Preparing for State Testing... when you'd rather jump off a cliff...

Hello darlings! Yes, I'm pretty dramatic, I know.  LOL!I think all teachers would agree that state testing is awful.  It doesn't measure what our students really know and it puts undue strain on our students.  But... there is nothing we can do about it, so I guess it's just "suck it up buttercup."  That's what I tell myself anyway.

 And then I put myself in my kiddo's shoes.  Hours upon hours, days upon days of testing.  Staring at a computer screen reading articles and stories that may or may not be on my grade level.  Answering questions that mean nothing to me.  Figuring out complex math problems that are designed to trick me and confuse me.  No thanks.  That's where we as teachers come in.  Since we can't take it away, we have to make this exciting.  We have to provide students with the why and show them the value.

Why?  We GET to show our families and our principal how incredibly brilliant we are and how much we have learned since kindergarten!

Change your attitude! Yes, it stinks.  No, it isn't fair.  No, it doesn't really show how much growth your kids have made.  Yes, it's flawed.  No, their scores don't mean you are a terrible teacher.  No, you can't compare your scores with your teaching colleagues.  But, guess what... You have to give the test, so make the most of it.  Your attitude will TOTALLY show through to your students.  If you hate it, they will too.  If you love it, so will they.  Your passion makes it happen.  (cue music)

So here is my little simple plan to turn it all around and get my kiddos pumped so they are begging to take the test.  I tell them that it is a privilege.  It is an honor.  It is something that ONLY they get to do because they are third graders.  K-2nd didn't GET to take this test!

We do a Rockstar Testing Theme.  I tell students to bring in props or items that make them feel like a Rockstar.  I take their pictures and we hang them up around the room.

I send home a note to parents a few weeks before testing that asks for donations to our "I Rock" table.  Whatever they don't provide, I purchase from the Dollar Store.  I hype this up to the kiddos and explain that 4-5 kiddos will be chosen each day to pick from the table.  Only students who go ABOVE AND BEYOND in showing perseverance and great effort will be chosen. (since testing is a week and a half long, all students end up getting picked by the end."

When I pick for the first day, I make sure I am very specific in my language.  Ex.  Sally, you impressed me with how focused you were on each question.  I even noticed that you went back through and checked over each answer for silly mistakes.  Thank you for working so hard!

The next day, I see students trying to emulate those traits so that they can be chosen.

Inside this envelope I store everything kiddos need for test prep so it never gets lost.  I let kiddo decorate it and make it their own.  We store them in a tub on our "I Rock" table.

What's inside?
Crunch Time review for ELA and Math from Tied to Teaching
Copies of the Smarter Balanced Released Test Items from North Thurston Public Schools
Any games or centers they are working on such as my ELA Test Prep centers

Take your review outside!  Try to find anyway to get students up and moving.  Here students are completing a math error analysis with chalk, figuring out the area and perimeter of their bodies with chalk, working on centers on blankets, and reading to build stamina.

Don't assume your students know what test questions are asking them.  Our test requires them to use technology and be able to click, drag, highlight and so much more.  Have students actually analyse the test questions before you even give them the strategies to answer them.  We also do an activity with the Universal Tools component of the test.  That freebie can be found here. 

The activity below is from Teacher Trap's Reading Test Prep Unit which I highly recommend.
The error analysis is a freebie from Ashleigh's Education Journey.

The comprehension passages used to practice the RACE Strategy is from Teaching with a Mountain View. 

Between all of the test prep, we try to fit in as many fun and hands on activities as possible.  STEM is a perfect way to incorporate that!  You can see how I completed all of these activities here. 

 I still want them writing and working hard, but as you can see, it's all about making it exciting and engaging.  This is one of the most loved writing assignment my kiddos do all year!  We read all of the Diary of a... Books and then students choose a creature to write their own diary about!   This takes a week or two and students beg me to get back to it in between our test prep!  You can grab everything you need for this project here. 

I hope this gave you some inspiration for test prep!  Remember, you are an amazing teacher.  This test is just ONE part of your classroom!

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