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Tackling the Test: Begin with the End in Mind

Help students prep for state testing with these test prep review ideas

Avoid the stress of testing and create an actionable plan to prepare for the testing in August, rather than April.

After the bliss of Spring Break, the rude arrival of testing season can seem like a slap in the face. Short  and painful test sessions that stress your kids and kill your enthusiasm for the test. Imagine a world where the test is just an opportunity to show what you know and how smart you have gotten over the year. The best way to do this, as I learn from Stephen Covey, Begin with the End in Mind. If I already know testing is going to be a painful experience, I am going to work to proactively prevent that.

Problems with Pacing
Last weekend, I presented a session on preparing for the test with a small group of first year teachers. As we were walking through the testing blueprints, we discovered a serious pacing problem for our students. In our district, the pacing guides and standards are set by the district. This was so helpful to the new teachers I support, but unfortunately is negatively impacting their students preparation for the test.  Geometric and Measurement Concepts comprise 38-39 percent of the third grade test, but according to the district pacing guide, they are just NOW teaching these objectives, with 10 days left until test time. This isn't the time I would want to be teaching new concepts to little overloaded brains.

Instead of beleaguering the point and wailing in despair, these were the steps I told them to use to prepare and be proactive in the future.

Proactive Next Steps:
  • Next Year Preparation: I would encourage the new teachers to take this planning discrepancy into account when planning their unit calendars. Bring all discrepancies to the attention of your instructional coach/principal to see if there is a bigger solution for your entire grade level/school. Some schools might not like ending specific instruction two months before school is out, but I would argue the need for increased remediation and preparation for the next grade. For example, after the test, I would work until mastery of all multiplication and division facts to ensure students are prepared for fourth grade objectives. You could simply have a meeting with the next grade level team for them to give specific objectives that students have traditionally come to them lacking.
  • Develop specific objective mastery sheets: Begin identifying the core standard and what students have to know and do in order to be proficient. I created a google doc that outlined the objective, sample items, and what students would have to know and do to show mastery. The main issue I found was that first year teachers had an understanding of an objective in a general sense but had trouble articulating the underlying skills students needed to show mastery. I also saw teachers who had only experienced an objective the way that they had learned it in school and could not translate the method to today's Common Core standards.
  • Build strong units: With stronger objective mastery, it is easier to identify which resources will drive your students forward and which will just fill time.  Strong objective mastery helps you to assess the rigor of the assessments and activities you place in front of students.  This allows you to build strong units that will stand the test of time and be able to be used again and again for future students. The only caveat here is that it be the foundation for your units and that you evaluate them at the end to see how well they prepared your students for success. Over time, this will allow you to build out more differentiation activities and assessments to truly reach all of your learners.
  • Build in test prep practice: When introducing an objective, present the accompanying multiple choice item to have students see what it will look like on the test. Also, make as many connections between the objective and real life to help your students see the relevance beyond just a test problem.
  • Create pre- and post- tests for heavily tested items:  Make an additional multiple choice test for objectives that frequently show up on the test. Identify 5 pre-test and 5 post-test problems to assess how students would perform on a multiple choice assessment.

Even if testing is looming and lurking around the corner, store this little nugget for the summer so you can be proactive and avoid this situation in the future. 

Hope these tips helped! For the free worksheets, click here.


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