MAT Blog

It's Testing Season Practice Time!

Posted by Colleen Cadieux on Feb 11, 2012 5:33:00 AM

TestingAre you panicking yet over testing season coming up?  I have always found that right after winter break, I would suddenly realize how close we were to testing time, and I became a drill sergeant!  While testing is not always fun or interactive, I do believe that practicing on a regular basis up until the week of testing can really take the edge off!  If we have practiced weekly, then on testing day I am fully confident telling students, "This is just like a practice day. You have done this lots of times – and you know what to do!"

One way I prepare students is with a weekly practice test that is timed. Because my desks are in groups of four, I want students to resist the urge to sneak a peek at their neighbor's paper.  I wanted an easy way to create some privacy without having to get out bulky cardboard to set up and take down each time.  Instead, I used two colored folders to create "offices." I buy the same colored folders in bulk at the beginning of the school year when they are a penny each. I probably have an extra 500 folders always on hand!clip image001rev

clip image002The folders are easy enough to place into my students’ desks and pull out when requested.  They put them up and have a private area to work. It also minimizes the urge for those that speed through their test and then look around to see if they are the first one done.  It is much harder to look through the folders without being caught!

If you start to have issues with students who are playing with their pencils through the crack in the folders, another option is to take some clear tape down the middle of two folders.  They will lay flat and still be able to fit in a desk nicely, as well.

Students are not allowed to color, write their names, or personalize the folders for a reason: I want them to look uniform and be as little of a distraction as possible.  Plus, that way they can be used from year to year!  I have seen some teachers laminate the folders to make them even more sturdy, but I always worry about the students who like to pick and peel away at the lamination!  File folders can also be used, but I do find that the colorful folders are cheaper and easier to replace (but of course, you may feel differently, so choose what you like the best).

How do you prepare for standardized testing season?  Do you pull desks apart?  Do you seat your students facing in different directions - or something else? I would love to see your tips as well in the comments below. 

Happy Test Preparations!

For more handy pointers and advice to make your classroom run smoothly, register for our FREE webinar next Wednesday, February 15 at 4 p.m. EST: "Overcoming Organizing Obstacles" with Charity Preston, now!

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Charity Preston, MA is the editor and creator of several websites, including The Organized Classroom Blog, Classroom Freebies, and Teaching Blog Central, among others. She received her undergraduate degree in early childhood education from Bowling Green State University, OH and a Master in Curriculum and Instruction from Nova Southeastern University, FL, as well as a gifted endorsement from Ohio University. She taught third grade in Lee County, FL for several years before relocating back to her hometown as a gifted intervention specialist. Charity is currently taking time off to run her online businesses and spend time with her toddler. She is married with two children, ages two and 14 and has two cats and a dog. Life is never dull in the Preston house!



Tags: assessment strategies, testing, classroom management, webinar

Top Ten Assessment Strategies for K-12 Teachers

Posted by Colleen Cadieux on Nov 29, 2011 4:22:00 PM

Marygrove MAT ranks the top ten assessment strategies for the K-12 classroom.Teachers are accountable for so much in the course of a day, it helps if you can juggle or even pull a rabbit or two out of a hat to achieve your goals. We put our heads together to come up with the Top Ten Assessment Strategies that teachers can efficiently use in their classrooms every day. There’s no hocus-pocus necessary, and the results are magical:

#10. Cooperative Learning Activities

Cooperative learning involves students working together in small groups (usually followed by a teacher-presented lesson), with group goals and individual accountability. Although this is a very challenging assessment, you can mitigate the problem of one teacher versus several small groups by assigning roles and having group members evaluate each other’s performance. Students discover 1) how to help another student without just giving the answer; and 2) the importance of working together toward a common goal. Here are some great hints from the Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence at Carnegie Mellon University.

#9. Learning Logs

A learning log is a lot like a journal that allows students to write across the curriculum. The major reason for using them is to encourage children to be in control of their own learning and to promote thinking through writing.

#8. Book Response Journals

Very similar to a learning log, the book response journal is a place for students to share personal reactions to events, themes, and ideas in a book. Children are encouraged to react to everything they read. Teachers may use these journals to respond to each child individually, sharing their questions, feelings, and ideas about literature and making suggestions for further reading or related activities.

#7. Comparison Charts

Comparison charts are just one example of a number of “graphic organizers” or “mind maps” teachers can use. They offer students the ability to visually examine the similarities and differences among ideas, events, characteristics, etc. It is an excellent, creative way to engage students individually or in groups. But you must first allow students to get comfortable using graphic organizers as a way to take notes and organize information which they know. Then, as an assessment, a blank graphic can be provided with places for students to fill in the required information. Some great examples of this are timelines in Social Studies and lifecycles in Science.

#6. Graffiti Walls

Graffiti Walls could be used as an informal, full class assessment of class knowledge on a particular topic. They are unrestricted, boundary-less spaces for brainstorming or communicating words, phrases, or ideas on a topic. A teacher may use them for brainstorming about a theme at the beginning of a unit, or for encouraging students to add new words or phrases relating to the theme as the unit progresses. The graffiti wall serves as a class dictionary/thesaurus as students search for new or unique words to enrich their writing.

#5. Conferences

Conferences, if coupled with some sort of checklist or rubric, can be great assessment tools. This is especially true if the conference is about students’ work, such as a portfolio conference. A one-on-one conference in which the student explains what pieces of work are to be included in the portfolio can be a particularly rich source of data.

#4. "I Learned" Statements

"I Learned" statements may be in either written or oral form. Their purpose is to simply give students a chance to self-select one or more of the things they learned during a class session, an investigation, or a series of lessons.

#3. Oral Attitude Surveys

Attitude surveys systematically reveal students' self reflections regarding group and individual performance and affective characteristics such as effort, values, and interest. Impromptu oral surveys allow students to share their ideas, learn from others, and deepen the way they think about the topics being discussed. Any of these full class assessments are most helpful if the teacher has some organized way to track who said what. Index cards on a ring can do that—one card for every child. A student could run the discussion, or an aide or parent could take notes on the cards. At the end of the day, week, or unit, the cards can be separated, reviewed for patterns of learning and placed in the students’ individual files.

#2. Self-Evaluations

An invaluable part of alternative assessment is having the student learn to recognize his/her own progress by taking the time to reflect. Those who are able to review their own performance, explain the reasons for choosing the processes they used, and identify the next step, develop insight and self-involvement.

And the number one Assessment Strategy for K-12 Teachers to employ in their classroom is…

#1. Goal-Setting

Setting goals with even the youngest children provides a base-line for monitoring student performance through collaboration and self reflection. Robert Wood and Edwin Locke (1987) found a significant relationship between goals and self-efficacy: Students with a stronger sense of efficacy also set higher, but reachable, goals. Wood and Locke found that more challenging goals usually prompt higher achievement.

See for yourself how goal-setting makes a difference in oral reading fluency at Marygrove MAT’s mini-master class: “D.I.B.E.L.S., Does It Benefit Early Learners to Set Goals?” with Christina Bainbridge, MAT ‘09 Saturday, Dec. 10 at 12:30 p.m., EST. Click here to register for our free, online webinar!





Tags: assessment strategies, Top ten assessments for K-12, K-12 teachers

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