Assessment Tips & Tricks {with Kim from For a Love of Teaching}


Hey friends! It's Kim from For a Love of Teaching, and as many of you already know my assessments in 4th grade are a little different from the year long assessments in grades K-2. Yes, I assess my students all year long in a variety of ways, but in North Carolina (and many other states), students in grades 3 and up are required to take end of year standardized tests.

Like any upper grade teacher, I struggle with the fact that ONE test determines whether or not my students are successful learners. The relentless pressure on teachers and students to show effectiveness is insane! For me that "crunch time" has already arrived. You can literally feel it in the halls at my school - anxiety, tension, stress (and not just from the teachers). Students have these same feelings. Unfortunately, they know that their year banks on ONE test in Reading and ONE test in Math.

So, today I'm bringing you some ideas I use in my classroom for limiting that stress on students! I go to a lot of trouble to make sure my students are as stress free as possible when those dreaded testing days arrive!



Create a Positive Atmosphere

One thing I’ve learned in 14 years of teaching is that my students can read me pretty well. They know when I’m in a bad mood. They know when I’m tired. They know when they should be on their best behavior. They know when I’m stressed out! These feelings and emotions I have in the classroom affects my students.

Create an atmosphere in your classroom that makes students feel at ease. Praise them for their hard work. Encourage them with words like, “You’ve got this,” or “You can do this.” [Click here to check out the awesome sticky note ideas Mrs. Dailey's Classroom shared on a previous post. I love them!] Reassurance goes a long way - especially when it’s coming from their teacher. Remaining calm and friendly will help ease their nerves. It’s important that your students not see you upset or worried (even if you are).


Get students excited!

Yes, I know…excited about taking a test? Excited about taking a 3 hour test? What student gets excited about that? Well, the reality is, standardized testing is not going to go away (or at least not anytime soon), so we might as well try to make it as enjoyable as possible for students. Give your students magic pencils or special stickers to wear. Before the test, allow your students to show off how smart they are by playing review games and competing against each other in class.

In my classroom, students get special testing “treats” on their desk each day of testing. For example, I might leave a note on each student’s desk that says, “You’re one smart cookie!” with a few cookies for a snack, or “You can lick this test!” with a sucker attached. On the last day, I like to leave a note that says, “This test is o-fish-ally over!” with a bag of Goldfish Crackers. We typically test for 3-4 days straight, so my students love coming in each morning to see what special treat I’ve left them that day. By doing this I transform anxiety into excitement!

Practice, Practice, Practice!

Not knowing what to expect naturally evokes fear and anxiety – especially in children. Practice taking similar tests before the “REAL” test. Follow through with testing protocol just as if students were taking the big test. Allow students time to practice bubbling answers (since this is not typically how we assess students throughout the year). Practice time management, by administering the test with time limits. Giving students the opportunity to experience this different way of testing will ease their fears, and they will know exactly what to expect come testing day.

Involve Parents!

Inform parents about the test, when it will be administered, and what they can do at home to help ease the stress of testing for their child. Simple tips for parents like – going to bed early, eating a healthy breakfast, and encouraging their child to do their best – can go a long way!

Along with keeping my parents informed about testing, I also send home a special letter and blank note. I ask parents to write a letter on the blank note encouraging their child to do their best. In my letter I instruct them to send the note back with a picture that’s special to their child. During testing days, I display each note and picture on a bulletin board in our classroom. Sometimes I receive family pictures, pictures with a child and their pet, or pictures with grandparents. It always varies, but the notes and pictures serve as a reminder to each child that they have support and encouragement from home as well. They love reading the notes and looking at the pictures. They can visually see how much support they have from home just by glancing at the bulletin board. 



Use Testing Strategies!

I teach my students to use testing strategies, and I try my best to convince them that they work! (Really, they do!!!) My students always do better on a test when they use testing strategies such as: eliminating answer choices, boxing key words, showing their work on math problems, and looking back for the answers in reading passages.  Below are 2 freebies {yes two!} that you can download for free in my store. I use the RELAX and CUBES method each year to help students get ready for the BIG test!

      


Above I mentioned the special desk treats and parent letters I display on a bulletin board in my classroom.  Below, you will find my testing treat tags (treats not included – sorry), and a copy of the letter and blank note I send home to students. This product is available in my storeClick on the images for a closer look!

        

Best of luck with your assessments or state tests, and don’t worry – Your students are going to do great! More times than not, they surprise us!

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