State Testing, Dr. Seuss, Harry Potter, and Approximately 49,394 Mints



Ok.... so maybe that's a little dramatic, but then again, maybe not.

As a first year teacher, I knew this day was coming. And as the year went on, it just kept getting closer and closer. and finally it was here. 

It was something I have honestly dreaded all year, but then it got here, and I was okay. Really. I was just fine. 

The test came, I read the super boring and scripted directions on that first day and my amazing fifth graders wrote their little hearts out, I collected those little (well actually pretty big) books, locked them up, (apparently these tests are as sacred as a new Harry Potter novel coming out) went outside for a much deserved brain break, came back in, and did it all over again, and again, and again... for the next three days. 

Despite all the stress and angst I felt for these tests, it was okay. Even more, two of my favorite quotes from testing, "Now I know why you made all our assessments so hard, because now those tests seemed easy," and "Testing is going to be fun with you." Uh yeah... not making those up. 

So how did I accomplish this? First of all, I don't know.... :)

But in all seriousness, I was on a steep learning curve with this and I decided to make testing as fun as possible. My mentor teacher, Kelly Anne at AppleSlices, showed me the importance of this last year and I did my best to follow.

First, what assessments did I use? Let's just say I would kiss the ground Kristine Nannini walks on if I ever came within 100 miles of her. Her assessments are tough, and the above quote from my fifth grader is proof. But, as you can see, they are also very effective. They're life changing!

Right before testing I also used Kelly Anne's "Writing on Demand" unit. I know, I know, I know.... you think I'm biased, but I'm not. All of her writing units are amazing, and this unit is perfect in the weeks leading up to testing because it covers writing on demand perfectly. Best of all, my fifth graders loved it!

So obviously we did a lot more learning throughout the year, but the big thing is how did I get a student to say "Testing is going to be fun with you"? 

Basically, I give them whatever they want :) Haha. Ok, not actually whatever they want, but here is what I did.

First of all, I have to cover everything up, so why not make it cute. I love cute!

This is my door when it's closed....

And when it's open :)

 This is where I covered up all my bulletin boards....

And all my beautiful chart paper covered up.... waaahhhh....

Next, we made our T-CAP bags. I am obsessed with Harry Potter, so of course I found a way to sneak that in.  I just made them on labels and stuck them on their bags. The next day, students took turns picking four pencils and a big eraser and then they could decorate the pencils with grips and eraser. They loved it! I also gave them some mints to get them started for the first day. 

Before each test, they just take their pencils and erasers out and out the bags away. It's also nice because I have them sharpen their own pencils after each test so I don't have to worry about it!

Next I sent home the following letter, in a sealed envelope labeled "TOP SECRET- NO FIFTH GRADERS ALLOWED,"and pages to write on to all my parents with strict instructions to keep it a secret... 

I included three pages like the one below so family members could write one note for each test (yikes! 12 tests!)

My classroom parents were amazing at keeping this a secret....

And they did an even better job of writing notes for each test...

All the envelopes sent back and filled with letters:

All the families did such a great job:

Cousins, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, grandparents, friends parents... even dogs wrote notes to these fifth graders. And they love getting a new note before each test. In the morning I just set them on their desks with their snacks and T-CAP bags.

Our classroom snacks are provided by our principal and they are a great start each morning. 

So when it's all said and done, it looks like this: 

In the afternoon, we test right after lunch so they don't really want/need a snack so I just give them a piece of dark chocolate to get their brains going :)

Ok, so how about the mints and tickets? Well, some teachers give their students 1 or 2 mints. Call me crazy, but I let them have as many mints as they want... I tell them I am at their service. They have worked hard for me all year and are still working hard so if all I have to do to keep them going is give them 8-2394 mints, I will. They love it.

Amazingly though, they really don't take advantage of it. I have 22 students and we have already taken 5-one hour tests and I have only gone through one big bag. 

And lastly (if you're still with me) how do I keep them going and how do those tickets come in? Well these chart papers help explain the big incentives: 

We talk about these before every test and then I take them down when we start testing. I think it really motivates kids to use their time wisely and to check their work. I don't allow them to read afterwards and some of these incentives aren't something I can actually make note of, but you better believe that almost all of my students are checking and double checking their work because they want to earn their tickets for the giveaways. 

I basically can really only watch if they are working the whole time (but they don't know that.... muuuuaaaaahhhhhhh (that's an evil laugh). But so far it's working...

After each test, I hand out the tickets and we have a small giveaway or two. I have only had one student close his test book early and when he didn't get his tickets he made sure to check over his work multiple times on the next tests. 

It's been a long week already, and we have two more weeks of testing, but my fifth graders are working hard and actually loving testing (maybe it's the no homework) and I hope/think all these crazy things I'm doing are working. 

Thanks for sticking it out if you are still with me.... and I hope this gives you some ideas to make testing just a little more fun.


Mrs. Cahill 

No comments

Post a Comment