Thursday, February 28, 2013

How Do You Sustain Students' Love of Learning with State Testing Looming on the Horizon?

Last week we filmed the intro for a video our school is making to help the kids get psyched up for state testing. We're doing a parody of Psy's Gangnam Style called "Kick It Hancock Style." We are lucky to have a professional film producer on staff, and the video is shaping up to be fantastic.

The premise of the video is that the kids are stressed about testing, and this one charismatic and enthusiastic child is on a mission to convince all the students they can succeed by simply "kicking it Hancock style." The video opens with my class dejectedly pulling out their standardized test practice books and complaining about how much they hate state testing. Talk about art imitating life!

In Room 202, we are in it up to our eyeballs when it comes to standardized test prep. Fifth grade takes the PSSA Writing test in two weeks, and then the Reading and Math tests are scheduled for two weeks after that. I haven't had to cover up the anchor charts and instructional aids on the walls YET, but the room has definitely taken on a much more somber and intense tone. You can actually feel the difference in the air, and it makes me sad.

The pressure gets almost gets unbearable at times. That's why we do fun things like making silly videos for the kids. It's a chance to let off some steam and focus on something besides substitution, elimination, and citing evidence from the text.

I try to think of all the ways I can build the children's confidence and sustain their love of learning as we head into testing time. Last night, I worked on a letter to our parents asking them to send in a "Testing Care Package" for their child. (I want to thank Haley James from TpT for posting a free letter template on the site.) I was able to model my letter off of hers, and I asked parents and family members to write notes of encouragement to the kids. I also asked parents to put the letters in brown bags with some healthy snacks for their son or daughter. I will collect the bags as they are returned to school and distribute them when testing starts. (I have a copy of my letter, a list of snack suggestions, and some cute owl stationery for anyone who is, or becomes, a follower of my blog and comments with their email address below.)

I also ordered personalized water bottle labels from Oriental Trading. (This is the LINK.) My labels say "Room 202's Secret Stuff". I plan on cashing in my "Show Your Students ONE Movie" card from my principal to show my kids "Space Jam" right before testing starts. The movie will be a welcome diversion for the kids, and a walk down memory lane for me.

I really want the kids to see the part of the movie where Bugs Bunny gives the Loony Tunes "Michael Jordan's Secret Stuff" in a water bottle at halftime because they are getting creamed by the Monstars in basketball. If you saw the movie, you know the "Secret Stuff" is plain old H2O from the water fountain in the locker room, but the Tune Squad believes it is a special concoction that will give them basketball skills comparable to Michael Jordan's. The Tunes go on to win the game with nothing more than what they already had inside them. (And the help of an AMAZING shot by MJ himself.)

I'm pretty confident my kids will get the obvious metaphorical allusion between the Tune Squad/my students vs. the Monstars/PSSA's. I think the kids will love it when I pull out the bottles of "Room 202's Secret Stuff" and explain how we're going to use it to help them "beat" the PSSA's.

I know nothing can totally eliminate the pain of standardized testing, but I'm hoping I can at least dull it a little for my students. I'd love to hear what you'll be doing to keep your kids motivated as we head into the final stretch before testing. Please leave your ideas and suggestions in a comment below.


  1. Thanks for stopping by my blog. I loved your idea, how funny . I might have to introduce them.

  2. I love your suggestions and the video sounds fun. We did one as well a few years ago and it was fun to show the students. I love the water bottle idea. When we return from spring break it will be time to get serious and get to work. Anyway, thanks for stopping by my blog. I am your newest follower.

  3. Hi! I got your comment about adding a Pennsylvania button to your blog. You're a no-reply blogger, so this is the only way that I can contact you. Is the issue that you need help with Blogger so you can add it to the side? Or do you need help getting the button, ie. control+click on the image?

    Fifth in the Middle

    1. Diane, I think BOTH! If you're feeling really helpful, I'd also love to know how to become a "reply" blogger. Thanks in advance for any and all help. ~Stacy

  4. Hi Stacy,

    You have great suggestions for building enthusiasm for PSSAs. The water bottle idea is awesome! I found your blog through the Blogs by State linky. So glad to meet another PA blogger! I'm following you now. :)

    Take care,
    Read with Me ABC

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  6. These are some great ideas!! The care package and water bottle are wonderful ideas.

    Apples and Papers