Testing Blues on a Sunny Day

Updated: Apr 11, 2019

It's that time of year for a lot of teachers. TESTING season is much like swimsuit season (yes, approaching quickly for me here in Texas). I'm never quite ready for it! I don't know about you, but I look back at my resolutions in January and wonder where the time went. As for testing, I remember the feeling that there was never enough time to prepare students for a test on which my teaching worth would be judged.

For most, some type of required skills test is happening or going to happen in the next couple of months. And even if you don't feel like your kids are as ready as they should be, you've done your best. You seriously have to go with that attitude because at the end of the day, you gave it your all.

One of the strategies I used as the dreaded "T" word approached was a reverse technique to reviewing format. My kids hated the same old drill and kill prep, so I tried a different idea that came from my own freelance writing job. Cue my resource - STAAR Reading Test Prep Task Cards designed for 6th and 7th graders. I decided to put my students in charge of developing responses to question stems found on current STAAR testing materials. Even if your test isn't called STAAR, I'm certain these shortened reading selections and question stems can be used across state lines.

I gained valuable insight through my experience as a freelance test question writer where I worked with the test format, question stems, and developed plausible answer choices and distractors. As part of my work with the questions, I was able to spot patterns of format. I knew that I had a better understanding of types of questions and key elements in the stems. So, I tried out the strategy in my classroom. The kids responded very well, and I feel like it empowered them to take charge of not only their learning but to tackle a test that held so much weight in their academic life.

In the end allowing students to work with the questions and develop plausible answer choices and distractors helped when other approaches had failed. I'm not claiming that it was the cure-all for every student, but I closed the gap for many by using this technique and helped increase their performance on the test.

Happy teaching this week!

Summer is coming :)


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