It’s coming or it’s already here! Testing with the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) or Partnership for Assessment of College Readiness and Careers (PAARC) has begun or will begin for most students this Spring. My testing window opens up on March 31st. What have you been doing to get your students ready for this online test? Here are five things I have been doing throughout the year, but more frequently since the beginning of March:
- teaching the students to write down their answers on a scratch paper FIRST for the constructed response
- teaching the students how to make quick graphic organizers on scratch paper
- making the students practice taking audio notes
- making the students practice taking video notes
- making sure the students know how to use the available computer tools on the test
Tip 1: Since I teach 3rd grade, I have noticed that it is especially difficult for third graders to put together a constructed response (we teach them to RESTATE the question, ANSWER the question, CITE text, and provide EXAMPLES OR EVIDENCE….RACE for short) when they have to scroll through pages of text to find evidence. Usually, the screen is split between reading screen and question screen but even with that it is still hard. So I have been working with them to quickly write their answer on scratch paper THEN type the response in the box. This way they have something tangible in front of them that they can edit and revise while they scroll around the screen for their answer. Once their answer is written out, they can then just type it.
Tip 2: One of the areas I have emphasized in Close Reading is understanding text structure. If you know what the author is doing and using, it will be easier to find the answers that you need. So I taught the students to make quick graphic organizers for main idea and details, cause and effect, compare and contrast, etc. They don’t have to do this with everything they read, but if a question is asking you for the main idea and details, then it benefits them to make a quick graphic organizer to use to answer those types of questions.
Tip 3: Since students have to be able to hear a speaker and take notes, it is clear that on the test the students will be given audio to listen to and take notes. This audio will then be used to answer questions or for writing a paragraph. That is tough. Just remember back to the days when you were in college taking notes as the professor spoke. So here’s how I have been practicing this with my students. My school subscribes to the Scholastic Weekly Readers which also has some cool online features such as listening to audio of the selections! So before we even see the Weekly Reader, I have my students just hear the text as audio: no text, no pictures, etc. We listen to it once through just to hear it. Then we listen to it one more but by chunks and we write down notes of what we feel is important in that section. I have repeatedly told my students that they have the option on the test of pausing or rewinding or re-listening to the audio as many times as needed.
Tip 4: Very much like the previous tip but for video. The Weekly Reader usually has an online video that is related to the main selection. Again, we watch the video once through for enjoyment and just to get an overall feel. Then we watch it again, pausing it when needed to write notes. We watch it a third time to make sure we didn’t miss anything and add to our notes. I remind students again that they have the option of rewinding, pausing and viewing the video as many times as needed.
Tip 5: Since my students will be taking the SBAC, I am more familiar with the tools available on that test. Using the field test, our technology teacher has taught my students how to highlight text, strike through text, move words or sentences, flag questions for later review, use the online glossary and many other available tools in the SBAC menus. This is important because I have been telling students that what we do in the classroom (highlight text, strike through text, use arrows to move things around, use sidebar glossaries, etc) will be the same on the test but using a mouse and arrow keys.
My test prep focus has been on the How To’s of taking an online test. Of course, during the school year I have been actively teaching the third grade Common Core standards. Though I don’t know exactly how the questions will be worded or given, I feel that at least I have given my students the knowledge and skills needed to tackle that online test.
How have you prepped your students for the test? I’d be interested in hearing your ideas!
Thanks to Fun in K/1 for the glitter frame!