Tuesday, June 10, 2008

test-taking strategies

today i was blessed to give a standardized test to 5 kindergartners on my case load. it was their first experience with fill-in-the-bubble-teacher-reads-from-script test and i was fascinated to see the 5 different ways each child approached it.

while i can think of a million reasons to complain about giving a standardized test to kiddos this young, i'll admit i think it is actually a great test that gives us great information. as a first grade teacher i always looked forward to seeing the scores. it's a nonverbal puzzle test which reveals problem-solving skills in children you might not have seen shine academically in the classroom.

so, while testing 5 kids back-to-back isn't my cup of tea, i understand the importance.

i started at 8:15 this morning trying to test 2 kiddos together. 2 minutes into the test it occurred to me this was a terrible idea. both were talking to themselves and singing, both had trouble tracking. just reading the scripted instructions exhausted them (and me). so i sent one back to class which left me with my opera singer.

and sing he did. the jeopardy theme song... jaws... monster songs... clifford songs...made up songs. he'd sing while he moved his finger s-l-o-w-l-y along the page to the correct answer as though he was a cat pouncing on a mouse. he knew the correct answer immediately, but felt it wasn't truly correct unless he snuck up on it with song. he delighted in each question and clapped at the exciting ones. the ones he really, really liked he said, "good job mrs lipstick! this is a good one!" because he apparently believed i had made the puzzles for him. (on the easier ones he pouted his lip and flickered his eye-lashes at me as though i would give him a harder one).

i love this kid.

onto the next kid. this one did not listen to my scripted directions at all (why even try to read them?). he carefully selected "the best answer" out of the 5 choices in front of him. but, we have to define best. i, and more experienced test takers, assume 'best' means 'correct''. my friend took best to me the one he liked the most. like, the prettiest picture, or the number he hadn't used in awhile. the test took him about 9 minutes.

the next kiddo was very upset that i was filling in the circles for him when he pointed. we're working on his fine-motor skills so we'd made the decision that he didn't need to fill in the circles himself if we wanted to get an accurate picture from the test. however, this kiddo is strong willed and did not feel i had any right to write in his test booklet. he was so excited about bubbling that i feel he forgot to pay attention to the answers/questions. for him it became a test of putting that pencil carefully in the right area and rubbing it back and forth quickly to make a mark. in the end i took his pencil away from him since he was so distracted, but that left us with momentary tears and pouting.

my next friend could not stay on topic as much as he tried. i kept tapping the test but he kept leaping out of his seat, or if he stayed in his seat, from topic to topic. the swimming pool, decorations in the room, his teacher, etc, etc. at one point he leaped up and tried to strip the clothes off one of my stuffed animals. anyone listening to me giving the test would have heard, "the mouse needs his clothes on to take the test" "the mouse cannot be naked"... etc, etc.

my final friend had deep debates with herself during the test. she frequently made comments like, "i agree with this one. do you? yes. maybe it's this one. no, i agree with this one." about half way through she decided the answer choices had stolen her baby and it was her duty to find her baby (the correct answer). each new question led her to say, "how dare you take my baby? it's you number 5!! but you can't escape! i've caught you. hahahahah!"

i tested these kiddos because their teachers and i had decided they would do better in a small environment. i cannot imagine them taking the test in the whole-group setting, but i foresee disaster.

and so, this concludes their first standardized test experience. they have years and years of testing in front of them, and if they were going to sing/argue/scribble on their answer booklet, well, better now than later.

and now i know, as a first grade teacher, to only put so much stock in this test. in fact, if kiddos do well, that is even more incredible than i thought before. just navigating the testing experience should get you 50 points.


Anonymous said...

This was so fun to read. The first test-taker you described is a perfect example of someone who has a very healthy "growth mindset" (about his intelligence). http://mindsetonline.com/

Anonymous said...

I love the way you write, not only can I see my class in yours but the way you write it is inspiring Wa HOO!