Stressed about assessment time?
It is normal to be anxious about assessment time. Kindergarten is (shall we agree?) NOT the age we should be giving standardized tests to. However, we do need to gather data that IS useful for students to advance to first grade. If your district requires a standardized test for kinder, be confident in what you have taught your students. So many factors determine outcomes, and let’s face it, even testing conditions can change how kids perform. Instead of worrying about what you cannot control, think about what you do have a handle on!
Make assessment time productive!
During the months of April-May, I have always set up an assessment schedule, and most of the time it works. However, sometimes, getting every child assessed for every skill can be daunting. Here are 5 tips for keeping it running smoothly:
•Plan on lumping assessments together. For instance, pair like skills such as number recognition with order of numbers or matching groups to number representing them.
•Use a visual timer that only you can see. If it is visible to students, it may keep them from responding. If not a timed assessment, set it for five-ten minutes to keep yourself on schedule for the next student. I never go over ten minutes because kids lose interest quickly. The best results are in the first few minutes they attempt to answer.
•Set up an area in your room that is sectioned off from the rest of the class. I use a table with a cardboard divider that blocks the student view. If you need something in a pinch, grab two binders and stand them up side by side.
•Know there is more than one way to get information. If you have a child who is hesitant in showing learning, allow them to choose from objects by picking the one they think answers the question, or have them to draw the answer. Sometimes, just changing the writing tool to a super fun marker or ink pen can help. I had a student who whispered answers to me all year because she was extremely shy. We need to be flexible with our students.
•Be prepared to reward the student with praise while letting them know there is a bigger reward when all assessments are complete (extra play time, extra recess, etc). We are rewarded with vacation days or time off as adults who work. Students should know their work will pay off. Intrinsic motivation is best, but with young children, it’s okay to provide tangible rewards for the big jobs they do. (did your boss ever say, “Just be proud of a job well done”, and not offer the incentive of a wage? I didn’t think so.)
BONUS Tip for Seesaw users: Keep your iPad or phone handy and take a photo of the actual product of the assessment for conference time! Showing how a child made a decision in a math problem that is difficult for them can help parents see the areas students need to improve in.
What about Standardized Assessments?
There is much disagreement among the teaching community (states, district admins, and teachers) about the practical use of standardized assessments in kindergarten. I do not believe young children are ready for this type of test to measure learning. However, I am NOT going to be unprepared!
How do I prepare my students for a standardized test?
•Practice the basics. Students may have to fill in tiny circles when they choose an answer. Practice doing this!
Need a fine motor practice page? Here you go!
•Set up your classroom as though you were administering a formal test. Give students two pencils and an eraser, require them to listen to your prompts.
•Practice stamina by being quiet for 30 seconds, 1 minute, or 2 minutes. •Talk about doing your own thinking, your own work. If you answer the same as a neighbor, they may be wrong, so you will be too.
•Praise all efforts!!! I love what you did! Add more! How did you do that (explain learning).
What about standardized test jargon?
The way standardized test questions are worded sound like yet another puzzle to solve! Students need a fair chance at listening and responding to questions. After using different forms of tests over the years, I have developed a practice test for reading and math that have similar wording to standardized assessments. This helped my students to listen for multi-step directions in prompts. If you are needing a way to get kids ready, you can find it here.
Save on the full product, and more!
Whether you need to use formal standardized tests, or not, it is better to be prepared!
Have a Great Teacher Appreciation Week!