When you hear the words Standardized Testing do you feel any of the following?
Frustrated you can’t teach what your students need?
Anger at politicians for focusing on a test?
Irritated that your students are overwhelmed by one aspect of the school year?
If so, then you have come to the right place. I have the same feelings. The other day I was flossing my teeth stressing over what testing has become in schools and realized the two were a lot alike. Honestly, I hate flossing. It’s tedious, frustrating, and time consuming, BUT it is something I HAVE to do. I can complain about it, ignore it, or avoid it, but ultimately I will have to deal with it. So with that in mind, I have 9 tips to help you deal with the testing stress without complaining, ignoring, or avoiding.
1. Monthly Testing Tips
Taking one tip each month lets students practice the skills they will use on testing day. Yes, that test is months away, but the ability to practice and ask questions before the day arrives alleviates the stress for many students. I have a list of suggestions I use each month. These posters are great to help students remember what to do on testing days.
2. Carefully Plan Your Walls
When you plan your walls in August think about what you could use most of the year. When testing time comes, you have to cover your walls or take things down, but if your students are used to using the walls for reference then they will be able to remember things even when they aren’t there. Sometimes even looking in that direction will help them remember details.
3. Quiz Show Friday
I love to use a quiz show on Fridays to review topics. I will take test questions or make questions based on things my students need to review. Sometimes I will mix up topics and other times stick with the same topic.
4. Weekly Question Bulletin Board
Students love a challenge. Even Good Will Hunting couldn’t resist solving that problem on the chalkboard. Set aside a bulletin board for your grade level. Let one teacher take the board a month. The questions should be challenging. Think those extended response test questions or analogies that will involve critical thinking skills.
5. Smart Pencils
A smart pencil is a pencil that students use to study and review. It is one of those mind tricks, but I found it helped me and my students. A smart pencil is one you try to use all year long. That pencil with then “remember” everything it learned throughout the year. Just make sure it is a #2 pencil.
Parents are always asking for ideas and work to help their students. I started boards for each subject or topic that I feel is important for my class. I invite parents to follow these boards to get ideas for ways they can work with their children a home. If you would like ideas for sharing you can follow my boards.
7. Career Showcase
Have parents come in to talk about their jobs. What ways do they have to show what they know at work? Do they have to have meetings with their bosses, create portfolios, take tests, go to extra classes. Have one parent or community member a month come talk with the class. Be sure to give the volunteer some talking points to share with the students.
8. Make Testing Days Fun
I have taken several tests as I have advanced my teaching degree. Taking a test zaps your energy. It fries your brain. On testing days make the morning all about the test, but the afternoon about fun. I know you have important standards still to review but you can do this in more relaxed ways. Giving students learning menus, fun science experiments, and learning games can help keep them engaged after giving their all on a test. Dance parties are a great way to get those brain cells moving again. (Add picture of science menu)
9. Quick Daily Practice with Data Collection
A daily practice is the best way to have students practice testing skills. This gives them ample time to ask questions that will arise on testing days. Daily practice gives them time to work with the standards and experience the successes and make mistakes that will help them enhance their learning. This daily practice should be quick and easy.
10. Review with Choice Boards, Menus, and Task Cards
Give students the chance to show what they know based on what they enjoy doing. These choice boards, menus, and task cards give students the chance demonstrate understanding based on their learning levels and styles. (Just click the text to learn more.)
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