Thursday, 21 May 2015

Preparing Senior Classes for Standardised Testing

My class are about to sit their Drumcondra tests next week. Because of this, I decided to dedicate this week's post to ideas, resources and last minute activities to prepare your class for their standardised tests and help you feel that little bit more prepared!

English: Comprehension:
  • Give the children practice answering multiple choice fiction and non-fiction reading comprehensions using worksheets such as those you can find on (fiction and non-fiction) and (non-fiction). These websites allow free downloading of a huge bank of reading comprehensions. Before they work on these worksheets independently, model how they should complete them. Start by reading the questions and underlining important words. Then, read through the whole piece, marking anything that might be useful in answering the questions. Finally, start answering the questions. Do the worksheet at the same time as them and while correcting as a class, show them things you underlined, crossed out, your thought process in answering the questions, etc. (Note: You may prefer to skip some of these steps if you want to practice preparing for the 'real test' as they will not be able to write on their standardised test!)
  • Teach/revise word decoding skills. I use the acronym 'BuRP' to teach them word decoding strategies: Breakdown the word to see if you recognise any little words in it, Read on/back to see if you can guess what it might be and use the Pictures to see if they give away any clues. This is obviously not an exhaustive list of word decoding strategies, but it helps to have a few on hand that they can easily remember!
English: Vocabulary:
  • will generate vocabulary drills that you can use with 5th and 6th class students. If you want to print them, you can do so from your browser. You can also find lots of cloze procedures online to practice with the children.  
  • I get the children to keep dictionary copies all year. These contain words from their class reader. They look up, make sentences with and learn words throughout the year (about 5 a week in 5th). When it comes to this time of the year, I get them to quiz their partner on words from their copy. If their partner guesses the correct meaning of the word, their partner can ask the next question. If they answer incorrectly, then they can ask another question, and so on.
  • Revise words covered during the year from their reader/spellings book each night for the 2 weeks leading up to the test. 
  • I get my class to complete lots of tests leading up to their Drumcondra, so that the material they covered during the year is fresh in their minds. It also gets them into the habit of taking a test, using workings and reading questions carefully. The tests help me plan what topics I need to revise with them before the end of the year and it highlights children who are in need of extra support as well. 
  • I like to give my class a revision sheet to revise language they covered during the year in Maths. I give them this sheet as part of their learning homework in the week before the exam. It features the names of shapes, lines, angles, fractions as percentages and songs I taught them to learn various procedures. I also include examples of how to do certain types of sums that will help them (and parents!) to complete revision written homework I send home in the week running up to the test. 
  • Teach them how to use RUCSAC as a problem solving strategy in word problems (if you haven't already!): Read, Underline, Create, Select a strategy, Answer the problem and Check your answer.  Practice using this strategy on lots of problems, while also modelling it for them.
  • If you have a number of students still struggling with the same topic, even after revising the topic as a class, you can divide the class into groups. Stronger students can act as 'peer experts' on a topic and work with the different groups. You can then either oversee all of the groups, or stay with one group to work on a particularly difficult topic. 

I hope you find these tips useful in the run up to the end of the year and don't forget to let me know if you try any of them out!

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