Every year around this time there is a shift in the education world from normal homework and routines to the dreaded test prep. Many teachers have been doing test prep all year long, but use this “crunch” time to make sure that students are fully prepared.
My third year teaching I taught literacy support and sent out an email blast with test prep suggestions for parents. I received a response from almost every parent with questions and gratitude for keeping parents “in the loop”. Today I want to share some of those suggestions as we start to get into the most dreaded time of the year.
This post is for parents of 3rd-8th grade parents.
General Testing Information
- Know the test. Here in NJ we are in the third year of administrating the PARCC test. Prior to PARCC, there was NJASK, which was completely different in every way, shape, and form. As parents, the first thing you need to do is be familiar with the test. How many days of math are there? How many days of English/Language Arts? How many essays are there? Can students use calculators on all math days? All you have to do is find your test guide online (make sure it is for spring 2017) and read through it. The more you know as a parent the easier it will be to understand the score results.
- Understanding the results. Each test calculates their score differently, so please make sure you are looking at the most current information for your state as testing companies like to make frequent changes to things. Look back at your child’s scores from last year. How did he or she do? What were some of their strengths? What were some weaknesses? Now think about present day. Are those answers the same? If you’re unsure, please reach out to your child’s teacher. Teachers have a ton of information they can give you about your child’s progress this year, so they are your lifeline.
- Practicing the weaknesses. Based on previous test scores, conferences with the teacher, and current report cards you will have a lot of information at your fingertips. Depending on how your child has grown academically, there may be only a few areas to improve on, but sometimes there can be quite a few. DO NOT try and fix everything at once. It will be extremely frustrating for both you and your child. Instead, pick one or two concepts that are manageable for your household. See below for ideas on improving literacy scores.
- Read all the school information. Testing days are THE WORST for teachers and administrators because it often means schedule changes. The school may also include information on snacks, breaks, etc. Be on the look out for any emails or letters home that outline information from the school. This will cause you less stress during testing days.
- Eating and sleeping. During testing time, please be observant about when your child goes to sleep and what they eat. My first year teaching I taught eighth grade and some of my students decided to have a sleepover the night before testing (which was English). The girls came to school on three hours of sleep and struggled to stay awake during the test. Consequently, when the scores came out in the fall, I had some parent emails asking how their daughter could have scored so low when she had high grades in my class all year. I also had a student last year eat a strawberry pop tart and a can of diet Coke for breakfast right before testing. The student was super engrossed in the test the first hour, but fell asleep during the second part of testing. Please make sure your child is getting adequate sleep and eating a healthy breakfast during testing time.
Improving Literacy Scores
There are tons of easy ways to work with your child to improve their literacy scores. Remember, always choose a text your child will like. Take them to the library or bookstore and have them pick out what they want to read. Below are some suggestions you can do at home.
- Nonfiction reading
- Magazine subscription- Purchase a subscription on a topic or hobby that your child enjoys and spend time reading it together. For instance, if your child enjoys nature, get a subscription to Kids National Geographic. When it comes in, read the cover story with your child and discuss what they read. Do they agree or disagree? Why? How was it interesting?
- Daily/Weekly article- Either you or your child finds an article that interests them. Sit down together and read it and then discuss it. This is a great way of keeping up with what’s going on in the community and keeps your child up with current events.
- Fiction reading
- Find a book they want to read. This is half the battle and I discuss how do to this (here). Once you have the book, read it together. You can read it in the car on the way to soccer practice, or ten minutes before bed. Make sure you always talk about the book and share your opinions.
- Book and a movie. Some kids require a little more work to read, so choose a book with a movie. Still read the book together, but then make it a family movie night when you finish reading the book. Afterwards, compare and contrast the book and the movie and discuss why things were done in each media form. Harry Potter is my normal go to book and movie suggestion for parents because it is such a great series and can be read starting at around 4th grade.
- Writing. For most kids at this age, they struggle with generating ideas and writing quickly.
- Writing prompts. Give your child a little writing prompt every few days and have them write you a paragraph (can be longer in 7th and 8th grade).
- Keep a journal. Suggest to your child they start keeping a journal. Have them pick out the journal, or if they want to do one in Word, allow them to be creative with the colors and font. Depending on your child, you can read their entries or they can remain private. I have had some students that would show me their journals daily.
- Write stories. It’s incredible how many students love to write stories. Last year I had a sixth grade boy write about a super hero and it was amazing to see how excited he was to have me read it. Encourage your child to write fan fiction, poetry, or short stories. This is their free space to be as creative as they want to be.
To purchase any of the books you see on this post, click here. If you have specific test prep questions feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.