Thoughts on teaching, learning, technology, and leadership from the field

Category Archives: STAAR

Everywhere you go!

Take a look at the teachers and kids. They’re glistening again

With furrowed brows and wringing hands that  sweat! 

Gearing up for your Social Studies STAAR reviews? I’ve got stuff for you!

Here’s my 8th and 11th Grade USH STAAR and EOC Reviews. It’s a Google site with live links. It isn’t too flashy and works well on mobile devices. I based the information on the TEA Performance Level Descriptor documents. PDFs are available to download from the site as well. Feel free to use and share!


Now that I’ve had some time to process the data from the word frequency analysis, I’ve put together some thoughts on how we can use this information.

We know that the most effective vocabulary instruction is taught in context and embedded in learning. Teachers should not use this analysis to create vocabulary lists for students to memorize in isolation. The primary use of this tool is awareness about the assessments and to inform instruction.

For instance, in 8th grade Social Studies, we know now that we may not need to be concerned about whether or not students know the word “abundant” or “abundance” as these words have only appeared 4 times in 3 years. For words with lower frequency, students will need to use context clues. However, the term “colonial” and associated terms like, “colonies,” “colonist,” “colonization,” “colonize,” and “colony” have appeared 46 times in 3 years.  With such a high frequency, it is worth our time to ensure students know the meaning and have seen some of the various forms of the word prior to testing.

Awareness of word forms is especially important for our ELL students and those with learning difficulties. Knowing which forms have been used can help teachers enrich the language they use with students and design writing and reading prompts which encourage the use of multiple forms of the word. Here is an example of a cartoon students or teachers could create to use the different word forms. Pixton is a super easy, free comic or storyboard maker!

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Please share any other suggestions on how to use this resource in the comments!


I was working with a middle school campus this week in starting to think about STAAR preparations. As most schools are, we are concerned with preparing kids for the vocabulary they’ll face on the test.

Which got me to thinking, what are the most common words that kids will face? I know that several places have lists of words but I wasn’t able to find one with a frequency count, so I’ve created one.

I used all of the released STAAR tests from 2013-2015. The program I used pulls all text  – directions, passages, graphic organizers, etc. It will not pull words that are part of images, like maps or cartoons. It scrubs all of the punctuation and capitalization.

I’m sharing the files – feel free to dive in!