Preparing for Standardized Testing
Children are required to take standardized tests in certain grade levels in our state, and eighth grade is one of those years. My eighth grader, Emmett, just finished HOD’s Missions to Modern Marvels. So, I ordered the CAT Test from Seton Testing a few weeks ago. I received it within a week. The directions were clear and easy to follow. Each test was timed, so I stayed in the room while my son worked. I could easily see each question, as well as his answers. In looking over his answers, I know he did very well. The skills on the test were covered well in Heart of Dakota (HOD). So, the first way I’ve found to best prepare my children for standardized testing is simply to use HOD as it is written.
Proper Placement in the Guides and in Language Arts and Math
Each HOD guide has a target age range and includes multiple levels of language arts and math. Extension packages can be added to extend the history in Bigger Hearts for His Glory through Missions to Modern Marvels. Extension package readings are higher level and have a rotation of follow-up skills that are also higher level. By adding the extensions and choosing appropriate levels of language arts and math, the target age range of a guide can be extended slightly. Students who are placed in the proper guides and in age-appropriate language arts and math levels will be better prepared than students who are not. So, the second way I’ve found to best prepare my children for standardized testing is simply to be sure they are placed in age-appropriate guides and language arts and math levels.
Knowing Your Children’s Strengths and Weaknesses
In homeschooling, we teach our children every subject every day. We know if they are good at reading or if they struggle with it. Likewise, we can see if they write well or not. Math? We have no trouble knowing if math comes easily or not. Now, this can change over time. With diligent and encouraging teaching, our children can sometimes overcome a weakness or learn to cope with it so well it no longer seems so difficult. But, overall, each child has strengths and weaknesses. God has fearfully and wonderfully made each child! However, no child is gifted in every area. I knew Emmett would do well in the language arts parts of the test. He breezed through those. However, I also knew math computation would be hard. He needed the entire time, and he reworked some of the problems multiple times.
The point is – standardized testing won’t magically change your children’s strengths and weaknesses. They are who they are. We know our children – well. That is one of the many benefits of homeschooling. So, we can work on our children’s weaknesses, but we don’t need to be taken by surprise or given to depression if standardized testing reveals what we already know. God has a special plan for every child, and He loves variety.
Other Tips to Prepare for Test Days
There are other simple things we can do to prepare our children for standardized testing on the test days. Children should have a good night’s rest the nights before testing. They should also have eaten a good breakfast. We can spread the tests out over several days or over a whole week, depending on how long the standardized test we chose takes. Likewise, we can give breaks between tests. (Taking all of the tests in a row is not a good idea. Children get fatigued and don’t do as well.) We can choose the best time of day to test. (If your child is not a morning person, afternoons would be better.) We can provide a quiet clutter-free atmosphere without interruptions. (If you have a baby, it might be best to test during baby’s nap.)
We can have several #2 pencils sharpened, in case one breaks. Additionally, we can set out several blank sheets of scratch paper, if the test allows this. If the test is timed, we should have a timer our children can see. Before the test begins, we can help them gauge how long they should spend on each problem. For example, if the test has 20 problems and is 20 minutes long, we can tell children they should take about a minute or less on each problem. Likewise, as they are testing we can calmly let them know how much time they have left. For example, if the test is 20 minutes long, we can mention they should be about halfway done when 10 minutes are left. (Children should understand it is important to finish the test or guess at the last few answers if time is running out.)
Monitoring the Test
Finally, we need to monitor the test. We should make sure they aren’t marking their answers in the wrong section. (For example, children might be taking the Vocabulary test but accidentally start marking their answers in the Math section.) Likewise, we can make sure they are properly filling in the bubbles. (Marks should be dark, circles should be completely filled in, and there should be no stray marks.) If marks need to be erased, we can make sure they are erased completely. (If “B” was marked, but the student changed his answer to “C,” then “B” needs to be completely erased.) We can also make sure they don’t get off on the numbers and answers. (A child might accidentally skip number 14 on his bubble sheet, and start filling in his answer bubble for number 14 on number 15. If this continues undetected, every answer could be off.)
I hope this post helps with preparing your children for standardized testing! But remember, standardized testing is just one way to gauge how your child is doing. Every child can have an ‘off’ day now and then. You know your children best; you teach them every day. That longevity of time is always more powerful than a short few days or week of testing. So, remember to keep that in perspective! It’s Christian lifelong learners we want, not amazing test takers who have no relationship with the Lord and no love of learning.