This week was the English Language Arts MCAS (state test) for my fourth graders, and it’s not the most thrilling time in the classroom. We try to pump the kids up for the big test, and simultaneously downplay that they’re about to take a big test; we try to make the atmosphere relaxed and stress-free while putting desks in rows and reading a script about the many things they are not allowed to do during a testing session. The normal schedule gets all screwed up, and it’s just a weird coda in the school year. So in the midst of all that anxiety around whether we’re causing excess anxiety in our students, here are the highlights from this past MCAS week:
1. Two words: EXTRA RECESS.
2. Seeing my students approach a difficult task with a seriousness of purpose and determination.
3. A surprise performance! In between the two testing days, we had a break to go back to our normal schedule, but got a call in the classroom telling us to head down to the cafeteria for a guest performance! It shouldn’t have been a surprise; in the midst of testing preparations all of us teachers overlooked the announcements, but it worked out perfectly–kids and teachers alike love surprises! We watched an amazing performance by the dance company Illstyle & Peace Productions.
4. COLORING: it turns out I have a cohort that loves to color! Pre- and post-test relaxation.
5. Countdown emails with my team:
Message: I have 5 still working.
Message: I have 6 over here, but 2 are almost done. Can we still make it to recess?
[Urgent]: There’s candy in the breakroom.
6. No Homework! And convincing all the kids that I really would call their houses to make sure they were in bed by 8:30.
7. When my class banded together to play an adorable (amateur) April Fool’s joke on me: our normal morning greeting is a choral back and forth, “Good Morning Scholars!” “Good Morning Mrs. Ahern, how are you?” On Friday, they answered back with, “Good NIGHT Mrs. Ahern!”
8. REALLY SHARP PENCILS (and they all have erasers, too!).
9. Community snack, where the whole grade eats snack together, pre-test. Chocolate milk and a sleeve of Oreos at 8:45am? PERFECT!
10. While really and truly believing that the work we do all year long prepares students for this test and so much more, and that this is just one way, of many, to assess student work, getting to be so proud of my students for their perseverance and commitment to demonstrating their learning on this test.
How do you make testing less stressful for kids? Please share!