Tuesday, April 11, 2017

TECH BASICS: 4 AUTHENTIC WAYS TO PREPARE FOR COMPUTER STATE-TESTING


“I look forward to state testing every year!” said no teacher ever.
Well girl, as much as we may hate it, it’s a current reality of our teacher lives in the public school setting. Of course, you probably aren’t a huge proponent of teaching to the test.
With that in mind, I have some clever ways to help you prepare for computer state testing all year round. All of our testing in my district is digital, so I knew I had to be creative to prepare my students digitally as well.

#1-  GET YOUR KIDS TYPING
When do your kids start typing consistently on the keyboard? At my school, it isn’t until 3rd grade! Lucky us, that’s when state testing starts!
Oh yes, it will take kids forever to type things.
My school switched to 1:1 and I’m lucky enough to have access to devices to computers at all times. With that though, when I’ve given longer assignments to complete on the computer, I often have kids who want to hand-write because they know they are quicker at it.

Does that happen in your class too?


Just like handwriting, typing needs a lot of practice. Yes, you can do all the typing games you want {that actually wouldn’t be a terrible homework assignment!}. However, I’m a firm believer in having kids type in authentic ways.
What I mean by authentic is give them real life things that they need to type. You can of course have them type their published piece of writing and think “Ok, I gave them a good amount of typing time.”
Well, you did, but if that’s all you ever do in your class, you’re communicating to kids that typing is just for final copies of things and not a natural part of completing assignments.

What if... you give kids a creative writing prompt once a week where they just have to type their thinking as it comes to their brain?
What if... instead of writing their thinking about reading, you have them type as they go?
What if... you can make your weekly reading log digital to help get their parents involved in a different way?
What if... you have them explain how they solved a math problem for the day through typing?


The less “published” the assignment, the better. This can be a great teaching moment to address how to type in complete sentences, checking spelling using digital tools.



Have you noticed when kids type they use a lot of slang, hashtags and emojis? Well, typing in these “off the cuff” ways also brings up those opportunities of when to use that language and when to use academic language.  

The more integrated you can make your assignments the more the kids will respond naturally when they are posed with digital questions they have to type for a test.

#2-  ANSWERING DIGITAL QUESTIONS
Along with getting your kids to type in all sorts of ways, answering questions online are much different than paper and pencil. Both I think are great, and you surely need practice in both!
There are things you can do on the computer that responds differently than paper like cut and paste, multiple choice and going back and forth between tabs.
There are many free tools out there they already have resources created for you to help your kids respond digitally.

Click the links below to access some of my favorite free resources. Most of them you will have to create accounts for, but that shouldn’t take too long.
{1} Digital.Readworks.org -Differentiated reading articles you can assign to students with corresponding questions

{2} TweenTribune.com -Kid-Friendly current events with a deep thinking question and a few multiple choice questions to answer

{3} Google Forms- Students don’t have to have a Google Account to answer questions on a Google Form. Take a screenshot of the math problem/reading article you want them to focus on. Then, create different types of questions to correspond with it.

{4} IXL.com- While there is a paid monthly membership you can get, students can answer a certain number of math questions for free each day. The site is organized by grade-level, math concepts then the standards below. It will immediately tell students if they are correct or incorrect with their thinking.

{5} MathPlayground.com- This has free online math manipulatives. While I am a huge fan of the real thing, state testing is not and students need to be proficient in using the digital tools.

{6} GetEpic.com- This is an amazing free resource for eBooks. You can search through their vast collection of books and assign them to your whole class or specific students. This is great when working on paired selections {fiction and nonfiction}. You can also create quizzes for books with your own questions.


#3-  LEARN THE TESTING TOOLS
I think part of the reason why students become overwhelmed with testing on the computer is knowing how to access the tools they need to answer correctly.
Where I teach, Colorado, we take PARCC. Thankfully, they have created practice tests that you can access for free and without logging in to understand what the testing software looks like, the types of questions, and how to answer them.
One thing that I did with my 3rd graders the first time practicing was not even focus on answering the questions correctly. I created a scavenger hunt for them to search for specific tools and complete little tasks with that tool.

Here is an example of one scavenger hunt task:


I did a different scavenger hunt with them in both reading and math {different days of course}. Students worked in pairs to help one another find the tools.
I will say, the kids had A LOT of fun completing their scavenger hunts!
It took a lot of pressure of their plates. They actually had the element of “play” when trying a new tech tool, but it was still structured enough where they had a task they needed to complete.
If you’re unsure of how to set up a testing scavenger hunt up, I created a freebie for you to use with your kids or even to inspire your own!


#4-  REWARD THE WORK
This one isn’t entirely a tech tip! Once you do get to the testing days, remind students that the test isn’t something that will define the person that they are.
I’ve seen so many beautiful letters, written by teachers for students, on Pinterest to communicate that message.
Maybe you even have your parents write their child a note to encourage them as well!
You can even give your students a little note each day to bring a smile on their face and relax!
You could try a pancake party to reward the celebration {see some adorable invitations I made here.}





So, no matter how horrible state-testing is, you can make it by continuing to teach in authentic ways where students can apply their learning.

You got this!

I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below or in our Exclusive Facebook Group.  

Stay MARVELOUS!




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