Ms. Mocha’s Guide to Surviving Standardized Testing

It’s now day 3 of MAP testing. My students have started calling it “MAPS,” because they say it actually stands for, “Make all people suffer.”

They’re not wrong. It’s the most boring thing in the world. I’d rather sit through a dental cleaning. I’d rather clean my bathroom. I’d rather watch April the giraffe not give birth.

So while the students are testing, what do I do to stay sane? How do I keep the students that blaze through the test from setting the classroom on fire? Here are some tried and true methods for teachers and students to survive standardized testing:

Coloring pages and word searches (for teachers and students). – These have been amazing. I found a bunch of free websites that lets you print out coloring pages and word searches. The more random, the better. Today’s edition features Frozen scenes and word searches about dog breeds. Whoever finds Chihuahua first gets a prize.

Assigning each student a spirit animal (for teachers) – This is just a game I play while proctoring the test. I go by personality, not looks, just FYI. I only stop when I start giggling too loudly when I’ve found the perfect match. I have a lot of otters this year.

Book talks (for students) – Before we start testing, I like to do a book talk so that students can have some semblance of brain function when they finish. My recent talk featured: If You Come Softly (I had to get at least some kids to read it!) Crossing the Wire and Howard Zinn’s A Young People’s History of the United States (because EFF being neutral in times like these.). It’s been really fun to see students going through Zinn’s book, because the silent testing environment is punctuated with, “Wait, WHAT? That actually happened?!”

Drawing Challenges (for students) – For those that are not quite ready to dive into the United States’ less than pleasant history, I make drawing challenges that combine three random things together. The results are both insanely creative and hilarious.

Combining sheep, Star Wars, and equality

Be honest with your students about testing (for students and teachers, to the chagrin of administrators) – Look, I have a policy about being honest, and I’m going to walk the talk, then I need to be honest about what I think about testing. I tell my students that it is indeed a hoop we have to jump through, that while it gives us some data, I already know a lot about how they are doing academically, and lastly, I tell them that their score does not define who they are as a person or a student. When they ask if they can opt out, I have zero qualms telling them that they can totally have a parent sign a form excusing them from the test. In fact, I may have hinted that if we could have all parents sign the form, then we could skip the test altogether. I don’t think the students caught on, though. Unfortunately. I tell my students that yes, this test sucks, but we will slog through it together.

Also, it helped that I said they’d be rewarded with pan dulce for doing a research paper and making it through the test. Pan dulce helps overcome all manners of obstacles.

pan dulce
The light (and carbs) at the end of the tunnel. 

Those are my five best strategies to make it through testing. If you are currently in the standardized testing vortex, I send you strength, and I hope that you have your very own version of pan dulce to get you through.


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