Monday, June 22, 2015

Creating Stronger Test Takers

This past week, I tutored students to pass the Ohio Graduation Test.  Students who need intervention to pass the OGT tend to fall into two categories - 1) students who have not learned content like how to identify main idea, make inferences, and apply literary terms and their affects to a passage, and 2) students who struggle with test taking due to test anxiety and/or how to approach standardized test questions.  The first group needs direct instruction in content with a mix of small group and individual practice.   The latter group needs confidence building and modeling of approaches to answering standardized test questions (multiple choice and extended response).

One of the things I saw the most success with was showing students writing models (when taking the writing OGT).   I used 3 expository essays all answering the same prompt each essay showing a different level of writing.  One example scored a 5 on the applications rubric.  Another example scored a 4.  The final example scored a 1.  Students then analyzed each pice of writing- explaining the strengths and weaknesses.  We talked about organizational patterns and what the writer could have done to improve their essay.   I had students who continued to refer back to these essays, especially the organizational structure, as they wrote their own essay.

I also modeled extended response answers with my students who were studying for the reading OGT. I found extended response answers on ODE's website for scoring the practice test.  I followed a similar pattern as I did for the writing - asking students to explain strengths and weaknesses as well as an improvement strategy for students.   I modeled this process with students for one of the questions and then allowed pairs of students to follow the model to look a another prompt.

Many students who do not do well on standardized tests need to improve on their test taking skills.  Each day we spend time discussing test taking strategies, practicing them as a class, and practicing them independently.  I laugh as I tell students that by the end of the week, they will be so sick of telling me the steps to answer multiple choice and extended response questions; however, I know that it will be ingrained in them when they take the test.   I ask students to approach test strategies by highlighting with a highlighter the important ideas in the questions, highlighting in the text as they read to help them answer the questions, and marking up the text.   I've had students explain how to do this to each other through think-pair-share models, use chart paper to explain their process of answering a question, and practice it independently on practice tests.

Often times, students who struggle with test taking have extreme anxiety about tests causing them to not do well even if they know the information.   A fun strategy I use to reduce student anxiety is called a snowball fight.  You give students several half sheets of paper.  On each sheet they write one thing that stresses them out (test taking or life).  After writing time, students then wad up their papers and have a "snowball fight."   While this task seems silly, studies show that having students write their anxiety or stress down helps reduce their stress.  See this article by the Huffington Post for more info on these studies.  The snowball fight allows students to get up and move and also add some fun to a usually stressful environment.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...