The students enrolled in Ms. Gillis's Reading Zone classes participated in an academic contest this quarter where students competed to win the highest class average on exams. Students in this strategic reading class have been engaged in a book study on Gary Paulsen's Hatchet which is a story of survival.
The classes came about after Ms. Gillis, the school's achievement specialist, analyzed student achievement data for MCTS during the summer to find that the 6th grade females were outperforming the males in reading. In response to this achievement gap, Ms. Gillis targeted twenty-four students (12 boys/12 girls) who were either performing at, just above, or below the cut-score in reading achievment to receive strategic reading instruction from her.
The students were divided by gender for a variety of reasons: (1) because achievement data revealed a gap in reading achievement between males and females, (2) to remove the obvious distractions of learning in a co-ed class of adolecents, and (3) so that each gender-based group could receive the research-based stratgies that work best for them.
Because middle schoolers are motivated by competition, Ms. Gillis explained to her students that the class with the highest average on the online exam for Hatchet would win an ice-cream and Oreo cookies party. To her satisfaction, both gender-based classes made A averages; however, the boys stole the competition by two percentage points!
"That shows us what could happen if expectations are set high enough for our kids," Ms. Gillis explained. "I really do believe my kids can achieve, and they know it, too. Although I think all of them are "nutz" by nature," Ms. Gillis said, "they make me so very proud! They come to class on time, they concentrate on learning tasks, they wear their clothes appropriately, they ask good questions, they respect each other and visitors in our class, they tell the truth when they are in the wrong, and they let me know when I'm doing a good job teaching.....what else could I possibly ask for?" Ms. Gillis added.
The girls class vowed to slaughter the boys in the next competition scheduled for Tuesday, December 16. This is the first day students will take the Second Quarter Reading 6 CRT.
Ms. Gillis's kids are as follows:
1st Period (All-Boys Class)
•11) DA VAUGHN
3rd Period (All-Girls Class)
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