It’s October which means that the newness of the year has finally settled into the marathon before holidays. You hopefully have a great working relationship with your students, general education teacher, or your case managers. It would be great if the “or” was also an “and”, but for some sites, and depending on the day and depending on the weather, school wide schedule, and the number of crickets or walls licked by the student you just met up for class, this may not at all be the case.
It’s time for the tests from units or maybe the district mandated tests for a variety of reasons. But, no matter what, tests happen.
So some tips for getting your students through their tests.
- Find out what accommodations your students have before the test day. Do you need to enlarge the test? Do you need to read the test? Do you need a different location for the test? And especially for the alternative location: where on campus can you go? What resources can the student use during tests? I may typically allow a resource guide for tests, but not for quizzes. Notes may be allowed during some portions of the test depending on the teacher or the requirement of the test.
- Test out the student’s technology to make sure you know how to use all of the devices appropriately during a test.
- Get the test beforehand. At least two days. This is for the students who benefit from alternative formats for the test. Get the test to whoever is going to adapt the material for the students to use.
- The day before the test: demonstrate study skills with the students. Do they have flash cards? Do they have some review questions? Demonstrate how to use flash cards to review. Help them actively review by reading key points in the text as possible. If the student takes Cornell notes, this is a great time to review their notes, highlighting important questions and vocabulary words.
- The day of the test: when they get the test, know if you should have it stapled already or not. Handing smaller sections can help the student with the test. Encourage small breaks and time the breaks to five minutes or less between sections, especially for students with test anxiety.
- When discussing and clarifying parts of the test: be very careful. Do not lead the student to the correct answer, but encourage them to choose the best answer or write what they think is correct. The test should be their work, and limiting your interactions is important to demonstrate to the classroom teacher what the student does know. If you are doing a lot of redirection or encouraging, make sure to take note of it. Maybe someone else in the student’s day have other suggestions for during test time.
- If the student draws up blank or resists writing, it may be okay to take the test and ask them more scaffold questions and write their answer out as they tell you as they answer your verbal questions.
- Remember that the younger a student is, the more likely they are going to take information literally. Be honest, don’t offer things like “cheat sheets”. Offer ‘reference guides’ instead.
Tests are an hour a day at worse. Some Fridays seem like an endless test. But staying calm, showing students a few quick stretches, help give the students skills in test taking that they all need and will use all year long.
One more thing: October is Disability Awareness Month. Disabilities take all shapes and sizes, know no gender, ethnicity, or life circumstance. By working as a paraeducator in a public school setting, you see all sorts of social and educational impacts of disabilities in a school life. You are a pivot in a classroom; but just as important, the students you support have their own voice in building their community. Stepping back and watching your student grow is an amazing gift you can give your student.
Do you have a question for us? Find ParaEducate online here, here, here and here. ParaEducate is company interested in providing materials, information, and strategies for people working in special education inclusion settings for grades K-12. ParaEducate, the blog, is published weekly during the academic school year on Thursdays, unless a holiday. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.