Getting Ready for Testing Season

By Ruth Manna on March 9, 2011
  • Grades: 3–5

Good teaching every day, with engaging, standards-based lessons and thought-provoking questions, makes students good test takers. Setting high expectations, demanding quality work, and consistently enforcing rules contribute to positive test results. A calm, well-organized classroom in which you and your students are fully engaged in learning leads to success on tests. Students who value practice and hard work take tests in stride.

Later this month Massachusetts 3rd through 10th graders will begin taking standardized tests, which will stretch from March through May. Read on to find ideas to help you get ready for testing season. 


Start-writing-journal-kindergarten-200X200[1]
Grades K–2 
Students this age take few, if any, standardized tests, but they learn what it means to take a test. As you introduce students to reading assessments, spelling tests, and short quizzes, they learn to listen and follow directions. They also learn that testing has its own protocol. Here are test conditions with which young students become familiar:

  • Uncluttered, quiet room with lots of natural light.
  • Sharp pencils, erasers, grips, highlighters, number lines, etc.
  • Desks or tables separated from one another and facing forward.
  • Desktop dividers and study carrels.
  • Clean desktops.
  • A book, for those who finish the test early.

ImagesCA9BT6Q2 Grades 3–6: By 3rd grade, students understand a test environment. Sample questions from previous statewide tests, usually available online, familiarize students with the test format. Students in grades 3–6 are ready to learn specific test-taking techniques such as:

  • Answer all questions.
  • Use process of elimination to narrow choices.
  • Respond using complete sentences/thoughts.
  • Reread and refer to the reading passage to answer comprehension questions.
  • Refer to specific lines in the passage and/or use direct quotes.
  • Be aware of and budget your time.
  • Use a highlighter, if one is permitted.
  • Show your work with words and/or drawings when solving math problems. Label your answers.
  • Proofread your work.
  • Ask yourself, “Does my answer make sense?”

The Day of the Test


2057286_com_quietplz[1] Although you may be nervous, it helps to appear calm and relaxed. Students look to you as their leader and will adopt your attitude. Before students arrive, create a quiet, peaceful atmosphere for testing by separating desks and turning them so students are facing you. Use cardboard dividers for students who are easily distracted. Make sure students have the necessary materials on their desks. Students may want to get out books and put them on their desks in case they finish early.

The following ideas may sound simple, but they really work.

ImagesCAQDILEP Light — The human brain prefers natural light, so open shades wide and turn off half the fluorescent lights.
Snack — About 20 minutes before the test, offer students a snack like orange juice and pretzels. A mix of salty and sweet foods wakes up their brains.
Bathroom — Make sure everyone visits the bathroom ahead of time.
Exercise — Right before students sit down for their test, lead them in stretching exercises, jumping jacks, or Brain Gym.
Water — Make sure students have water bottles by their desks.
Jumping_jacks Cheer — Recite a cheer before the test begins: “Two, four, six, eight! On the test, we’ll do great!”
Visualization — Ask students to sit down and close their eyes. Guide them through a visualization in which they see themselves completing the test successfully. This will calm students and help them relax.
Pause — Five minutes after students have started the first test, have them put down their pencils for a moment. Tell students, “Now that you’ve started this test, breathe deeply and relax for a second. You’re going to do well on the test.”

Please post your test-taking ideas and suggestions.

Comments

Jennifer, Thanks for your comments. I love your idea about sugar-free gum! Gum can really help students focus and lessens test anxiety.

In our school, we do the exercising, imagery for relaxation and breaks during the test as none of our tests have time restrictions on them. We also pass out sugar-free gum for students. They love it!

Ashley, This is a great idea! Thanks for sharing. I know how much students love to get notes from family. On Back-to-School/Parent Night I put a sticky note on each desk and ask parents to write short notes to their children. Kids loved those notes so much, some kept them in their pencil cases all year. (If parents weren't there, I wrote notes so everyone had one. :)

In my class I send a "top secret" envelope home with students about 2 weeks before the big state test. We ask parents to write an encouraging note to students, one for each day of testing and then return them to school. Students are always totally surprised and love receiving messages from family before starting the test.

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