Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Standardized Testing Advice

As a first year teacher, I wasn't quite sure what to expect during state standardized testing. In my state, third graders take the test over four days. The first day is the writing prompt, and then the following days are each an hour and a half of reading, then an hour and a half of math.

The pressure during the test was huge, on the teachers and on the students. I had one girl start crying when I passed out the tests, just from pure anxiety. I knew she was going to, because she'd been getting easily upset and crying whenever something wasn't super easy. She has a high pressure family- her mom asked me for her class rank during a conference. Thankfully she and I had been discussing relaxation techniques and stuff like that, so after I had her to go to the bathroom and get a drink (I told her to walk slowly, and breathe deliberately, and listen for bird sounds), she came back and started doing the test.

I spent $20 on fruit and snacks for the week, and each morning I gave my students a small snack, like 5 apple slices and a few grapes, or some sliced up oranges. My students also love Mangoes and I found some of those on sale too. The school provided me with snacks, but it was all packaged stuff like granola bars and fruit snacks. I gave them those snacks in between morning testing sessions, so the schedule went like this: at school at 8am, eat fruit, start testing at 8:30, break at 10:15 for packaged snack, test until 12, when it's lunch time. In the afternoon we worked on coloring the pictures for the books we've been writing for a few weeks. Nothing academic, but nothing too crazy either. I was also very liberal with prizes during the week. I passed out mint mentos and chewing gum, because everybody on staff is convinced that the kids do better with mint. I told my students (privately, in whispers during the test), that the mint flavor would wake up their brain. I only gave stuff to kids who were still working or checking answers, never to the early finishers. Sometimes I could get them to go reread questions and check answers by bribing them with a single mint mento. I also put tiny stickers on an index card on the corner of the desk when I saw a student working really hard. That meant if a student just skimmed over the questions, they wouldn't get very many stickers. The people who took the longest always got the most stickers. Then in the afternoon I allowed the students to buy prizes with the stickers, like an eraser for 10 stickers or a bottle of bubbles for 20 stickers.

Our testing took 4 days. On Friday I had good intentions, but I was sick and feeling crappy. I showed two movies, did a bunch of read alouds, and gave my kids popcorn, and while they watched the movies I flipped through the test booklets and checked for bubble neatness. At our school we had to check out the box of tests from the principal each morning and return them during lunch, but thankfully they let us check them out again on Friday to go over the neatness of the forms. The only problem with that is that I found a few students who had skipped problems or in one case two pages, and there was nothing I could do about it because testing was over. Next year I'm going to flip through their books as they finish to make sure they did every problem.

1 comment:

Bitterbetty said...

wow. How stressful for all of you. I am not a fan of standardized testing although I was really great at it as a kid.(It tried to see how many grades over my own I could get.) My son really struggles with tests of all kinds. and it is nice to hear of a teacher who is so supportive and encouraging.