My students have just finished all three of the 1 1/2 hour long state assessment tests in math. I am both relieved and delighted....exhausted....and thrilled. So much emotion stored for this endeavor.
I teach math along with one other teacher at my grade level. To prepare ourselves this year, we created an attack plan. I mean we shredded the state tested indicators to figure out what we needed to do to empower our students. We broke all the these down into bite size components that could be mastered by all kids.
That really wasn't just teaching the test content...it was more about making the kids so aware of strategies they could use to attack the problems. They knew the content, but they also knew how to apply different approaches. For example, when comparing and ordering numbers...they learned how to use a number line, how to find common denominators, and how to change them into decimals. Each one of these ways resonates with different learners differently and also responds to different kinds of questions. It was just a matter of us drilling on the strategies long enough that they figured out what worked best for them.
#2 Using technology really helps with maximizing formative work.
This may seem like a no-brainer. But it's true. We didn't have fancy technology until about 6 weeks before the test.
We had done the old fashion paper pencil test prep along with whiteboard slates. We practiced hard, but it was still difficult to know what everyone was doing and to correct bad procedures and uncover lack of learning.
Enter our CPS clickers. Fairly fast we were able to transfer the same questions into the clicker technology and amp up our effectiveness by 1000%. Now we had the method for making sure EVERY student was answering EVERY question....we knew immediately by what was showing up on our response grid. Color coding correct responses in green and incorrect responses in red....well that just let our efforts become laser like.
Almost immediately we knew, from the incorrect responses, where we were struggling.
That gave us the power to address those weaknesses both to the group and then specifically to individuals. This approach is powerful. Kids know they can't hide.
As my teaching partner says, "you have to be in it, to win it". If you haven't learned the content or the procedures, you're not going to be able to show it. I think our test prep built this bond of trust between our students and us. They knew we could care less what their exact score was as long as they were investing the effort into trying. Students really bought into the belief we had that it was about learning how to be smart....testing comes and goes....but what you could take away from all this is that you ARE SMART and GOOD AT MATH.
This image is a Creative Commons license picture by Jeremy Brooks.