Friday, May 1, 2015

Five for Friday and Testing Relief

Standardized Testing stressing you and your students out? I can relate.

When Michigan decided to switch to Smarter Balanced testing and Common Core, I was all for it in theory. I welcomed starting each new school year without mandated review made necessary by the summer slide. Then the state decided to switch gears. We would still be doing a spring electronic standardized test, only now it would be the M-STEP. 

One thing I did not like was that our fifth grade testing window started the day after spring break. We had a three week window. Today is the last day for fifth grade testing and make-ups.  I wish I could say the testing sessions went well, and were event free. Unfortunately, there were many woes. Technology malfunctions, problems with student directions, and so forth. Students and teachers were stressed before the tests began. 

To help motivate students, I made bulletin boards using Melon Headz and Educlips clip art. My friends stayed after school to help choose the clip art. They then gave up recess to cut the laminated pieces. 

I made locker tags for my students. I knew my neighbor purchased my Rock the Test tags I made last year, I didn't want a group to be left out, so I made their class tags as well.
When we needed a distraction from the testing sessions, we planted flowers for our service learning project and Mother’s Day. We grow them in our life lab.

Students are learning about the Oregon Trail and Western Expansion in social studies. They are doing a simulation. They earn “money” for supplies by bringing in Box Tops for Education, doing homework, etc. To add a little more interest, students played Oregon Settler on the iPad. We also blogged and sent messages to a former classmate. 

The best stress reliever came with our walks. We participate in the Walking Classroom. After testing last week, the students begged to get outside for a walk. The weather was perfect for walks. On Friday, we listened to a podcast on trickster stories. The students loved the break from testing, and enjoyed the presentation. We had read about “Bear and Fox” in our anthology recently, so they were interested in hearing the podcast’s version of the story. With stress from the testing, many students are struggling with behavior and mean behaviors. I liked how Laura Fenn and her students equated the trickster stories with bullying. It was a message my kids needed to hear.

With our first year of M-STEP behind us, I am thinking about what I will do differently next year. I would love to hear how you prepare students for the stress of testing, and how you relieve the stress. 

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