Next year, the State of Michigan is switching the college entrance exam from the ACT to the SAT. This is a huge change for us because it is a new test we don’t know well. I have been preparing students for the ACT for the last five years. Many teachers face this type of change as our tests evolve and change from year to year. There is a way that teachers can prepare themselves and their students for these testing changes. Take the test as a student!
Guest Post by Sarah Koves from Kovescence of the Mind
Seems simple enough, right? Our building has run this as a professional development twice this year as the state test and the college entrance exam will be changing. During both events, I pulled sections from the released tests: a classroom activity from the M-STEP, and an English and a math section from the SAT.
Our “Test-Like-A-Student Day” was on an early release Professional Development day. Each section was 25 minutes, but you could prorate the amount of time for a longer test if your samples were too long, or we could take only one subject. The 25 minutes for each section was plenty of time for us to get the feel of what the students go through, and every staff member took both the English and the math, regardless of what they teach.
I started the clock, and we commenced testing. We have a Scantron machine at my school, so we used the forms as answer sheets. Some staff wanted to use a code instead of their name, which helped with protecting their anonymity. If you try this, you might want to use a Google form or something else to make the scoring easier and faster. We took a five minute break in between the tests, but during that time I asked teachers and our principal to jot down three emotions they had before, during, and/or after that section, and three thoughts about how to help students with the given section.
After both sections were complete, the teachers took a short ten-minute break while the tests were scored, and an item analysis was printed and copied for each teacher.
The rest of our three-hour block was used to process this activity as a teacher. First we shared our lists of three emotions, and compiled a master list of what we felt. This led to a lengthy conversation about how the students must feel during testing. Then, we made suggestions for helping students with each test in a shared Google Document as we begin preparing for this new test.
Here are some of the “aha’s” we all agreed upon:
- Read the directions carefully
- Attempt and group the types of questions you miss: vocabulary, interpretation, geometry, etc.
- Find samples of the types of questions missed
- Be aware, and work within the time limits
It was fascinating to see the responses from different teachers. Some teachers addressed the format, while others addressed test anxiety. Time was certainly another factor for us. We noticed many teachers missing the same questions, as we got further into the test. We quickly realized that reading the directions, and the question in its entirety is crucial. We as teachers fall into the same traps that our students do, and it is important to recognize that they are kids, and we are adults. This was such an eye-opening experience because although there was nothing we could do at that moment to prepare for the test, we now know what we have to do to prepare our students for the test. Addressing possible roadblocks, and giving students the strategies we discussed is key to increasing individual and school-wide exam scores.
Sarah is the author of Kovescence of the Mind. She is finishing up her 11th year in the secondary classroom teaching English and Social Studies. You can find more ideas from her on Twitter and Pinterest.