March 12, 2019

Testing: Tips and Strategies for the Classroom

Confessions of a Frazzled Teacher
Does anyone actually like testing? Personally, I dread it! For me, it's actually not the testing itself that bothers me, although I can do without it. Instead, it's the disruption to my students' schedule that I have an issue with. I could get all technical and cite research on how students with ACE's (Adverse Childhood Experiences) need routines. I'm not going to do this because teachers know their students and what they really need! Instead, let me share what I do to help my students prepare for testing.

Even if you don't care about preparing for testing, check out the end of the post in which I share my two worst testing experiences!

Disclaimer: This blog post contains affiliate links. Using them will not cost you anything but may earn me a small commission if you make a purchase.

Books:

You probably know that by now that I will use books for EVERYTHING in my classroom. This even includes testing. 


             

I was super excited to find two of my favorite characters, Miss Malarkey and Mrs. Hartwell, in books about testing. I read their stories throughout the year. It's comforting to students to see these familiar faces in uncomfortable times. The third story is not focused on testing itself, not just the BIG Tests. I love the strategies in this book to help students cope with the anxiety of testing.

Preparation:

Testing is stressful enough! Why add preparation to that list? There is so much prep that needs to be done - from getting testing materials ready to preparing students. Here's some prep work that works for me.

Supplies - Keep a set of testing supplies (and keep it away from regular supplies)! In my testing kit, I have sharpened pencils for each student (plus tons extra for when they break), notebook paper, tissue, pens (for me) and highlighters (leftover from the time we had paper/pencil tests that I have been too lazy to take out). Since I make sure this kit is together at the beginning of the school year, I'm not fumbling around trying to gather these things together or spending tons of money on non-sale school supplies in March!

Students - Beginning the week before, I start the practice tests. We go through terminology of the questions, directions, and the tools available for them to use. I give my students time to play with the tools...and I mean play! I would rather them spin the rulers around on the screen and highlight every word during the practice than the actual test. 

Healthy Habits - I spend a little time teaching my students some healthy habits like getting a good night of sleep and eating a healthy breakfast.

Testing Time:

I try to stick to as normal as a routine as possible. While I try to incorporate more fun, hands on activities on the days that they test, I don't want to get too far off from a 'normal schedule.' When we get off this routine, I find behaviors escalate big time! 

Meditation - Throughout the year, I focus on different meditation techniques. While I definitely remind my students about them right before testing begins, we also spend more time during testing days practicing them.

Snack - If testing changes our lunch schedule, I add snack time to our day. I don't want my students more concerned about eating than taking the test. 

Breakfast - We highlight the importance of eating a healthy breakfast on test days. Luckily our school also provides breakfast for our students. Even if my students arrive late to school, I can still send them down to eat. In the past, I would buy huge boxes of Cheerios and give out cupfuls to my students to make sure their bellies were full!

Bathroom - Definitely take the students to the bathroom before testing! Although I have students ask to go just to get up and move. Depending on the child, I let them because I know they will be more focused afterwards.

Homework - Technically I do not give homework during the testing. However, in our planners, we write down things like "Get a great night of sleep!"

It Could Be Worse:

Hopefully, your testing will go well. If you have a bad day, please remember my worst testing experiences to make you feel better:

1. Back when we had the paper/pencil test, a student felt sick and threw up in the classroom. Imagine the smell and horrified looks of all my students. We had to continue on while maintenance came in and cleaned it up. I'm sure they were really focused then!

2. My most difficult class ever was on the final test...after 7 days of testing! They were doing surprisingly well with behaviors, really taking everything my student teacher and I said to heart. We were about 10 minutes into testing when the FIRE ALARM went off!!!!! Apparently, some bozo planned a drill DURING testing time. Now imagine having to go right back to testing without any down time to decompress because the next class needed to test. It was a nightmare!

What testing tips do you have?
What was your worst testing experience?

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