With the increase in testing days, the time for a standardized test review can be difficult to find. Each district and even school take their own stance on benchmark exams, unit tests, common assessments, and even weekly quizzes. In this day and age of assessment as “king”, we see the impact of instructional time in the classroom. In one school, the district provided exams every three weeks and at the end of each quarter, it was a full blown “testing environment” situation.
standardized test review, yes or no?
I believe it is safe to say by the time our students reach middle school they are familiar with the testing environment. In Texas they have been taking standardized tests since the third grade.
This is not to say there isn’t a place for assessment, I believe strongly in assessment and the value it provides to my students and the impact on my instruction. However, there is a fine line that the education world seems to be towing right now.
With numerous school days allotted to assessment, teachers often wonder if a review is necessary or if there is time for review?
I have found great value in standardized test review to prepare students for upcoming high stakes exams and I would like to share some reasons why I believe review can be valuable.
brings several math concepts together
Throughout the year, our calendars are typically organized by unit. We teach proportional reasoning, then the number system, then geometric concepts. Ideally we want to show students how it all comes together and applies to our everyday life. We want students to understand how a proportional relationship is also linear and how a ratio and a fraction are on in the same. The reality is, that is hard. It is tough in 50 minutes to teach a new concept and make all of those connections.
Review is a perfect time to bring it all together. You can incorporate the different standards and really allow students to make those connections on their own. Students will surprise you with what they remember and how they go about solving a problem when it is not specifically in a unit.
individualized for each student
If structured well, a standardized test review has great potential to be individualized for each student. This involves, quick pre-assessments and a lot of “teacher gut” knowledge.
When I structured my review, I gave short pre-assements that covered specific standards on each day. Each question was labeled and quickly allowed me to see who needed work with what concept. Based on the results of the pre-assessment, students moved on to various activities. In my class, I had activities for the following groups:
- mastery – 90% or higher: typically hands on activities requiring more application
- keep practicing – 75% to 89%: often activities with extra practice like task cards or cut and pastes focused specifically on the content
- work with me – less than 75%: you know these students, this is where the “teacher gut” comes in, we did a lot of analyzing the question and really processing the information work with whiteboards*
relieves anxiety for students
I would put my money on the fact that most students are nervous about testing. They may act all big and bad, but there is often quite a bit of pressure. In Texas, students are retained at certain grade levels if they do not master the content on the exam.
By throughly reviewing the content, students gain confidence in what they are able to do. They feel more familiar, are able to ask questions, and in emotionally feel more prepared for the exam. Emotions have a lot to do with performance in a testing environment. That is why we encourage students to get a good nights rest, eat breakfast, and arrive early. Yes, their brain works better when they are rested and well fed, but also they emotionally feel more prepared.
it can be fun
It well organized with engaging activities, standardized test review can be fun! I know my students enjoyed the predictability of the review, the activities, and the fact that everyone was doing something different. A few ways we made it fun:
- lots of cooperative learning activities
- at least one large class competition
- we set individual goals for the review material (not the test grade, but their mastery of the review material)
- we used stickers!
- we discussed meeting goals and celebrated when students did
- we used technology
- I gave out tons of praise
- I emphasized the class as a whole and the role each student played
I want my students to be successful
The truth of the matter is that I am not ashamed to say I want my students to be successful! Not so that I might receive accolades over a test score, but so that they gain a sense of accomplishment in working hard and grow their love of math. Students who are unsuccessful are more likely to give up over time. I don’t sing because I am tone deaf, it is not a gifting of mine.
As a teacher, the things we do in the classroom are much more about growing character and work ethic and thinking skills, than it is about the specific math skill. Math is the means in which we learn those things. We practice, we struggle, we are tenacious and keep at it, we think about other ways in which we can apply the content.
We become problem solvers who press on, those are the life lessons. That is what I want for the next generation.