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Monday, February 15, 2016

Preparing Kids for Computer Based State Testing

   As the dreaded testing season draws closer, we teachers are always looking for ways to give our students a leg up and allow them to enter the testing session calm, confident, and fully prepared. The truth of the matter is, even in today's technology enhanced world, many students still aren't prepared for taking a test on the computer and lack basic skills that could hinder them from showing their true knowledge. I mean honestly, how many 3rd graders are really ready to type full responses on assessments? However, we can do a more comprehensive job of preparing our students for these tests with a few easy to implement techniques starting now.

Get Them Typing! 

  Although time is always the enemy during our school day, we must make it a priority to get students into the computer lab or bring the mobile lab to our classroom to get them practicing their keyboarding skills. Would we expect kids to show us what they know on a paper and pencil test without teaching them to write first?! We need to ensure they have these basic skills before entering the computer lab on testing day, so they can feel confident that the only thing being tested is their knowledge, and not their computer literacy and typing skills.

  A few great FREE resources: Dance Mat Typing    Typing.com    Keybr

  If your school wants to buy a subscription, I highly recommend: All The Right Type

 Expose Students Used to Reading Text Online and Typing Their Answers

  Although there are many great resources to find fiction and non-fiction text online with accompanying multiple choice questions, the truth is that students are no longer required to just click on an answer. Now students must actually type more in-depth and comprehensive answers. While we are all doing an awesome job teaching the standards in the classroom, we must give students an opportunity to practice typing their responses in a format that looks similar to what they will see come test day.
   My current favorite go- to format is using Google Forms. I will walk you through the steps to creating a Google Form for your students that includes a text, images, videos, and questions. In my next post I will then show you how to easily format the answers so they are easy for you to see, correct, and share for feedback.

Step by Step: Creating a Google Form 

   First of all, you will need a Google account and will then need to open your Google Drive.

    From there you will select: New: More: Google Forms.

    You now will have the option to format your form however you see fit for the needs of your classroom. For this example I have chosen to use a current events news article about the New Hampshire primaries. You can find great articles on NewsELA , Tween Tribune,  Time for Kids, and many others!

    To start I titled my form so that I can easily find it in my Google Drive, as well as easily find the results when students start to respond. Try to be specific, so that when you have multiple forms created they aren't all labeled, "Test Prep."

    Don't forget this next step! Add a question by using the button with a circle and plus in it, that says "Name" and change the response to "Short Answer Text." Without this step it will be very hard for you to determine whose response is whose.

    Next, use the double "TT" button to add a title and description. It will be in this box that you will add the text that you have chosen. Copy and paste the text you have chosen into this box. You will probably have to go through and format the text to show paragraph breaks and add spacing, but this area should give you plenty of room to upload a full text for students to read. Add the text where it says "Description" and add directions where it says "Title".

    After the text has been uploaded, you can then begin to add questions to check for understanding. To do this use the same button with the circle and plus sign to "Add Question" and use the format you would like. I like to label mine with the standard that is being assessed just to make it easier when I grade them. Be sure to change the response to "Paragraph Text" so that students have more room to type their response. If you are looking for some great Common Core question stems that address both literature and informational text, check out this website: Question Stems and use the bookmarks for your grade level. 

     If you choose to use a passage from a site that provides a multiple choice quiz at the end, don't be afraid to use those question to sprinkle into your form as well. They are already written and students will still be asked multiple choice questions on the test! 

     Many times students are asked to read charts or it may be helpful to have a picture accompany the text. Adding this is simple! Just save a copy of the chart or picture to your computer, and then use the "Add Image" button on the right to upload it to your form. You can give the picture a title or use this space to provide directions for what you want the students to do. Then, if you would like to ask a question about the picture, you can just add a new question below the picture. Simple as that!

     Finally, students must also become familiar with using video media in the upper grades as a source to gather information from. Adding this to your form is simple as well! Just choose the "Add Video" icon, where you will be directed to YouTube and you can find a video that fits your needs, or you can add a video using a URL. After your video is loaded, you can just add questions below as well. I chose to use the format of "Check Boxes" so students can practice the ever form of "Choose ALL that apply."

    Don't forget, you can always rearrange the text, questions, pictures, or videos by dragging and moving them using the six dot array that appears when you hover over a question.

   Now that your form is complete, you need to make sure it will collect the data you want and archive it for you. You should go up to the top where you can choose "Questions/Responses" and click on "Responses." Click on the three dot array and choose "Select Response Destination" from the choices. Choose to "Create a New Spreadsheet" and then name it similarly to what your form is called so you can easily find the responses in your drive. Click "Create" and the responses will automatically be linked to the spreadsheet which you can find in your drive.

    The last step is sharing the form with your students. By clicking the "Send" button you have multiple choices to share with your students. You could send them each an email, get a live link, or embed the HTML into a website.
    I personally always use the link and click the option to shorten the URL. I then just copy this link and post it for my students to type into their browser themselves. (Be sure students know that letters are case sensitive otherwise they may have a hard time being directed to the right page.)

     From here, the students can read the text, practice typing their answers, and be better prepared for testing on the computer and answering in this format when the times comes around.

     Stay tuned for my next post where I will explain how to take the huge spreadsheet of data and format it into easy to read, student by student, full page printouts using an easy Google Add-on!


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