by Rebekah Gomez, Teacher
Eighth grade Social Studies
Lamar Middle School Fine Arts Academy

“When we use CLI, our whole body is working together to help our brains remember.”

—Eighth grader, Lamar Middle School

As I monitored my students taking their unit assessment, I see fingers making various motions and patterns under the desks; they’re using the strategies we learned to help them remember the weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation, each finger representing a different weakness (example: pinky finger =weak central government). Every student in every class I teach scored a 90% or above. ELL and ESL, Pre-AP and Academic, Dyslexic or 504, every student could recall the weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation. Through simple CLI implementation the connection between instruction and retention is made.

Since I was a first year teacher I’ve recognized the need for CLI in an otherwise Essentialist educational culture. Though I found myself on a campus that supported creative learning, I didn’t understand how to use the strategies CLI offered me while still meeting my job requirements – to have students pass their US History STAAR test. I went into that first year enthusiastic and engaged, ready to champion CLI above all else.

I quickly realized I was doing something wrong; my first MOY scores were low and while students were having fun in my classes, they were not learning what they needed to. It was from this place that I realized, there is nothing wrong with teaching to the test. That’s right, in fact it is my job to teach to the test. The TEKS are not created in total ignorance; they are rational educational expectations that my students should be able to meet after being in my class for a school year. Then the question became, can I use CLI to teach to the test? Can I combine my essentialist curriculum with progressive practice? I realized, through the help of my students, that the answer is yes.

Through this realization, CLI becomes a secret weapon not just for student engagement, but for higher STAAR scores. I redid my curriculum, breaking the TEKS and CRMs into a day by day checklist. Then, I looked at what CLI resources I had and matched the resources to the TEKS, rather than trying to match the TEKS to the resources. In attempting to improve my CLI implementation, I relied heavily on student feedback through formal and informal assessment. The great thing about teaching one subject is you have six tries and six audiences to get it right. My students became used to the end of class question, “How do you think that went?” Once my students knew they had input, and I knew what my responsibilities were as a teacher, CLI became the secret weapon that daily helped our classroom run smoother and our test scores climb higher.

At the end of one class, my students in 3rd period asked “Ms. Gomez, why don’t we try and create our own raps instead of just songs, jingles or poems?” I told them to go for it and before you knew it, I had an impressive array of raps and rhymes that I began to hear hummed in the hallway and on quiz day. They even got stuck in my head “Articles of Confederation really really sucked, they are destroying our great nation and now we’ve had enough!”

It was from this point I realized that the key to an engaged classroom is not just my ideas or CLI’s ideas on resources and strategies, but my students’ ideas as well. This year a team of students and I have led a CLI Committee as a part of our student council, the Scottie Ambassadors. I provided the students with the lingo behind CLI and asked them to collect data on how they see it implemented in their classes. From that charge, students began creating lessons and thoughtfully sharing their ideas, seeing for themselves the ways that CLI could fit into their daily lessons. Through our campus newsletter, students have shared their enthusiasm to use technology and CLI, their favorite CLI strategies, and the critique that their teachers use a lot of the same ones.  Now that students and teachers are beginning to implement CLI collaboratively, it is becoming even more impactful,   making “teaching to the test” the most exciting thing to come to the classroom.

CLI is a secret weapon and, put in the hands of students, it becomes even more powerful. 

Teacher Testimonial: The Secret Weapon of CLI