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A Stress-less Approach to State Testing

Morning_group
Photo: Students enjoy breakfast during a morning review session before school begins.

I am betting that every college graduate has participated in a study session for a final exam at least once. Maybe many more. I found them to be very helpful; especially if it was in preparation for a high stake exam that involved assessment over a large amount of material.  What I always enjoyed about these review sessions with peers was how much we were able to accomplish in a non stressful environment/manner. I can only imagine what it might feel like to be tested on everything learned for an entire school year, in every subject. Not wanting my class day to turn into a test prep. conservatory, I opened my doors a little earlier for some casual review sessions. The average for the week? 16 to 17 students. Learn how.

If You Feed Them, They Will Come

Southern_style

Photo: The breakfast of champions. For this morning session, southern style greeted us. Other mornings included a healthier route, but when you live in the south you can't deny the biscuits, gravy, and bacon!

I have to say, upfront, that I am a morning person and usually arrive at my door at 7:00 (class starts at 8:15), so this idea may not work for everyone. But the entire idea came in a flash, and I was mentioning it to my class seconds later.

I told them how study sessions with peers helped me in college and how they work best when it involves a stressful, culminating test like a final exam...or in our case, state testing. I then shared that I was worried that without a review, they would be stressed and unprepared. I also told the class that I didn't want to become a test prep. monster in class. It really seemed like an informal morning review session for the next two weeks was the best of both worlds. I could help them feel prepared without worrying about lesson plans or formal assessments.

When I mentioned having parents volunteer to provide breakfast, almost all of my students said they could attend morning review sessions, if offered. I wasn't so sure how it would go, but I created a sign-up sheet for both attending and providing breakfast and crossed my fingers that all would go well.

The response was just amazing. We averaged 16-17 for the entire week, and we had enough food for a small colony. The best part was that we were able to go back over old skills in such a relaxing way. I REALLY felt like I was able to talk to the group and review with them with no worries. Also, not working under the constraints of a school day, everyone just seemed more relaxed and willing to learn. We were able to go from skill to skill and subject to subject with ease, and by the end of the week, I had turned it over to the kids. I had them figure out what needed to be reviewed and let students create questions for each other. In the main photo, a student demonstrates this by creating a question about an animal cell part and functions to the group of 16 students.

Time Commitment= Time Prepared

I have completed week one of two weeks for our morning review sessions. This time alone gives my students 5 hours of studying.

I have also asked parents to spend homework time on reviewing our science, math, and social studies notebooks (see Electricity post to learn how we use our notebooks). The notebooks are not intimated or overwhelming like a textbook might be. I have sent a few worksheet type papers home, but I make sure to provide the answers and will not ask for them to be returned. Considering I eliminated homework in its entirety (well, is reading considered homework?), that gives students an additional 5 hours of study time.

Combine those two times up and students have 10 hours of studying time under their belt one week and a half before state testing. That seems like enough time to me, and I don't remember studying more than that for any exam in college in my memory! In the meantime, our class gets to move forward without skipping a beat or letting the test monster move in with us. We feel pretty confident that we are going to do well come mid-April. We've done the time and learned the rhymes. We are ready to pass the exams with flying colors!

Breakfast 

Fun with breakfast foods.:)

Breakfast

Morning_study

Comments

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Angela

Lauren,

Yes, that is exactly why I offered the morning sessions. I didn't want my day to become test prep.

The after TCAP report from students was that this was extremely helpful, with a few saying they were over-prepared. Confidence was higher this year than any other year I have taught...well, except for social studies, but that is another story.

Happy weekend,

Angela

Lauren Tanis

I really liked your Morning Review sessions idea! With state testing rapidly approaching my class, I have been looking for ways that effectively review the information, but without becoming a "drill and kill" monster. Students are also tend to get stressed if they feel that they are unprepared for the tests. This is a great way to review lots of material, but in a laid-back, relaxing way. Thanks for the idea!

Angela

I was worried about this as well. Our unemployment rate is at 9% right now. I brought some tiny muffins and cheap orange juice "just in case" for the first day. I was just surprised to see so much brought in each day. Maybe telling parents that they don't have to feed the entire class...a few bananas here, a small pack of bagels, a cheap container of O.J.

Also, I will admit that I covered breakfast on the Friday before our break as a treat. I bought a McDonald's sausage biscuits for each student (1.00 each). I had so much O.J. donated that I didn't have to worry about it. I enjoyed the treat myself. :)

Amanda

Angela,

This is a great idea! It's amazing that you had such a great turn-out! I'm always at school early, and I'm considering trying this out next year. I do have one concern though. I work in a small town that is plagued by layoffs and unemployment, probably not unlike most towns in the country, and my major setback would be asking people who are struggling to feed their families to feed 24 kids. I just have a feeling I would be bringing in food most of the time... and living in a cardboard box.... hopefully of the refrigerator variety.

Amanda

Comments are closed. Please see Classroom Solutions, our new blog for the 2009-2010 school year. And stay tuned for Teaching Matters with Angela Bunyi and Beth Newingham.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Inside Angela's 4th Grade Classroom are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.