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Fitting test prep into school lessons

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 19, 2014 10:08 AM

Standardized testing comes with the Common Core State Standards - students are required to take an annual assessment that measures their knowledge of Common Core skills. While the actual test varies from state to state, exams are a reality of the Common Core age. That means teachers must both educate their students and help them prepare for spring assessments. With a few extra tips and tricks, that process can be easier. 

Focus on competence, not content
While standardized tests will ask students to recall dates, concepts and equations, focusing on such specifics may not do students much good. Drilling those facts into students' minds is more of a memorization game than a teaching and learning one. Besides, teachers can become stressed trying to cram too much information into the school year.

Teachers should help students understand the foundation of the subject. Once students see how ideas connect to others, how a theory fits into a subject as a whole and how lessons match in interdisciplinary situations, students will have the tools they need come test time. It's easier for them to piece together an answer when they have a deep understanding of the subject than when they try to recall one piece of information from a sea of data. 

Encourage independence
Students have to complete homework and study for class tests on their own, so why should standardized assessments be different? Teachers can encourage their students to seek extra help after the school day is over. Whether that means talking to a tutor, finding assessment tools online or spending more time reviewing, teachers will help their students more by encouraging independence than by holding their hands. 

Identify shortcomings
Because the focus of teaching should be to help students truly grasp an idea, teachers ought to put energy into clarifying concepts. If the class seems to be struggling with a certain idea, teachers can go back and review it until more students feel confident. By breezing over it to get to the next idea (hoping students will have all the knowledge they need for assessments), teachers may leave some struggling students in the dust. 

Teachers can make themselves available for students by holding office hours. During the periods they don't teach, teachers can invite students to come to their office to go over the day's lesson.

Communicate with parents
Teachers can't be everyone's private tutor. However, parents are with their children much of the time. Teachers can relay to parents if a student is struggling and recommend courses of action. They can also remind parents of assessments, encouraging them to help their students prepare.