Tips for Organizing Your Testing Efficiently and Getting the Best From Your Students

This week, I would like to share with you some tips and ideas that I have developed over the years for organizing classroom testing efficiently, and getting the very best from your students.  I started writing them down as I was explaining what to do to my wonderful job share partner this year, as we were making our way through the testing process together.

It’s funny- I really had never thought about my testing procedures before, but as I was describing these things to my job share partner, I realized that this might make a good blog post.  I hope that these suggestions are helpful to you!

This week, I changed my “learning objective sign” to what we were REALLY doing this week when we took a practice test on mathematical reasoning. 

Getting Ready to Test

1.  Do a mid trimester assessment and send home the results to parents so that they can be practicing with their kids. 

2.  Consider using ESGI online software to keep parents continually informed of their children’s progress easily and efficiently.  All you have to do is test the child using the software online.  A  customizable parent letter with optional flash cards is instantly generated.  The only flash cards that are printed are the items that each individual child needs to learn, so no paper is wasted!  The parents in my class this year told me that they loved this and that it was extremely helpful!

I can’t say enough about this excellent software!  It has really made a difference in my classroom!

3.  Make a list of what needs to be tested, (or retested) about six weeks before the report card is due.  That will give you plenty of time to review those concepts that are needed.  Mark it off as you test.

This is a list of skills that need to be tested from several years ago.  I blurred out the scores for privacy reasons.  As you can see, each child’s name is checked off as the test is completed.

4.  About halfway through the testing process, check everything over and make a new list of everything that needs to be tested.  You’ll probably find things that you thought you had done, but accidentally missed. Keep marking it off as you go.

5.  Mark testing results immediately on a chart so you can see that everything is finished.  I find it encouraging to watch the chart fill up, since it represents the end of the testing process.  I can also tell what if I have missed anyone, and how the class is doing in general in any area just by running my finger down a column.

This is my Language Arts Testing Chart.  The blank columns and spaces tell me what is left to be tested.  The names are covered up on the left with a ruler for privacy reasons.

Organization Tips

6.  Set up a table or desk with all of your testing supplies the night before so that when you have a moment to test your students, you can jump right on it without delay!

This is my testing table.  Notice that it is partially shielded by a book shelf, so that I can keep distractions to a minimum for the child that is being tested, yet still keep an eye on my class.  All of my supplies are there, including a timer, sticky notes, red and black pens, testing lists, and testing papers.  I try to find time to put names on all of the testing papers ahead of time, just to make sure that I don’t accidentally skip someone.  This can easily happen if a child is absent on the day of testing.

7.  Lay out any independent retesting papers that kids can do alone the night before with all supplies on tables, so that you can set children going quickly without losing your class.

8.  If anything CAN be done as a group rather than individually, DO IT!  I use “offices” (shields) that are made out of very stiff cardboard, and duct tape to keep the children’s eyes from wandering.

We set up our “offices” for group testing the night before we give a test.  Notice that we have covered up the alphabet on the word wall ahead of time as is required for the particular test we were giving.

9.  Enlist volunteers.  Make sure they know not to help children when they are testing.  If I can, I try to put the volunteer at my table in the small group rotation, and pull myself OUT so that I can do my small group testing in relative peace. 

10.  Don’t put testing off ’til the last minute.  If you do, of course you KNOW someone will get sick and will not be able to complete the test.  And it might even be YOU!!!!

11.  Review your testing chart when you are nearly finished.  Have you missed anyone?  Double and triple check before it’s too late.

12.  Do your test results make sense, based on what you know about your daily experiences with your students?  Try to find time to retest children if something doesn’t sound right with what you know about the child from day to day.  You want to feel that you can justify and defend each score if necessary.

13.  It may be more efficient to test certain skills off of a clipboard rather than a separate testing card or paper for each child.  For example, when I test my students on producing rhyme, I write the words that they are supposed to rhyme with at the top of a check off sheet.  Then it is very easy for me to ask the children what rhymes with that word halfway through the trimester.  I write a check mark if the child gives me a correct answer.  I write a dot if he gives me a wrong answer.  Once I have established who I need to work with on producing rhyme the most, I contact their parents and ask them to help their children at home.  At the end of the trimester, I can retest off of the same check off sheet.  If the child then gives me a correct rhyming word, I simply change the dot to a check mark, and that is the end of that!  It’s also very easy to get that retesting done, because I can just walk around the room at playtime or during centers, and whisper in the child’s ear that I would like him or her to give me a word that rhymes with ____.  He or she doesn’t even have to get up from the activity if there are only a couple of words!

This is my check off sheet for testing Producing Rhyming Words.  I test them halfway through the trimester to assess who needs more help.  (A dot indicates a wrong answer.)  At the end of the trimester, I test retest those that didn’t pass the first time around.  Once a child gives me a correct answer, I mark it with a check mark.

Getting the Best From Your Students

14.  If there are hand motions that you use as a routine when teaching a certain skill, then use those motions when asking the sample test questions to help your students understand what you want.  For example, when I ask students to give me a middle sound, we always “do the roller coaster.”  See the picture below for the movement.

We always do “the roller coaster” when we practice finding middle sounds during our phonemic awareness instruction time.  I prompt my students during our sample test questions by reminding them to do the roller coaster to help them find the correct sound.  This always helps them understand which sound I am looking for!

15.  Give slow workers a head start on their test papers if this is allowed in your district.  I try to set them apart at the back of my room while I am giving whole group lessons, first thing in the morning when the room is relatively quiet and the child is at his or her most focused.  If there is an extra volunteer in my room, I may tell him or her to walk by every now and then and encourage the child to keep working, but not give any help.  (If I think that the volunteer may feel sorry for the child and help anyway, I don’t test the child that day.)

16.  Get in the habit of finding out what language is used on the test questions, and use that same language when you are teaching.  Example.  If the segmentation testing instructions say, “Tell me all of the sounds you hear in…..” then those are the very same words you should use when teaching segmentation.  You can probably change your teaching routine more easily than you can change the language of the test.  Even better, add a movement to that routine, such as karate chopping the word on your arm as you break it into pieces.  That will keep your active learners happily engaged.  And if anyone is daydreaming during your lesson, that child’s inactivity will be a dead giveaway and you can call him or her on it.

17.  Lay out number cards straight up and down before asking a child to put them in order or match sets with them.  Or, chop a corner off of the top right or left corner of each of your flash cards so that it is easy to identify which side is up.  Teach the children to do this FIRST, before attempting to put anything in order.

Notice how the upper right hand corners are all cut off on these flash cards to help children figure out which side is up.

18.  If this is allowed in your district, ask children that tend to reverse letters to identify p’s, b’s, d’s, and q’s before asking them to begin the testing process in reading any CVC words, etc.  Just asking the child to identify the letters ahead of time gives them a chance to think about it calmly and without pressure before any testing begins.  I think it helps take some pressure off of our poor babies!

19.  Give choices to stubborn kids whenever possible.  Example:  “Would you like to read the words off of flash cards or off of the computer?”  “Would you like to put the numbers in order on the floor, or onto the pocket chart?”

I hope you have enjoyed this post!  As always, please check our website for great products to help kids learn in a fun way- as much as is possible in this test crazy world!

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