Reflections and Resources from Tarheelstate Teacher: Is Your Test Prep Attitude Broken?
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Is Your Test Prep Attitude Broken?

It seems that testing season is just around the corner. Honestly, I hope you have another month before you begin teaching test prep strategies and working on reading passages with your students, but I know that many classrooms are already beginning to turn their focus toward end of grade testing.
3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th grade teachers, test prep and standardized testing season is right around the corner. I believe we can honor our teaching beliefs and style while still teaching our students strategies for taking state ELA/reading tests. Before we get going with our test preparation, let's make sure our attitudes are not broken.
If you are looking towards that season in your classroom with a little bit of dread (or this is your first year administering an end of year test), I hope I offer you some solutions, ideas, and activities that will be valuable for your students in my next few blog posts.

Today's post is focused on attitude. 

Your first job is to get YOUR test-prep attitude in the right state of mind. {As you know, attitude is everything!}

First, we all know that DRILL and KILL is not effective and it is really NOT developmentally appropriate for students of any age to sit for long periods of time reading passage after passage after passage answering question after question after question. This is a sure-fire way to have your students tune out when you need them to be engaged the most!

Students have to do this on testing day, but we can prepare them for testing without putting them through hours of dread every day until the test in the name of "test preparation."

If you've read about my approach to reading instruction and how I help my students build a reading life, my attitude and approach towards End of Grade testing shouldn't surprise you in the least.

However, I do want to say that no one really taught me a better way to prep my students for testing and maybe you have not been exposed to a better approach towards test prep either. Please don't take my words as judging. Testing and the expectations from our school leaders, district, and state departments put us all in tough positions when it comes to testing.

But, you know I believe we all are a part of the #changemakers movement, so we can do this and we can do it BETTER!

Make this your mantra: Reading passage after passage IS NOT TEACHING STUDENTS STRATEGIES FOR TAKING THE TEST. 

I want to encourage you to find another way. 

My first job as a test administrator and a classroom teacher is to ensure that the attitude around the test remains positive. I believe that children are very impressionable and look at us to show them the way. If our test-prep attitudes are broken, our students will mirror that.

Let's make sure our students mirror our positivity towards those things that we must do and that we spend our test-prep time helping them feel knowledgeable and confident towards the test.

These are "testing truths" in my classroom:
  • State testing is not something we are trying to survive. A survival attitude sends the message that something is being done to us. It sends the message that if we do not pass, we did not survive. It also sends the message that the test is just something we are trying to get through. Is that how you want your students to take "THE TEST" on testing day?
  • Students do not need to "GET USED TO" the real EOG. We WILL NOT TAKE A LONG PRACTICE EOG a few weeks before the REAL EOG. No one needs to learn to "get used to" sitting for 3-4 hours without a snack or drink of water. Really, what's the point? Should a marathon runner run a full marathon before their scheduled race? This article says no
  • I have built a community of readersMy students are wild readers. They have been wild readers all year. We have had sustained silent reading daily. (That was their "preparation," by the way.) They have developed stamina and a strong relationship with books and texts. Because of this strong relationship, they have grown as readers. EVERY SINGLE CHILD in my classroom has grown as a reader--I tell them all this and you should tell your students too! (Isn't that right, kids? Aren't you a better reader today than you were in August?) Therefore, every single one of us has already shown growth--whether in fluency, stamina, a love of reading, being able to choose a book or learning how to make inferences, describe characters and tackle nonfiction texts. Every single one of us will try to have the same attitude about the reading passages that we do towards our own books.
  • I teach my students that they should approach the test with a "What do I get to read about today?" attitude. They can actually be excited about the test. (Okay, I know not overly excited because, well, testing, but I definitely encourage students to think in their mind "What do I get to read about today?" on the day of testing.) 
  • Groaning about test prep (having to reading passages and answer questions, etc) is not acceptable. Just like with any other classroom assignment, I have made the decision that it's what's best for us to do at that time. Complaining is not allowed, it's not helpful, it's not productive.
On the pressure of being "the" teacher during testing season
3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th grade teachers, test prep and standardized testing season is right around the corner. I believe we can honor our teaching beliefs and style while still teaching our students strategies for taking state ELA/reading tests. Before we get going with our test preparation, let's make sure our attitudes are not broken.
I've always tried really hard to diffuse my stress towards state testing. It can be really hard. I know I've almost hyperventilated plenty of times when I've discovered my students forgot how to do something in math or they seemed to be incapable of completing their work with carefulness and accuracy.

I know that having some wine on hand is a must during this season. So is going out to dinner with friends and not taking too much work home. You need to take care of yourself and your stress level during this season.

Here's the real reason why, though--if you are stressed about testing, I truly believe it will be hard to hide that tension from your students. And, we really don't want students to sense that testing is stressful to us when we are trying to encourage them to "chill-out."

I always tell my students,
"Your teacher is not stressed. She knows you are going to do well. You should not be stressed either. We have worked hard all year and we are going to do the same on these tests."
Now, if I'm saying that, I have to ACT like I'm not stressed. And what's the easy way to act unstressed? You got it--BE unstressed!


In my next post, I'm going to show you strategies for preparing your students for standardized reading tests that will allow you to honor your reader's workshop style of teaching, encourage student inquiry and collaborative learning, and keep testing from being something that is "done" to kids.

Make Sure You Haven't Missed Anything and Stay Tuned for these Upcoming Posts
→ Is Your Test Prep Attitude Broken?
→ A Framework for Preparing for Standardized Reading Tests that Honors Your Teaching Style
→ How and Why to Have Students Sort Reading Questions (to launch your reading test questions unit)
→ "4-Step Process to Answering Reading Questions" Mini-lesson and other Testing Tips


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