How challenging is it to teach 3rd grade in Florida?

Discussion in 'Third Grade' started by pamms, Jun 12, 2007.

  1. pamms

    pamms Comrade

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    Jun 12, 2007

    Hi,

    I will likely be switching grades next year. I've been teaching 2nd. I may teach 1st, but there is a possibility for 3rd. I feel sure I'd prefer the 3rd grade age group and curriculum, but there is that looming FCAT with the mandatory retention, etc. Our school tends to have very vocal parents. We definitly hear about it when they aren't happy ;-).

    Can any of you 3rd grade, Florida teachers tell me a little more about teaching 3rd? How difficult is it to get yourself to feel prepared for FCAT? I also understand there is some requirement to keep student portfolios. Any input would be appreciated.

    Thanks!
     
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  3. AHB

    AHB Rookie

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    Jun 12, 2007

    I was a 5th grade teacher last year and my child was a third grade student in FL. It is crazy with FCAT! But, it is possible and I know many teachers who love 3rd. Reading is the most critical in 3rd. Keep a website and a log of some kind with information on student and parent conferences. That way if you notice early on that a student is struggling, then you have it documented. Also, the advance notice to parents may just be all the child needs to get the attention at home...reading to parent each night, and don't forget the multiplication facts. There are many children in Florida I fear that leave the third grade barely knowing their multiplication facts and it doesn't really get addressed again until 5th grade. I can't tell you the number of 5th graders I've had that didn't know anything except 1's, 2's, 5's, and 10's.

    On the good side of 3rd- the kids are very willing to comply with straight foward, clear direction. Give them structure as well as praise and they will thrive. Keeping a portfolio is great so that they can see their progress. Don't put everything in there, go to a teacher supply store and get a handbook on portfolio assesment. It will guide you through the process step by step. And, make a good friendship with a veteran 3rd grade teacher at your school. She/he'll keep you on the right track- Don't get too caught up with FCAT fever. It's just a test and if you make too big of a deal about it yourself, the kids can sense it even if you never say the acronym aloud. Do practice test taking strategies in the funnest way possible. Try to make things interesting by practicing test taking strategies with information about things they are interested in i.e. (skate boarding (boys) horses (girls) etc.)

    Hope this helps :) You'll be fine- enjoy yourself!
     
  4. mcronan

    mcronan Rookie

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    Jun 21, 2007

    I have taught 3rd grade in FL. It's a tricky year. There is SO MUCH riding on this one test at the end of the year... but parents and administration and students begin panicking in August. This can be a little intense at times.

    Your portfolio is nothing more than what you'd normally do. You keep their Benchmark tests and unit tests and scores. You are mainly looking at Reading as (I don't believe) Math can keep them back. So you're looking at their DRA level, performance in class as a whole till that point and that hard data: district test scores to determine whether or not it was one bad day in that student's third grade career.. or if that child really has not mastered the skills necessary and needs to stay back. In my experience my portfolio was only needed on the 2 students that failed FCAT incase their parents objected. We held back one and the other was given the option to take summer school and re-test at the end to see if she could go to 4th.
    I personally enjoyed third grade. It's a good age. They're independent.. but not pre-teens yet so they're easy to work with. However, the amount of stress that leads up to and follows that **** test is incredible. I didn't teach 3rd this year... I opted to swith to K in Oct when the space opened. My 3rd grade teammates kids BOMBED. Absolutely must have been sleeping during the test. Had it been I with that class, as a new teacher with no tenure, I expect that would've been enough for them to fire me. As she had been there for a while.. they swept it under the carpet and did not mention the third grade scores at all to faculty or the student body.. which is weird b/c my last school heralded grades. To be held accountable for a student's entire academic career b/c you happen to be teaching them in third grade is crazy. Principals are stressed and a little crazy and so are the parents, staff and lastly but most importantly: the students.
    If you don't mind a little heat and are looking for a challenge then third grade may really be for you. Third grade can be a lot of fun... just not through the months of Dec- Feb. Haha.
    Goodluck.
    Meg
     
  5. Irissa

    Irissa Cohort

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    Jun 21, 2007

    Honestly teaching 3rd is no big deal, FCAT and all. No principal will fire you for your kids scores, unless you have shown all year that you really don't have a clue how to teach. There are high groups and there are low groups of kids every year fluctuates. Giving the FCAT is really just like proctoring the SAT10. You just have to learn how to push the importance of FCAT without stressing the kids out. I talk a lot about FCAT to the parents at open house and again at the conference with each parent. This year I sent out a copy of the FCAT (released version) so that the parents could see what the test was like. We go over skills that will help the kids with testing through out the year so that they aren't freaked out when it comes.
    Portfolios are easy as well. I don't send home anything that could go in a portfolio (certain reading skills) if you aren't sure just don't send home reading work. Pretty much it sits in one large stack until I start to get an idea which kids will have issues. Then I have 2 stacks. When test scores come in I take 1 afternoon find the work for the students who make 1's and put them in a file. Later I'll sort through for work that will help them pass IF i think they should pass on.

    The big thing really is to be upfront with the parents and make sure that they know about mandatory retention and their options if a child does make a 1.

    Good luck with your decision. Choosing to teach 3rd was the best decision I could have made. :)
     
  6. Ms.Jasztal

    Ms.Jasztal Maven

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    Jul 12, 2007

    It surely is a standard in fourth grade, so we at MES most certainly focus on it. Yet I am sure there are the teachers who slight it... but still, it encompasses SO MUCH of fourth grade math!!

    I honestly know that third grade teachers fear the retention factor quite a bit, but you can get a great deal of support regarding your ESE students, if you have any. ESOL students also receive accomodations. They may also be administratively placed, even when not doing well on the FCAT.

    Also, the students do well if you have faith in them. Just remember to teach strategies in reading like SQR, text features, inferencing, questioning (QAR strategies), and others. Third grade also focuses on fluency (words per minute) with DIBELS. In math, focus evenly on the five areas as prescribed by the Florida SSS. Try to make a weekly newsletter with links and maybe a testing tidbit every week.

    As a fourth grade teacher in Florida, the stress still follows and does not completely subside. Yes, our students will most likely not be left back, yet at the same time, the stress of preparing them for Florida Writes is tremendous because some students are still developing writers. However, even after stressing and making myself completely frightened out of my wits a few times, the averages three years in a row were outstanding for my class. I was afraid they wouldn't be as strong. Scores were high in advanced reading, and in remedial math, many of my kids who received 2's in 3rd grade went up to a 3 in 4th grade. It was accomplished with TLC and lots of patience. :love:

    Third grade is a pretty exciting grade, however. The students mature quite a bit and then continue to mature in fourth because the focus on reading changes from learning to read to reading to learn.

    I truly wish you the best in your third grade endeavors (if this is where you are placed rather than first). One thing that is very positive about this situation is that if you are in third, you may get second graders you knew very well from last year. You would know of their strengths and areas to improve on to prepare adequately for FCAT.
     
  7. Starista

    Starista Cohort

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    Jul 12, 2007

    I only teach the 1st grade in Florida, but wanted to welcome you to Florida if this is your first time teaching in our state! :) :love:
     
  8. thirdsy

    thirdsy New Member

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    Aug 9, 2007

    re: teaching 3rd grade in fla.

    Hi there!
    Having taught second grade, it's not such a leap to move to third. I think you will be fine.

    You do not need to keep formal portfolios on all of your students, although it is a good idea to save key samples of their work. I think that applies with any grade level. Just get a milk crate and put a bunch of hanging file folders in it, labeled with each student's name, and throughout the year add whatever you think is noteworthy.

    Really, the portfolios are only needed in the extremely rare occasion that a student does not pass FCAT, ***who you think merits good cause exemption to go to fourth grade.*** Like I said, this is extremely rare. Ninety nine percent of students who fail FCAT, fail because they are below grade level in reading, and you will know that based on your teacher observation. So you subsequently would not want to create a portfolio for them to demonstrate that they are ready for fourth grade despite their failing FCAT score.

    Also --regarding preparations for FCAT. It is not really the big deal you might imagine. When I first started teaching third I was worried about it too. It's no biggie because all of the reading curriculum prepares the students. Just follow the lessons in your reading series, whether it is Houghton Mifflin or Open Court or whatever. FCAT is just basic reading comprehension skills -- inferences, conclusions, compare/contrast, etc. etc. --- and you will naturally be teaching that all year.

    One thing I do that is different is that usually during February, I throw all of my reading lessons out the window and focus on materials that feature FCAT style essays and questions. At my school we use the STAR books and Scott Foresman FCAT practice books. You may have other resources at your school. Basically, just give students extra test practice by working on FCAT style essays and a series of questions on the essays. It gives them that extra push to be ready for the test.

    I love third grade and hope you will as well. Good luck! :rolleyes:


    Oh, yeah, and P.S. --- save all of your fun ideas for March, when FCAT is over. That's when everyone relaxes, and we always do "fun" lessons and author study units during the week or two before spring break.

     
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2007

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