Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Testing...testing...we're reading for standardized testing

First and foremost, I can't think of any teacher who truly enjoys standardized testing.  

Do I like analyzing data to see trends and how my students have improved? Of course.  Do I spend days doing "test prep" and "teach to the test"? Nope.  I offer quality instruction every day of the school year, not just right before exams.

I start by sharing this image with my students and their families:

Yes, testing is important.  Yes, testing needs to be taken seriously and their scores can impact their placement in sixth grade classes.  But do their fifth grade standardized tests determine the rest of their lives?  


But they've got lots of feelings regarding testing.  We even have a big {pep assembly} to get them all pumped up (but honestly, it leaves some of them feeling even more anxious).

So, about a week before testing, I send home a request to families.  This year, it conveniently coincided with progress reports so I was able to send home this notice and colorful stationary without arousing too much suspicion from my students.

I also sent out class dojo reminders to parents to return the letters.  Some sent back beautiful notes like this:

While others never returned the letters (things happen) or sent back blank stationary.  That was kind of a bummer because I ended up writing nineteen letters the night before testing started.  (Yes, 19/36 of my kiddos needed a letter.  Each one was hand written and slightly different, so they knew it was personalized and I care.)

I didn't want my students to not have something to open the morning of the test.  Every table had letters:

After breakfast (because all our students get free universal breakfast), my students opened their letters.

There were tears.  It was a sweet, beautiful moment.  They went into the test feeling loved, supported, and encouraged.  That's what all students need.

During the test, they got fruit snacks (bad choice with the computers) on the first day.  

Things went relatively smoothly the first day.  I did have to write my first citation (during testing) for a student not listening.  I can't stress enough to this student that listening to directions during testing is kind of a big deal.

After the test, they got some indoor recess (due to the weather) and played games.  They have no homework (besides reading) on testing nights.  I also don't expect much from them academically on testing days because the hope is they've used all their mental capacities to do amazing on their test and have nothing left to give.  So we do some brain breaks, read for pleasure, watch some science videos (thank you Discovery Education!), and we work on logic puzzles.

The second day was a little more frustrating.  There were some major computer issues with the server (not on our end), so students got a lot of extra reading time.  They did an amazing job with being quiet (because they basically had to be quiet the entire day).

My last one finished testing a few minutes before the bell.  I spent almost six hours actively monitoring standardized testing.  For those of you not in the teaching realm, it means I walked in a circle, watching them type.  I pretend I'm in NASCAR, silently making my hundreds of laps around the computer lab. I can't read the test or the questions, I can't help them in any way, I just have to smile and encourage them.

I did get to rock this sweet testing shirt that a fellow teacher made:

They didn't find it funny. I thought it was hysterical (but that's usually how things go.  They don't always appreciate my delightful sense of humor.)

Due to all the computer glitches and their best efforts, we didn't even get a fun reward on Friday (day 2 of the first round of testing).  To show them that I was proud of them, I bought a bunch of rice krispie treats (something no one is allergic to in my room) and told them I appreciated them "sticking" with testing.  We enjoyed those snacks the following Monday and tried to take an outdoor recess, but instead dealt with a sudden thunder storm.  We set a timer and played games inside the classroom instead. 

Tomorrow we start the second round of testing with science.  Two days of testing (hopefully we'll be done before lunch), then afternoon specials and some reading time.  Friday is field day in the afternoon and we'll be doing games in the morning.  Next week is Spring Break (HALLELUJAH) and our last round of standardized testing (math) will take place in May.

We'll be "adopted" by primary classes for the last round of testing. I can't wait to see what cute cards and treats my kiddos get from the little ones.  While I don't love testing, I can say that the sense of community and support my students feel is amazing.

I did see this cute idea on pinterest and if I can find 3 dozen oranges at Costco, this may happen:

How do you motivate your students for standardized testing?

For additional chuckles on how to deal with standardized testing, this {article} always provides a laugh!

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