I’ll be honest. I’m not a fan of standardized tests. These high stakes assessments do not even come close to assessing the complete student. The test mentality our nation seems to embrace is killing our students' creativity. With that said, I still take time to prepare my students for the “bubble tests” they must take to assess their knowledge and my teaching ability. Continue reading for four ways I prepare my students for standardized tests.
Standardized tests include a variety of questions, but often use set words to ask particular questions. In his book, 12 Powerful Words, Larry Bell discusses how understanding twelve words can improve test scores. The first few weeks of school, I have students define these words and create a drawing or picture for each of them. My first two vocabulary quizzes for the semester include the 12 powerful words as well.
Most Fridays involve some sort of instruction on or practice taking tests. My administrator wants teachers to take a day a week for test preparation. Sometimes it is difficult to fit in, but I try to do some form of test preparation on Fridays. Some Fridays I give them past problems from exams so that they can see and understand the wording of the questions. Other days we work over each of the problems as a class. Recently, I have been putting the questions into the MimioVote assessment system and allowing students to respond using the response system. This makes reviewing and practicing for standardized tests a little more exciting. Using the response system allows me to see who might be struggling with a particular concept.
In my class, students are struggling with vocabulary when it comes to reading comprehension questions on standardized tests. I attempt to build students’ vocabulary in a variety of ways. Reading is the best way to build vocabulary. Through the use of the Amazon Kindle, students have been able to immediately look up words they do not understand. See my previous post "Proposing the Use of E-readers in the Classroom" for more on this. I also have weekly vocabulary quizzes using ACT and SAT word lists. To give me instant feedback on grades, we take the quizzes using the Mimio student response system.
Reinforcing grammar rules is another way I prepare my students for standardized tests. Most tests include a writing portion in addition to a grammar usage section. I use my document camera to conduct a ten-minute mini-lesson on a basic grammar concept. After my mini-lesson, students work on a short ten-question exercise, and then we go over it in class. I do not spend a lot of time on this as my students have been exposed to these rules for years. However, I find it very important to refresh the memories, as my students still struggle with basic grammar rules, especially when writing.
What strategies or tools do you use when preparing students for standardized tests?