"In an era of... testing frenzy, we are failing to inspire our children's curiosity, creativity, and imagination. We are denying the opportunities to tinker, discover, and explore - in short, to play."
- Darrell Hammond
This week I really struggled with what to my blog topic should be. I have two really cool activities coming up that I want to blog about, but those are still a few weeks away. I decided to reflect upon what is currently going on in my classroom and I determined that it is a lot of test prep.
Hold your gasps! While many other teachers have been throwing worksheet after worksheet at kids in aims of getting them ready for the Standards of Learning tests (SOLs) at the end of the year, I have chosen not to do this. I don't feel that this is the most effective way to prepare students for these tests. Yes, I do understand that seeing the format of tests are important, but I feel that taking away creative activities is a larger detriment than the gains of traditional test prep.
Do not get me wrong, I am not saying all tests and data instruments are evil. I believe it is important for the teachers to know what the students know and how effective their instruction is. However, I do not think the SOL should be the only measure. Not all students test well; we should respect and honor this. This week, and the upcoming weeks (and all year long,) we have/will be participating in a number of fun and engaging activities for review, including:
|Scoot in action. Notice the yarn.|
|The yellow cards are their Plickers|
Plickers: This is a fantastic new app that requires only one device to use. The students each get a square that looks like a QR code, called a Plicker (paper clicker.) I project a question on the SmartBoard and the students hold up and orient their Plicker to reflect A B C or D or T/F. I scan it with my phone and get real time results. They really like this activity, and I make a big deal of students who get questions right when the rest were incorrect.
|Sidewalk Race. I can quickly see who is prepared.|
Move Around the Room: This game is simplicity in its finest form. I write A B C and D around the room and ask a question. Students physically move to their desired answer and it allows me to quick check their understanding. I make a point to say to go with their what they think is the right answer versus going with where their friends go.
I Have, Who Has: This game involves more set up. I took all of their history content and wrote them into questions, such as "Who has the man elected to the presidency in 1860, which resulted in southern states seceding?" Another student has a card that says "I have Abraham Lincoln," and another clue. The game continues until it gets back to start. Our current class record is 3 minutes 45 seconds for 26 clues. You can check out a video of the game here.
|SWAT in action|
You will see none of these activities require the students to sit around and do lots of worksheets. They are more engaging and movement based, which helps them to create better connections in their minds and foster a sense of fun. As one final culminating activity for VA Studies, we will be playing Survivor, which will involve knowing content, teamwork, speed, and twists and turns.
As a final note, please keep my students in your thoughts. We will be taking our tests on 5/18, 5/20, 5/27 and 5/28, and I know the students could benefit from support and encouragement from my PLN. Many of them are extremely stressed due to these tests. I have done everything in my power to limit their stress, but they know that these tests are important. I find it sad how everything stops to a grinding halt when we get into testing season. I fear it poisons students' love for learning, which is more important than a single test. I constantly tell my students that I expect them to try their best, and that will be enough for me.
In addition to this stress, the students are not allowed to be proctored by me, because of cheating that occurred in a different school than mine last year. I am concerned that the students might not do as well without their number one fan in the room, but I have ingrained in them that I will always be there in spirit.
Additionally, the VA DOE granted ability to have expedited retakes. This would allow students who failed the test to retake the entire test. Not just one section, but the entire 40-60 questions all over again. The entire school had to shift our entire test schedule up 10 days to accommodate for this. It angers me because I could be using those days to prepare the students more, and hopefully lessen the need for a retake. I do not think that 10 year olds should have to sit through an entire second tests.
In conclusion, I do not think testing is inherently evil. I see the value in it and believe some testing/accountability is necessary. However, I think modern-day education has overdone this need. My students will have taken over 30 tests this year that were mandated by the county or state. This does not even include tests the grade level gives for report card grades. At some point, it becomes too much. My final thought is this:
Are we teaching kids to love learning or
are we teaching them to become test takers?
are we teaching them to become test takers?
What are your views on testing? How do you teach your students to be "bigger than the test" and instill resiliency?