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March 23, 2012

Spring Cleaning, Spring Break, and State Test Prep

By Stacey Burt
Grades 6–8

    It's the time of year when we begin thinking about spring break plans, cleaning out the classroom, and preparing for standardized tests. Being organized for the last few months of school is a necessity for me. With overnight field trips and end-of-the-year events to prepare for — not to mention standardized tests — having things in order in the classroom helps tremendously.

    For this week's blog post, I'd like to offer suggestions on planning and organizing for state testing. I am sure many of you are already on your way, but in case you aren't, I composed a "Top 6 List" for state test planning and organization:

    1. Pull all ancillary materials for practice. Your school may order supplemental material for practice and review, but all textbooks come with fairly good practice materials. I recommend really looking at those materials and choosing what will work best with the students you are currently teaching.
    2. Make a weekly plan for review. I find that review and practice — with the opportunity for small group work with students who are still struggling — works best for my students. If more intense practice is needed, I offer a day once a week for even more practice.
    3. Make sure that review and practice is more than review and practice. Keep the materials and the expectations high. Providing a mixture of computation, hands-on, and real world ensures true comprehension.
    4. Rally the troops. Ask parents to contribute snacks, drinks, erasers, pencils (sharpened), mints, and other items you may want to provide for the students during testing. Planning this early with a schedule works well. If you have a room mother or a strong PTA or PTO, they will often offer this assistance before testing begins.
    5. Plan as a grade level. Planning fun review activities the week before can reduce everyone's stress. I once worked for a principal who believed that the week before state testing is too late for students to master new material. She would say, "The hay is already in the barn." I agree with her. Giving students the chance to decompress by engaging in fun and rigorous review is better than the "spray and pray" mentality. In the past, some grade levels at my school have planned fun boot camps to review and others have held morning review sessions with breakfast the week before. Again, this is where planning and asking for help comes into play. If you plan as a grade level, the prep won't seem so overwhelming.
    6. Planning for after the testing. I don't know about the atmosphere at your school, but at mine, students seem to think that after testing sessions, school is pretty much done for the day. For this reason alone I make sure to have extra review games and super high-interest activities planned for the students during testing week. Everything from extra science experiments to working with younger grade levels to allowing students to plan or teach a lesson keeps their minds engaged the entire day.

    I hope all of you have a wonderful and safe spring break (if you haven't had it already) and wish nothing but the best for your students during state testing.

    Best,

    Stacey

    It's the time of year when we begin thinking about spring break plans, cleaning out the classroom, and preparing for standardized tests. Being organized for the last few months of school is a necessity for me. With overnight field trips and end-of-the-year events to prepare for — not to mention standardized tests — having things in order in the classroom helps tremendously.

    For this week's blog post, I'd like to offer suggestions on planning and organizing for state testing. I am sure many of you are already on your way, but in case you aren't, I composed a "Top 6 List" for state test planning and organization:

    1. Pull all ancillary materials for practice. Your school may order supplemental material for practice and review, but all textbooks come with fairly good practice materials. I recommend really looking at those materials and choosing what will work best with the students you are currently teaching.
    2. Make a weekly plan for review. I find that review and practice — with the opportunity for small group work with students who are still struggling — works best for my students. If more intense practice is needed, I offer a day once a week for even more practice.
    3. Make sure that review and practice is more than review and practice. Keep the materials and the expectations high. Providing a mixture of computation, hands-on, and real world ensures true comprehension.
    4. Rally the troops. Ask parents to contribute snacks, drinks, erasers, pencils (sharpened), mints, and other items you may want to provide for the students during testing. Planning this early with a schedule works well. If you have a room mother or a strong PTA or PTO, they will often offer this assistance before testing begins.
    5. Plan as a grade level. Planning fun review activities the week before can reduce everyone's stress. I once worked for a principal who believed that the week before state testing is too late for students to master new material. She would say, "The hay is already in the barn." I agree with her. Giving students the chance to decompress by engaging in fun and rigorous review is better than the "spray and pray" mentality. In the past, some grade levels at my school have planned fun boot camps to review and others have held morning review sessions with breakfast the week before. Again, this is where planning and asking for help comes into play. If you plan as a grade level, the prep won't seem so overwhelming.
    6. Planning for after the testing. I don't know about the atmosphere at your school, but at mine, students seem to think that after testing sessions, school is pretty much done for the day. For this reason alone I make sure to have extra review games and super high-interest activities planned for the students during testing week. Everything from extra science experiments to working with younger grade levels to allowing students to plan or teach a lesson keeps their minds engaged the entire day.

    I hope all of you have a wonderful and safe spring break (if you haven't had it already) and wish nothing but the best for your students during state testing.

    Best,

    Stacey

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