I know, you never thought you would hear that I would advocate test prep, did you? I remember reading one of Rafe Esquith's books and being amazed that he does not do any test prep with them-they just know it (although his kiddos are a little older). I wish I could say I don't waste any time on it either, however in today's climate it really does feel necessary-especially when you teach the way I do where things are usually very thoughtful and open-ended, not just all multiple choice. The kids need to practice with that format and wording. Not to mention how to use scratch paper (who would design a test for 1st Graders that they can't write on anywhere but the bubbles!?!). Plus, I have the added bonus of having this one test account for 50% of my teacher evaluation this year. Apparently everything you do in your class for the other 170 days doesn't count as much as this 1 five-day test....that covers all subject areas.....where they are supposed to remember a year's worth of information. But I digress....
I think it's really hard to impart upon the kiddos how important it is to do their best on this test, without making them have a nervous breakdown at 6 years old. A couple of things I'm doing this year so we can review, but maybe a little more stress-free.
1)We have test prep workbooks, however when we do them I let the kids sit anywhere in the classroom. They love it! Some are under desks, one usually sits at my desk--just that one little change makes answering questions more fun. We do about 10 questions at a time and then correct them together, so if they make a mistake, they understand why.
2) We made up some songs this year for another class to motivate them, but I also want them to remember those words when they begin testing. So we sing them every day. One is to Katy Perry's Roar "I used to see the test and hold my breath" and "we're going to hear you passed, better, better than before"!
3) I'm taking a cue from Laurie over at http://chickadeejubilee.blogspot.com/ and creating expert groups to review concepts. I am going to have a rotation of groups each day next week and every student will have an opportunity to make an activity and review a concept.
4) I gave my parents a Top Secret Assignment and asked them to write an encouraging letter that the students can read right before they start their test. They can include a family picture or an anecdote from when they were little--I think having those motivating words in their heads will really help.
5) We have several projects that we are going to work on that are challenging activities-but in a different way. They are making self-portraits with describing words, our Gratitude Projects, a papier-mache peach for James and the Giant Peach that we are reading-aloud. Activities that I think they believe are more fun that we can concentrate on once testing is done for the day!
So although no one enjoys test season, maybe we can make it a little more stress-free for everyone! Wish us luck and good luck to all those going through it too! :)