Preparing for Standardized Tests…All Year Long

Teacher helping students writeWritten by Kathleen Bukowski

CRCT, ITBS, SAT, ACT….acronyms that all parents and students dread. No matter your stance on the benefits or drawbacks of standardized testing, these evaluative tools have become the heart of our education system. The good news, however, is that parents and teachers can provide students with strategies and hints to help ameliorate the anxiety that accompanies standardized testing.

As a teacher and parent, I have found that being familiar with test language and protocol tends to reassure even the most reticent test taker.

Tip One: Critically Read the Directions
Teach children to be critical readers of more than just the test question; teach children to spend time reading directions. As teachers, practice this daily with homework and class work activities. Highlighters can be a student’s best friend for understanding the language of tests: teach students to highlight or underline the key words in directions and questions.

Tip Two: Learn the Structure and Language
Teachers and parents can preview tests online or in practice books to help familiarize themselves with question and direction text structure. Once you know the words and phrases that are commonly used, you can teach these skills discretely and in the context of your everyday lessons.

Tip Three: Practice Time Constraints
All too often students are unfamiliar with the pressure of completing tasks within a structured time frame. In the classroom, begin practicing this process early. This can be done once or twice a week with timed fact tests or writing assignments. Be sure to then discuss with students how to budget their time as this is not an innate skill for many; students will need your guidance and modeling. Parents, you can tackle this at home with homework and your kitchen timer. Take time to know your child and how effectively he or she works.

Tip Four: Practice the “Bubble” Format
Finally, teach students how to track their answers in a test by having them complete “bubble” answer activities long before test day. Teaching young children to keep track of the answer sheet and question simultaneously is imperative, as this can be one of the most difficult tasks for young test takers. Give them strategies for how to scan the test prior to working and how to go back and check to make sure that they have answered all the questions.

As a professional, I do believe that there seems to be a propensity toward spending too much time on test preparation, but it can be done seamlessly throughout the year so that children do not feel overwhelmed at the prospect of taking these often-tedious tests. With early practice, students can become test savvy and comfortable with the process.

About the Author: Kathleen Bukowski is the Learning Lab Coordinator for St. Francis High School in Alpharetta, Georgia.  She has worked closely with students in the area of study skills for 17 years both in Connecticut and in the Atlanta area.  She holds a bachelor’s degree in learning disabilities education and an master’s degree in remedial reading and language arts.  She has also presented information regarding study skills, technology and writing at the National Conference for the Learning Disabilities Association of America.

We want to thank Kathleen for her wonderful contribution to A Learning Experience! She was awarded a $35 School Box gift card for being selected for publication on this online newsletter. To find out how to submit your own classroom ideas or insights for review, please click here.

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