Would a coach prepare a track team on a baseball field? Would a dance teacher prepare dancers at a library?
Of course not!
Then why are teachers given resources that do not align with the test their students are going to take?
It doesn’t make sense.
There is such a gap between the textbooks we have, the software we have, and other resources compared to the test we give students. I’d like to help close that gap while keeping it engaging, rigorous, and easy!
If you’ve administered STAAR EOC, STAAR reading, STAAR math, or any CCSS standardized test, you’ll agree that alignment matters with test prep. Even more importantly, you’ll know the alignment only really matters when it’s in resources that are highly engaging.
In this post, we’re going to…
- see why alignment matters, and
- I’m going to offer 5 features to look for in test prep resources.
Only Engaging, Rigorous, and High-Quality Learning for STAAR Review
Since our post on STAAR Reading Test Prep, I’ve had over a dozen emails stating, “We shouldn’t have to do STAAR review!”
We all might agree with the sentiment. You probably also would agree one thing is true –
like it or not, STAAR is around the corner.
Regardless the sentiment, it’s only fair to support students by providing:
- engaging learning experiences.
- a variety of activities
- aligned resources, so the STAAR test becomes easy!
STAAR Alignment Matters
There’s so much free stuff out there that doesn’t align to the test. This is a problem for the students. And it’s not fair for them.
See how these Resources Align to your Test!
Imagine a coach preparing her basketball team by practicing with volleyballs. They work hard all week, they’re in great shape, and they’re a great team. But on Saturday, the game is played with a basketball. That’s an alignment problem. The same is true with teaching resources.
Alignment begins and ends with questions. #teachingClick To Tweet
Five features of aligned resources:
- Alignment begins with the questions. Don’t settle for teaching resources that use question formats that have nothing to do with the test. This includes matching, fill in the blank, and other question formats that are overly simplistic.
- Look for alignment that is scaffolded. This means that the final question in an activity is at or above the level and complexity of the test the students will take. However, other questions should be given to students to help and guide their thinking towards that more complex levels.
- Look for resources that use the exact academic vocabulary the students will come across on the test. Many students will miss test questions simply because a word is misunderstood or not understood at all.
- We often forget about format because it may seem superficial. But the teaching resources should align the format to the test. This does not mean ask to be a 40 question test every time you use the instructional material. Far from it. But if the font on the teaching resource is too small or cluttered or hard to read – that’s not rigor. That’s simply poor craftsmanship. Poor alignment!
- If your test is based on CCSS, then you need resources that address the exact skills. Likewise, if you’re taking the STAAR test, you need to have a variety of resources that address the exact skills that are named in the TEKS. Unfortunately, many textbook and district resources aren’t up to muster.
I encourage you to browse TeamTom Education’s resources and decide for yourself if they are aligned like your students need it!
Stay Focused, Stay Positive
Much of standardized testing is overly complicated and burdened with undue stress. Stress for teachers. Stress for principals. And stress for students!
Test prep should always be just plain good instruction. #teachingClick To Tweet
Don’t let your resources make it even more complicated. Remember, test prep should always be just plain good instruction. Here are some previous posts with great test review strategies:
- Test Question SlapDown Game
- Reading Test Prep: Summarizing
- Reading Test Prep: Making Inferences
- Math Scavenger Hunt
If your teaching resources make it feel like students are taking tests every day, that’s not good instruction. Don’t let your resources drain the energy from your class! Don’t let the test determine what learning looks like in your classroom.
Be sure your resources lend themselves to great instructional practices, so you can ignore the stress and stay positive.