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Boot camps prepare students for STAAR

Students work in teams for boot camp. With the high stakes of STAAR testing, it’s no wonder that innovative instructors come up with new and creative ways to help students review before the standardized exams. Princeton elementary schools have been using the clever tactics of “boot camps” to prepare students.

Decked out in traditional camo, teachers devise hands-on, interactive methods to get students in test mode and mastering the material.

“STAAR boot camp both motivates students to do their absolute best and reinforces the teaching that has taken place in the classroom,” Godwin counselor Wendy Crane said. “The atmosphere is energetic and contagious. Students, teachers, staff members and parents come together for the common cause of supporting each other in the final push of preparedness for the challenges that the STAAR test will bring their way.”

According to Sonia Lynch, who coordinated boot camp at Smith, most elementary camps function in the same format using rotating stations that featured interactive ways to get their students “learning.”

“I believe the students needed and deserved a break from their usual routine and had a moment of enjoyment through their interactions with others,” Ms. Lynch said. “The students expressed their enjoyment with each station because they were able to interact with their peers and not be expected to just do paperwork.”

Smith students work during boot camp. Smith students were particularly fond of rotating through the stations.

“I enjoyed the math rotations because I was able to use math strategies solving QR code problems then Jenga game problems,” 5th-grader Kamryn Ratliff said. “I liked the fact people were able to laugh and talk about what we were working on.”

At Lacy, these stations offered just the right amount of exciting and motivational chaos, according to boot camp coordinator Rosalina Martinez.

“Some of our students don't realize how much they know, until they find themselves rocking it,” Ms. Martinez said. “Students may find themselves working on a thesis statement in Candyland wandering through the Gumdrop Mountains, while at another station, they are channeling their inner LeBron playing beat the clock in math mode to get a chance to shoot the winning free throw.”

The teachers see these boot camps as a way to alleviate any stress associated with the testing.

“Students get to see that we know how to have fun even though STAAR can be a little stressful,” Ms. Martinez said. “It helps take off some pressure that the kids usually feel so close to the test day, which in turn calms them for the test.”

Lacy students search for answers at boot camp. Boot camps are not just about stress relief because they also provide valuable review techniques.

“Students participate in hands-on activities to review important learning objectives,” Ms. Crane said. “Someone other than their classroom teacher presents the lessons and activities, which allows the students to hear the same information in a new way. Our goal is that the students will walk away understanding one concept that they struggled with before coming to boot camp.”

Campuses also awarded prizes for competitions and nightly homework challenges leading up to the camp.

Godwin 5th-grader Jonathan Sanchez said, “I love competing in the games and winning prizes for what I knew.”

Lacy 4th-grade writing teacher Kasi Dalby may have summed up boot camp best.

“Boot camp is Minute-to-Win-It meets Ron Clark,” she said. “It's a hands-on, wild and fun camp that meets every student's educational learning style.”

Smith students at boot camp.