Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Testing Tuesday: Motivating Students

When it comes to assessments, motivating kids to do their best is a big part of preparing them for the big test.  I think we do a really great job of this in my school.  I've had students come in on the first day of school (two years in a row!) and tell me they were excited to be in third grade because they got to take state assessments!  Yes, seriously!  

So, how to we get our students motivated?  Here are a few things that we do in our school and in my classroom to help motivate students to do their best on the test.

  1. Track their progress - We have practice tests available online and after each test I have the kids record their score on a graph.  The kids each have a bar graph for reading and math and they fill in the bar for the appropriate test.  I have a big bold line showing where 70% is (passing).  It's a really easy way to track progress and a great visual for students.  It's also a really great thing to show parents at conference!
  2. Offer incentives - To go along with our formatives (practice tests) the students who score an 80% or better on a set number of tests will be able to earn their way into a pizza party after assessments are over.  We can't really do this based on their performance on the real test, but this is something we're doing to get them to do their best on the formatives and hopefully prep them to do their best on the real thing.  After assessments we usually take the kids on a special field trip or do an ice cream party and inflatables at the school.  We can't reward kids based on scores, but this is something we motivate kids with based on their effort.  As long as they do their best and keep a good attitude, they'll get to participate in the celebration!
  3. Pump them up - It's hard to get excited about a test.  I mean, how many of us used to get super excited about taking a test?  Probably none.  Our testing lands at the same time as Dr. Seuss Week so we do a "spirit week" type thing to get the kids excited about assessments.  Each day has a theme:  PJ Day, Dress Your Best for the Test, Silly Socks, Hat Day, etc.  We've even had the high school band and cheerleaders come in for a pep assembly!  We include the younger grades in on all of this, which is why I have kids so excited about testing in third grade.
  4. Inspire them - Our principal used to be a fellow third grade teacher and he would tour the classrooms in the days leading to assessments and give a motivational speech to the kids.  It usually involved a video clip about someone who has overcome difficulty to exceed at something great.  Then, at the end he passes out a colorful sheet of paper with some simple words of wisdom or an inspirational quote.  A lot of the kids keep this paper with them during testing to remind them to keep working even when things get hard.
  5. Give them goodies - As I said, testing is usually kicked off with Dr. Seuss Week.  I've been lucky enough to hit Target's dollar section several times when they've carried Dr. Seuss themed goodies.  For this year I have Dr. Seuss silly bands, erasers, and pencils to give to the students during testing week.  It's a small way that I remind them I care.  For some kids, just looking at an eraser or having a silly band on their wrist reminds them that I believe in them and I know they can do a great job!  In addition, our younger kids write kind letters of encouragement to the older students and deliver them at the beginning of testing.  Some of the kids take their letters to them when they go test to remind them to do their best.  They're usually accompanied with some "Smarties"! :)
Do you do anything special to motivate your students to do their best on state assessments?  I'd love to hear more ideas on ways to pump the kids up for these tests!

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