This post is not to debate the merits of standardized testing. Some folks choose to test because they like the feedback, some decide not to test, and others test to meet state testing requirements. The pros and cons of those decisions vary by family and are a discussion for a different day.
Today I want to talk about ways to keep testing from becoming stressful and scary. We don’t want our children stressed out, and we also know that having them stressed out can often cause them not to perform to the best of their abilities.
Do Not Make Testing High Stakes
Excluding state requirements, these standardized tests should not be high stakes for our students. Do not pass or fail a student based on a single piece of information. As homeschool parents, we know far more about what our students have mastered than any one test can show. Have them do their best, certainly look at the results and use them to help inform your instruction, but they do not need to feel like their success or failure all rides on a test.
Discuss Discuss Discuss
While you cannot discuss the actual questions or content of the test, you can discuss the process. Discussion is especially important for young children who are not familiar with the test. Ensure that they understand how the test will work, the rules and procedures and that it is okay not to know all the answers. Their job is to do their best and show you what they know.
Feed the Hobbits
Of course, we feed the children every day, but I am very intentional when I meal plan around testing time. A high-protein breakfast to get them going and keep them energized. I plan an easy lunch so that I don’t have to spend too much time on meal prep and take away from testing time. Finally, I plan a fun snack for the end of testing each day. These treats do not have to be complicated but provide something to look forward to at the end of the testing period. Since we test in the spring, I often use treats like ice cream or popsicles.
We like to celebrate the end of testing. Sometimes we take a fun field trip the day after testing, and other years we have planned a family campfire or other fun activity. This year we are keeping it simple with a movie night and homemade pizza when we finish our testing. Overall, I want them to have something positive to associate with the testing and celebrate the completion of the test and not just scores.
Scores are Tools
My final tip is to look at scores as one tool in an extensive toolbox. We chose to use the IOWA test because I felt like the results were specific enough to be helpful to me in my planning. When the scores come back in, my husband and I meet with each child independently and discuss their results. If there is a weak area, we discuss our plans to help them improve in that area. We do not treat the scores like a success or failure on their part, merely a gauge of what they know and what we still need to teach.
Also, we do not share their results with anyone else. They are free to tell grandparents or siblings how they did, but we do not share those scores. This allows them to feel more confident in knowing that they are not being judged on their scores.
If your family participates in standardized testing, I would love to know your tips and tricks to keep testing from being stressful and scary.
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