Ready, Set, Test
In 3rd grade, regular classroom tests become more frequent and more challenging. During the year, your child's teacher will introduce test-taking strategies in class, including how to read directions and follow them carefully. He must also learn to express his ideas clearly and manage his time. At home, study and read together to help him master the necessary skills.
Why This Year?
The main reason for increased testing may be that your child can now use higher level thinking skills — the ability to describe, explain, and make educated guesses based on what she reads. By 3rd grade, your child should have a basic knowledge of core subjects and the ability to read at grade level. Formal testing is the best way to see what she has a handle on and what needs more work.
Another reason for the increase in formal classroom testing, say teachers: the No Child Left Behind legislation. Teachers need to make sure that tests not only monitor ability, but help students master the test-taking skills essential for assessment in the spring. Those springtime standardized tests help determine whether your child can go on to 4th grade.
Top Testing Troubles
For many students, failure to carefully read and follow directions is the number-one test blunder. If your child is a struggling reader, he may have trouble interpreting directions correctly. To help at home, read with your child daily and practice following directions together. Similarly, many 3rd graders also struggle to provide an adequate answer based on the directions. Another challenge is staying focused on their work and pacing themselves during the test. Many children believe that finishing last means that they are not as smart as their classmates. So they rush, lose focus, and are more likely to provide incomplete or inadequate answers. If your child experiences this problem, her teacher may try moving her to an area away from friends or at the front of the class, sitting with her to encourage focus, or soothing anxiety by allowing extra time to complete the test.
Reinforce Study Skills at Home
While your child may be able to do homework on her own now, it is unlikely that he will be able to take on the task of studying alone. Top strategies:
- Set up a quiet study area for your child.
- Plan a study schedule. It will keep both you and your child on track and will prevent cramming the night before a test.
- Break studying into manageable chunks. This helps him retain more information and reduces test anxiety.
- Be flexible. You needn't limit studying only to structured study time or let the responsibility fall exclusively on one parent.
- Read together. To ace her tests, your child will need to use higher-level thinking skills, so it helps to emphasize these skills at home. After you read with her, discuss the material. Ask her to summarize what she read, identify new or unfamiliar words in the text, or predict what will happen next.
Before and After a Test
Start by knowing what the test will cover and what format it will be in, so you can help your child prepare properly. Most teachers will do some form of review in class to help your child prepare. If you or your child has questions after the teacher has announced the test, don't be afraid to speak up. In addition to reviewing key material together, do a few practice tests with your child. His teacher may provide these, or you can create your own.
The night before a test, remind her to gather all the materials she will need, such as paper, pencils, erasers, and a calculator (if it is allowed). Scrambling around in the morning will only lead to unnecessary jitters. On the morning of a test, make sure she eats a healthy breakfast so that she has the mental stamina to stay focused on the task at hand.
When your child gets a test back, make sure not to put too much emphasis on her grade — good or bad. Instead, review the questions that he got wrong and talk about ways to improve the next time. This way, you demonstrate that learning is a lifelong, meaningful experience, not just preparation for a test.