The participants come from a variety of different backgrounds. Some are teachers, some are parents of students, and some are just some people I talked to at a grocery store in the community.
How do teachers provide instruction that relates to student's lives and still prepare them for standardized testing?
Katina Edwards (Kindergarten Teacher, St. Paul)
There are standards that the teachers go by, and we have to teach to those standards. There is always curriculum that is provided and we have the option to use it or be as creative as possible if we feel like there is something else that is better to use and is out there. There usually is and it can help the students connect better to the material. In Kindergarten, to get them to understand content we want them to relate it to their real world. For example, if we are going to talk about a heart we want to show them what a real heart looks like versus a cartoon heart. We will do activities that involve their heart, I will use Go Noodle to get them jumping and doing something active while they learn about their hearts. We try to make it more hands on and more connected to their world. When I was in school I remember my teacher
Kerry Lewis (English Language Learner Teacher, St. Paul)
I think it is taking the state standards of what they have to know, but bringing in content, materials, conversation, and background knowledge from the students, this way they can connect to the material and be more engaged in what we are trying to teach them by providing new experiences. Also making it very student centered, so they are talking about their lives and how it correlates to what we teach. If you don't have student engagement you are not going to learn. An example would be teaching cause and effect. We have to think about our experiences, and what experiences we have that something cause something else to happen. As opposed to me giving a student a paper and telling them to read the paragraph and find the cause and effect in it. We would start out with my own experiences and your experiences and how it relates before we get to the content material. You can also do fiction stories. I would show my made up fiction story and we might act it out to make it more visual. Use the students as characters in the story.
Racquel J. (Parent, St. Paul)
It is by teaching them as much as they can and go on their level to make sure that they know what they are doing. So that if the student has a problem with their learning they will help the student do better in there subject. I think teachers should help students learn what they need for the test because it will show where students are preforming and how teachers need to fix the things students struggle with.
Chris H. (Engineer, St. Paul)
I would say give them a pre-test. Just like in high school, you have pre-exam for the ACT/SATs and see where their shortcomings are or what they are good at and safe-proof them. I also think it would be good to think about the student's interests as well, because when I was younger I wanted to be a mechanic engineer and something like that would have helped me learn what I need to know for my career. My daughter wants to be a teacher, and I think it would be good to get her involved in teaching some younger students. My son is an artist and I know he would rather draw then read. Maybe have him draw a story and then talk about it.
When I think of relating the standards to student's lives it can be challenging. This is what culturally relevant teaching is. It is thinking outside of the box to ensure you are still meeting the requirements of the standards, but you also are making content more enjoyable for the students to learn. You need to know who your student's are, what they do, what they are involved in, and what their culture is. By doing this you can make both ends of the spectrum work. I think that if standardized testing was less of an issue for teachers I think more students would like learning and would like school. I also think if teachers did more hands-on activities rather than just lecturing about the material, students would understand as well.
For example if students are learning about the butterfly life cycle, I think students would enjoy this process more if they could actually experience it in front of their own eyes. Students could have real caterpillars in the room while they make observations and hypothesis about what will happen next. When the caterpillars turn into butterflies they could be released outside with the class. I also think that you could do field trips to butterfly houses so the students can also interact with butterflies. When you come back you can talk about the experience with your students. This type of lesson still is doable to the standards, but it is a more interactive way for students to learn.
When using culturally relevant teaching you are including all the students in the lesson. Teachers can still learn from their students, and students learning from teachers. Students may have perspectives and knowledge about a particular subject that the teacher doesn't know. By using the student's knowledge it opens up the lesson for discussion and more interactive learning. When culturally relevant teaching is put into practice it will equip your students with the level of critical thinking the standards are asking them for.