The Algebra STAAR Dilemma

Last year, I was doing a great job of tracking my students. I was writing blogs about how it was going and I had the intention to collect data and write about all my tips and ideas about what worked and what did not work. COVID hit and everything changed. No school for a while and no state testing. It is now one year from that debacle.

It’s 2021 and we are headed into the end of March and my Algebra students will be taking the STAAR test at the beginning of May. I have not touched on multiplying binomials, factoring or quadratics. My students started the year with full remote learning, then gradually students had a choice of coming to school. Out of my 36 Algebra students, I’ve seen about half of them at school. I’ve continued to teach online because I’ve got some students sitting in my room while others are at home. There is one person on my roster that has only shown up a few times. There are several who have done as little as possible and even their parents can’t motivate them.

The most recent problem that I’ve encountered is the calculator. We all know how important the calculator is to this test. My students have only used Desmos and we haven’t used it very much. Normally, my students would take the paper test using the Nspire calculator. I cannot get that calculator to everyone. Apparently if you use the Desmos calculator on the test, you have to have two computers??? There will be a lockdown browser that would prevent using it on the same computer as the test (I bet a tech person could figure out how to have the EOC and Desmos open at the same time…but I’m not in charge.) SO, our district got the TI-84 calculator extension from Texas Instruments and my students have downloaded that calculator on their Chromebooks. Apparently, that is the calculator that is used on the online test or it’s at least similar. My students will all be taking the online test. My administrator in charge of testing is very nervous, but at least we have made a decision.

This past Friday, I asked my students this question as a check-in task for attendance: Do you have the TI-84 downloaded? Several students had no idea what I was talking about even though that was something we all did during class this past week, but you know how it is…kids don’t listen or they come in late. I don’t have a lot of control right now and it’s not a good feeling.

***Why am I telling you all of this? I’ve been a teacher for a long time and I know it is not worth stressing over all of this. My goal is to help students as much as I can. I can’t control what they are doing at home or really while they are sitting in my class for that matter. I looked over the other day during a test and one of my kids was asleep. Of course I woke her up, but what the heck? This is a test! You can’t stay awake for a test?

Please teachers…do what you can but we are not super heroes. We are here to teach and that is what we are doing. We cannot save everyone! Sounds harsh, but we have to take care of ourselves too or we cannot continue helping those that are there trying!

What is my plan? Forging ahead with all things quadratic and reviewing previous material. Sorry, Algebra II Teachers. Factoring is not going to get taught in detail. We will have to mostly work on simple factoring problems and then help students realize that foiling and factoring are opposites, so they can use the answer choices and work backward.

Here’s my plan in a little more detail:

March 22 – April 2 : Multiplying Binomials and Factoring. I’m also going to start going the the task cards in my Algebra EOC Task Card and Quiz Activities. (This activity is also in the bundle that I’m about to mention.)

April 5 – 9: Start quadratics using my objective 6, 7 and 8 resources from the Algebra I STAAR Bundle. They will also take quiz #1 from Task Card and Quiz Activity several times during this week.

April 12 – 16: Continue with quadratics and do quick reviews of objectives 2, 3 and 9 – I’ll use my STAAR Bundle, but I will pick and choose what I want to use from these objectives.

April 19 – 23: Continue with quadratics and do quick reviews of objectives 5, 10 and 11.

April 26 – 30: Review calculator keystrokes, the formula chart, objectives 4 & 12 (combined these two objectives have only been 3 – 5 questions in the past) and any other last minute details.

I’ve analyzed the STAAR test over the past 3-4 years and I’ve got a chart that you might find interesting. Please click to download a copy.

When all is said and done, I’ll reflect and see how it went.

Please don’t stress out Algebra Teachers! Do what you can. Have a plan and work through the plan. Things will be fine. The students will do as well as they can and we will probably be pleasantly surprised at how well most of them will do. Remember that YOU ARE AWESOME!

Slope and Rate of Change

I was going through a review of slope that I made a couple of years ago. I love this resource! It was created for the 8th grade STAAR, but I feel like all Algebra teachers would love this. Students are supposed to come into Algebra with a concept of slope already! Why do students have such a hard time with it? Slope is a fun and interesting concept and of course ties to so many real-life situations. Let me tell you what this review contains:

Now remember that it is a review of slope! The first page gives the students a picture of a line with four points on the line. The students are asked to find the slope of two different segments along the same line, two different ways. The picture also has two right triangles drawn that were created from using the endpoints of the segments. Students that already have a concept of slope should be able to think of several ways to find slope. I love this so much. On top of that, shouldn’t the slopes be the same and the two triangles created are similar. Hopefully students will have that Ah-ha moment!

The next two pages have the students interpret the meaning of slope by matching a situation to a graph. The students are thinking of slope as a rate of change and having a proportional relationship. I love the different graphs. Teachers could ask the students to find the slopes of all of the graphs first before trying to match them to the situation. Students are asked to explain why the graphs they did not choose are incorrect. Having students explain their reasoning is always important in math.

The next four pages are a set of 24 matching cards. 12 of the cards have either a graph or a table. The other 12 cards display a slope, y-intercept or another way of identifying that it matches one of the graph or table cards. This activity is engaging and students have to know what they are doing!

Finally, the last page in this resource is something that I have consistently placed in every 8th grade STAAR resource. I call it Smath’s Problem. It is an activity that reviews several of the topics in the resource. It is interesting and students enjoy working through the situation. It can be used as an assessment or a group activity.

I think you’ll enjoy this resource. All of the answer keys are included. Take a look if this sounds interesting!

Algebra STAAR Review Plan For Algebra and Geometry Teachers

***Please read further, but I recently found out that students that took Algebra and passed in the 2019-2020 school year are exempt from ever taking the STAAR test. When I wrote this, I did not know that. Here it is on the TEA website:

In waiving the required performance on academic assessments under TEC, §28.025(c) and §39.025(a) for spring 2020, the following applies: If a student is on schedule to complete instruction in the entire curriculum in spring 2020 for a course that has a corresponding STAAR EOC assessment, the student is not required to pass that specific test to fulfill graduation requirements. If a student is on schedule to complete graduation requirements in spring 2020 but does not have the opportunity to retake a STAAR EOC assessment prior to graduation, the student is not required to pass that specific test to fulfill graduation requirements but will need to complete the IGC process. For students graduating in future years but taking one of the five courses with a corresponding STAAR EOC assessment this year, those students will not be responsible for meeting that EOC assessment graduation requirement if they earn course credit this year.

This changes my thinking, but I am going to incorporate as much of the Algebra that I’ve listed below through bell ringers in Geometry since they are going to be weak. This will help them in their future math classes! At least now, I don’t have to do it all in one semester. I can spread it out over the year.

Here is this original post:

About 4 years ago, I created an Algebra STAAR Review that covered the newly established Algebra TEKS. Each of the Algebra TEKS is covered on a page of its own. At the top of each page, I put the objective practiced on that page. My thinking was if a teacher wanted to individualize the work, or just cover a certain standard in class, then this would make it easy for them.

Most people love the review, but some people complained that it was too much material. It is too much to try to cover in 2 or 3 weeks before the test. It is a detailed review with a short quiz at the end of each section. Each objective would probably take two to three (or more in some cases) 50 minute class periods to get it done. My mistake was that I did not give the teachers that purchased this review a suggested plan of action. With the craziness of school last year, I feel like it’s time to help teachers with a plan of action for the STAAR test. I have many questions from my district and the state that cannot be answered until we get closer to the school year, but I still want to forge ahead with a plan and I’d like to share it with you.

I am constantly studying the Algebra STAAR Exams. Recently, I took the tests from the last 3 years and put together an analysis. I wanted to see any patterns or trends. TEA has said how many questions come from each category, but when you figure out the details yourself, it’s eye opening. I’m going to teach all of the TEKS, but this helps me know which ones that I really need to emphasize. I took each objective and broke it into each standard within the objective and made tables and graphs for each objective. Below is the one I made for all of the objectives. The columns represent the number of questions in that category for that year.

*You can get a copy of the whole analysis at the end of this blogpost.

Before I share my plan, I wanted to discuss more about how to use the resources. For instance, Objective 2 has nine standards. There is no way to do all nine standards plus the quiz at the end right before the test if you want to review other topics. A suggestion is to use parts of the review during the school year to spiral the information. Pull them out when you need to review for a test or use them as bell ringers. Teachers have no time and before they know it the test is right around the corner. The best time to plan is as early as possible. My review bundle can be used throughout the year AND at the end of the year, so get the review now, print it off, put it in a binder and start thinking about how you can use the material. Also, if you purchase this and see something that needs to be added, just give me a shout out and I’ll see what I can do. (That’s the best part about purchasing from Teachers Pay Teachers. We can revise and edit as needed!) One thing that I really love about creating resources and lesson planning is being able to help other teachers that do not have the time to do it themselves, so here’s my Algebra STAAR TESTING PLAN for 2020-2021. I’m using the dates set by Texas as of July 2020. If things change, then I’ll adjust. I will be teaching both Algebra 1 and Geometry next year. Both groups will be taking the Algebra STAAR at some point since the STAAR testing was cancelled last school year.

EOC BEll Ringers – 10 Weeks, 120 Problems

All of the plans below are based on my Algebra STAAR Bundle and the EOC Bell Ringers-(I’ve changed the title to “Algebra Bell Ringer Review” but it is the same as previous.) The one thing not incorporated into my plan as of now are the quizzes at the end of the objectives. These could be used as pretests, posttests, homework, tutorials etc. I’m sure times will arise that I’m not thinking of right now, where I can use them.


TEST PLAN – December Test

(Testing Window – December 8 – 18, 2020)

Who is the Test For? Students that did not pass the Algebra STAAR in previous years and geometry or other math students that did not pass the Algebra STAAR or never took it because of COVID-19.

*If you see red Algebra TEKS in my descriptions below, they are readiness standards which means they are more of a focus on the test. (Go Look at the Algebra TEKS on the TEA website.)

**Note to Geometry Teachers – Let’s face it, Geometry will not be the same. You will need to focus on Algebra when you can. Some Geometry topics will not get as much attention this year!!! Some good news is that we do cover Algebra naturally in Geometry. While we are working on Parallel and Perpendicular lines, we can cover these Algebra Standards: 2B, 2E, 2F, 2G. When we are working with segments, segment addition, angles and angle addition, we can cover the solving equations standard: 5A.

  • Start the 2nd Week of School and do:
  • Pick days before Thanksgiving to work specifically on these topics: (***Side Note – My Algebra EOC Review covers all the TEKS and at the top of each page the objective is written, so you can easily pull the TEKS you need!)
    • Linear Topics – Writing and Graphing Equations Slope and Key Features of Graphs (2C, 3A, 3B, 3C)
    • Writing, Graphing and Solving Linear Inequalities (2H, 3D, 5B)
    • Quadratics – Writing, Graphing, Key Features, Transformations (6B, 6C, 7A, 7C)
    • Factoring and Solving Quadratics by Factoring (10E, 8A)
    • Writing and Solving Systems (2I, 3F, 5C)
  • Week of November 30:
    • Laws of Exponents (11B)
    • Exponential Functions (9B, 9C, 9D)
    • Domain and Range (2A, 6A, 9A)
    • Any other last minute details

TEST PLAN – May Test

(Testing Window – May 4 – June 4, 2021)

Who is the Test For? Students in Algebra 1 and students that did not pass the previous Algebra STAAR test.

For the Algebra I Students: (Use the Algebra Review STAAR Bundle)

  • Use these objectives as Bell Ringers OR add them to your homework/classwork starting the 2nd Semester. Each of these objectives is covered on a page in the bundle for that objective:
    • 1st Week: 2B, 2D
    • 2nd Week: 2E, 2F, 2G, 2H
    • 3rd Week: 3A, 3H
    • 4th Week: 4A, 4B, 4C
    • 5th Week: 12A, 12B, 12E
    • 6th Week: 9A, 9B, 9E,
    • 7th Week: 10A, 10B, 10C
    • 8th Week: 10D, 10E, 10F
    • 9th Week: 6A, 6B, 6C
    • 10th Week: 8A, 8B, 11B
    • 11th Week: 12C, 12D
  • End of March: (March 22, 2021)
    • The 3 Quizzes and Task Cards – (This is part of the bundle!) This takes a while to complete. I usually start the Task Cards at the end of March. Last year, I used the Task Cards as flash cards and put them in rings for each student.
  • 2 Weeks Before the Test:
    • First Week:
      • 3B, 3C, 3D, 3E
    • 2nd Week
      • 5C, 9C, 9D, 11B
  • 1/2 Day of Camp :
    • Use the worksheets and the task cards to do: 2A, 2C, 2I
    • Use the matching cards to practice: 3F, 3G, 3H
    • Use the task cards to do: 5A, 5B
    • Use the worksheets to do: 7A, 7B, 7C

For Students that did not pass in previous years or in December:

  • Invite to 1/2 Day Camp
  • Individualized Packets – Use their test results to create individualized packets.

I have a link to the plan and analysis below so you can have your own copy. To sum up what you will need to follow this plan:

Here’s a free sample of the Bell Ringers: Bell Ringer Sample

First 6 Weeks in Algebra 1

Algebra 1 is a fun but challenging class to teach. So many thoughts run through my head when I think about the beginning of the year in Algebra. One of the biggies is how much do the students remember from their previous math class? This is especially a big question since last year our district went to a distance learning format. I’m not sure what to expect from the incoming students, so I need a plan.

This year will be interesting. Our district has decided to have both online learning and in class learning. I’m working hard to make sure I have plenty of lessons that will work for either scenario. I’m going to start the year off with a two day review of number sense, order of operations and basic operations with integers. I’ve used this in the past because I always get a range of abilities, so I want to know where the students are. I have a print version of what I use and I’ve recently made a digital version. After I do the two day lesson, I give the students 3 quizzes (yep 3… because I want the repetition and plus it’s a challenge). All the quizzes are similar to each other but ask slightly different questions. The quizzes contain 15 questions. To move to the next quiz, students must make an 80 or better. If they don’t, they retake it. (These are timed because I don’t want the students to take too long. Either they know it or they don’t.) This can last up to 3 weeks. It’s not hard to keep up with because I take a grade on each quiz. Here’s a peek at the print version of the quiz vs. the Google Forms version:

The majority of the six weeks should (and hopefully will) be spent on solving equations. The days in the plan are block-schedule days. We have classes every other day for 80 minutes except on Fridays when the classes are only about 35 minutes. Below is plan that I will follow with the activities:

# of Days Topic
2Pre-Algebra Review – PDF Version or Digital Version
1Patterns (Boom Card Lesson)
1.5*Setting up and Solving Equations and Inequalities
1.5*Solving Equations and Inequalities
1*Literal Equations
1*Review Equations and Inequalities
My First 6 Weeks Plan

*Get all of the resources above in a bundle: Equations Bundle

I’ve linked the topics to some of my lessons and worksheets that I used in my TpT store, but as I see the need, I go find content in other places. My district uses a couple of resources that I pull from as well, but our students know how to find answers online for these assignments, so I don’t like to use them for homework.

If you’ve never used quizziz.com, you should try it. The kids really enjoy doing these. I like that the students can do them more than one time. I have the students show work in their journal. Basically it’s just a digital quiz with 4 answer choices. These are teacher-made and there are a ton to choose from on just about every topic.

One of my favorite digital resources is Boom Learning. If you like task cards, then you will love Boom Cards. Again, these cards are teacher-made. There are a variety of ways kids can answer questions. I started creating my own decks. I used two of my own creations the first six weeks. One set of Boom Cards covered patterns and how to write an expression from a pattern. The other set was for practicing solving equations and inequalities. The kids can go through them as many times as they want so they get a lot of practice and get the best grade possible. To use Boom Cards, you need a teacher account. The free account is perfectly fine, but you don’t get to see the reports. The best thing to do is to get a paid account which is only $15 – 35 dollars a year depending on which plan you choose. Make your own decks or purchase decks. There are free choices as well. Click here to go check out my store. I’m brand new at making these, but I can already tell that this will be something I work on because all of my classes love Boom Cards!

After I get used to my students and find out who has gaps in their learning, then it will be time to dive into tutoring. I will engage my students through online tutoring this year. It will be an interesting year to say the least. I know that I will need patience and I will need to be flexible. I’m ready for anything and I hope you are too. I wish you well in your new year!

Happy Teaching!