Making the Grade: Preparing Students for Spring Assessments

Spring testing is fast approaching. Over the past year, schools nationwide have been implementing evidenced-based initiatives to accelerate post-pandemic learning. Policymakers will use these upcoming state assessments to qualify the effectiveness of these initiatives, making spring assessments feel even more like high stakes testing than ever before. As a teacher, you might already be feeling the pressure over whether your students will be fully prepared on test day that it’s hard to focus on the bright side — that these tests can aid education equity by pinpointing learning gaps. Despite this silver lining, the struggle to prepare students for Test Day is real. Consider these tips to help your students perform their best on Test Day.

Tips to help your students do their best on Test Day

Know your assessment types

optical form of an examination with pencil

Differentiating all the different assessment types can be cumbersome, especially for newly minted teachers, but it’s worth thoroughly understanding each assessment type and how they can be weaved into lessons to benefit learning. Even veteran teachers can grow as educators by reassessing how they approach testing to accelerate learning and better prepare students to showcase their knowledge on official assessments.

K-12 assessment types:

  • Diagnostic – ahead of starting a unit, giving pretests can give you an understanding of your students’ knowledge on a topic to inform your teaching strategy and perhaps any individualized projects for students who have strong foundational content knowledge.
  • Formative – these assessments offer a snapshot of how your students are grasping the topic you’re currently teacher and can help you pivot to better meet students’ learning needs as they change.Interim/Benchmark – these will be tests held across a school or district to benchmark students’ progress against peers
  • Summative – These are your wrap up exams whether it’s finishing a chapter, entire unit, or a class

Lean into everyday testing

One of the steps that you can take to set your students up for success on higher stakes testing like summative test or spring assessments is to lean into everyday testing. That means incorporating more diagnostic and formative testing into your lesson plans. We don’t mean dreaded daily pop quizzes or anything unpleasant like that just for the sake of it, but to enrich your feedback on how students are grasping concepts to help you better meet their learning needs. By offering pre-tests, you can build student confidence by comparing test versions and this will feed into promoting more positive thinking, especially as you prepare students for later high stakes testing like chapter and unit tests and even the dreaded spring assessments.

Children writing notes in classroom.

Daily formative testing can actually make lessons more interactive and attention-grabbing for students. Setting up this type of daily practice will create a consistent performance feedback that can do wonders for your teaching and for your students’ retention. Consider the following activities to incorporate daily formative assessments in your classroom.

  • Short informal student presentations on a key topic
  • Exit tickets
  • Gamification

Using games can not only making lessons more engaging, but it can also make assessments more appealing. Traditional forms of gamification included flash card challenges and scavenger hunts. Now educators can incorporate edtech, including VR and smartphone quizzing apps, to provide interactive learning and assessments (eSchool News).

Leverage Edtech

  • Pear Deck lets you build in formative assessments and interactive questions and even exit tickets into your presentations right from Google Slides. Then you can manage the results of student answers however will best suit your needs, including sharing results with the entire class, determining where students are having trouble and provide further instruction, or highlight stellar answers.
  • Audio headsets can boost focus and communication in the classroom during everyday learning and for testing. Designed for education, AVID headsets are a great solution that provide prolonged comfort, clear sound for listening sections, and accurately capturing students’ verbal answers on language assessments.

Audio headsets for younger students

Designed for primary and secondary students, AVID’s AE-36 Headset is a popular workhorse audio solution for classrooms that stands up to daily wear and tear and offers high-quality sound and recording making them perfect for state assessments that require students to speak answers.

Students wearing AVID's AE-36 headset for learning.

Audio headsets for older students

AVID’s 50 series was built to stand up to the daily rigors of classroom learning and to meet the strictest testing requirements, including TELPAS.

Boy using he AE-55 headset to study.

Focus on testing mechanics

When students feel comfortable, they’re more likely to perform their best on Test Day. Know what equipment students will use on tests and incorporate that technology into your classroom. The last thing you want students worrying about on Test Day is testing equipment. If students will need to use standard keyboards with raised buttons and they’re accustomed to smaller tablet keys, then find opportunities for students to practice typing on raised keyboards. You can work this into a typing lesson or have students do creative writing using a keyboard to get extra practice typing. Consider finding a way to offer loaner equipment that could help students get accustomed to Test Day equipment.

To prepare students for listening comprehension sections,  you can start incorporating podcasts or audio books into your lessons. You can go a step further and create lessons around students recording their answers to questions using speech-to-text tools to practice enunciating words. This process is especially beneficial for English as a Second Language Learners or ESL learners who will get extra practice improving their pronunciation.

Administer practice tests

All-day student assessments are like running a marathon. By increasing the amount of time that you test your students leading up to Test Day, you can build up their stamina. This starts with leaning into everyday testing and building from there.

Give students strategies to manage test anxiety

Terrible time crunch, cramming material before tests, examination. Exams and test results, personal exam timetable, exam stress and anxiety concept. Bright vibrant violet vector isolated illustration

A major cause of test anxiety is the feeling of no control. By sharing your plan to prepare students for Test Day, you can show them that every day they’re taking small steps to do their best on official assessments. To share your plans with students, consider creating a class calendar that lists tasks and quizzes they will be taking to prepare for testing. Then teach students positive self-talk, including statements like “I’ve worked hard” and “I will do well on this test.” Your students will believe these statements more readily if you’ve discussed your test prep roadmap with your students.

Other relaxation techniques to try:

  • Practice controlled breathing
  • Imagine positive test outcomes
  • Create a one-minute calming environment

When students get stuck on a question and feeling their anxiety building, they can take a moment to envision their personal retreat, calm their breathing, and return to the question at hand a little more relaxed.

We hope these suggestions help you and your students take charge of Test Day!

Share your Test Day prep advice and tips in the comments below.

Sources:

https://kidshealth.org/en/teens/test-anxiety.html

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/generalized-anxiety-disorder/expert-answers/test-anxiety/faq-20058195

https://www.fcps.edu/student-wellness-tips/test-taking-tips

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