How to Prepare Your Elementary Student for State Testing Success
State testing is a necessary evil that doesn't seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. Growing up, I remember having one or two weeks in the fall and spring dedicated to filling in bubbles, paying attention to the bottom stop signs on booklet pages, and waiting forever to get the results back. While the format may have changed in the years since I've graduated, (no more number two pencils and booklets, it's all on the computer now) it still takes forever to get the results back.
Every state is different when it comes to testing students. In Ohio, state testing is mandatory for all students who attend public schools. Elementary students take their first state test in third grade and have two chances to pass, in order to move forward to fourth grade. In fourth and fifth grade, students take a math and language arts test in the spring. Depending on what the state Board of Education set down for the year, students might also take a social studies or science test.
My son has attended Ohio Connections Academy for the past seven years. Because OCA is an online public school, he has had to take state tests every year since third grade. My son is not a big fan of tests. In the past, he would get anxious and stressed out when state testing time came around. To help him prepare and combat these feelings, I came up with a few solutions. Since implementing these activities, my son approaches state testing time with a better mindset and more confidence.
It's my hope that these tips can help you better prepare your child for state testing time, whether he or she attends an eschool, like Connections Academy, or a traditional brick and mortar school.
1. Know Your Child and Set The Tone
The first tip is important and sets the stage for success. Know your child. What kind of learner is he or she? Is he or she someone who loves being challenged with a test or someone who has a lot of anxiety when it comes to tests? This information is valuable and will help you prepare your child, whether he or she attends a traditional school or an eschool.
The second part of this tip is the most important: help your child by teaching them the right mindset. While you don't have a lot of control over the tests themselves, or the fact that state testing is mandatory, you can teach your child to approach the tests with a positive and confident attitude. This type of mindset reaches much farther than state testing and is an important life lesson.
There are many things in life many of us would rather not do or deal with. We all have to pay bills, go to work, do chores around the house, and pay taxes, whether we like it or not. We can complain and cry about it, but doing so doesn't take away from the fact that those things still need done.There will be challenges in life and how we choose to deal with them, from our mindset to our actions, dictates the quality of our lives and who we are as people. It's important for children to understand that life isn't always easy and the world doesn't cater to their wants or tantrums. There will always be things in life that they don't want to do, but still need done. Teaching them to have a good attitude, rise up to challenges and face them head on, and being willing to make mistakes and learn from them, sets children up for success in their adult lives.
At its core, state testing is all about students showcasing their knowledge, making sure that they have learned the basic objectives for their grade level. That's it. Teach your child to think of the test as an opportunity to show what he or she knows. Remind him or her that he or she has worked hard, learned a lot of awesome things, and practiced. He or she has everything he or she needs to take the tests. These tests are an opportunity to showcase what he or she has learned and he or she should go in there and try his or her best.
It's important to have your child practice taking state tests, especially if this is your child's first year taking them. Practice breeds familiarity, which directly combats anxiety and fear. Traditional schools typically cover this, but if you have a child in an eschool, you should take the initiative. Visit your state's Department of Education website to find practice tests. Every state is different, but there are a few states that model their tests off of Ohio. If your state DOE website doesn't have any practice tests available, you could always visit the Ohio State Board of Education website for a variety of sample tests in four key subjects, depending on grade level. Another tip is to complete a Google search for practice tests for your child's grade level based on your state's standards.
How often you should have your child practice will depend on your child and his or her grade level. For third grade, I had my son take a math and a language arts practice test each week leading up to his testing dates, starting in January. That gave him three months to become familiar with the testing format as well as getting comfortable answering test questions. Now that he is older and has the right mindset about state testing, I have him take a test each week, alternating between the subjects he'll be tested on, again starting in January.
In recent years, Ohio Connections Academy has updated their assessment formatting to better align with the Ohio State Testing format. This is a beneficial change for students who, come testing time, will be better prepared as well as familiar and comfortable with the format.
In my opinion, having your child practice taking tests is the key to helping him or her combat stress, anxiety, and fear surrounding state testing time. It's also the best thing you can do to help prepare your child to do his or her best. At the end of the day, that's what it's all about.
The first two tips are the most important takeaways from this article. However, there are a few other activities you can implement throughout the year and in the few months leading up to state testing time. Most of these ideas are geared toward eschool families, but there are plenty you can try with your child if he or she attends a traditional school. As always, I encourage you to customize any or all of these ideas to your child and his or her individual learning style.
- Daily journal prompts. Consider making themes for each day, i.e. 'Motivation Monday,' 'Tell Me Tuesday,' 'Fun Fact Friday.' Search Pinterest for more inspiration.
- Read together daily. Discuss main ideas, key details, themes, and lessons from the stories. Look up unfamiliar words or try to figure out the meaning using context clues.
- Have your child write a book report on a book he or she recently read.
- Have your child write a short story. Allow him or her to choose the topic or you could offer a prompt.
- Have a word of the day or word of the week.
- Read the newspaper with your child. Practice summarizing the news stories.
- Sign up for a ReadWorks.org educator account and utilize the resources available on the website, i.e. article a day, reading comprehension, etc.
- Utilize Khan Academy to practice math skills.
- MrNussbaum.com is a fantastic educational website for kids.
- Find fun math games online for your child to play and practice their math skills.
- Ask your child to calculate real life math problems as they arise, i.e. when you're grocery shopping, planning the monthly budget, paying bills, etc.
© 2019 Alyssa