Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Are They Ready for the Test?

It is nearing that time of year for testing in many schools, as well as ACT and SAT time for many highschool juniors and seniors.  If you listen closely you can hear the moans of teachers everywhere- public and homeschool alike.

Let's face it- the pressure is on.  And not just for the students.  As a homeschool mom, I am the one that imparts information to my child, and whether I like it or not, their success, or lack thereof, often feels like it rests solely in my hands.

Years ago, most states had mandatory testing at some level for homeschoolers, and so early on in our homeschool journey I began testing my children.  Yes, I can and do administer the IOWA state test.  Not only did it help me keep my bases covered legally, but it also helped me assess how each child was doing and identified areas of weakness we needed to address.  It has held us accountable and I like it.

The kids, not so much! ;)  In their defense, what kiddo likes tests?

We have never made it a practice to "teach to the test", but through the years I did begin to see that my kids were lacking a bit in the "test taking" skills.  They were not in the habit of many tests outside of spelling and math tests.  Filling in ovals and reading paragraphs for information were new to them.  Upon that realization, I began looking for ways the kids could practice the actual test taking phenomena to be better prepared.

One such book series that we have come to count on is the Spectrum Test Practice.  Thanks to Timberdoodle Company, we have once again had the opportunity to review one of the books in the series, Grade 6, and continue to be impressed with it and the newer features.

Spectrum Test Practice 6th Grade is a 154 page softbound book that covers Reading, Language, and Math for 6th grade students to practice for standardized testing (other grades are available).  Reading covers Vocabulary and Reading Comprehension, the Language section covers Mechanics and Expression, and Math covers includes Concepts, Computation, and Application.  There are multiple skills that are practiced and then each section ends with a practice test.  Answers are all included at the back of the book.

A newer component of the Spectrum Test Practice Books in the free online resource area for each US state. There you will also find information about national and state specific standards.

One thing you should know about Spectrum is that they do adhere to the Common Core Standards.  While I do not follow common core curriculum in our own home, most states have adopted those standards and therefore our kids will run across some of those while testing.  For that reason, I do not mind their exposure to it on a limited basis.

So how do we use this?

It's pretty simple actually.  Usually about this time of year, we gear up for any testing we decide to do.  By doing a page or two a day from the Spectrum Test Practice book, I create a non threatening approach to testing.  I have found when it is just part of our everyday school, test taking is not nearly as scary of a process.  Each test section is relatively short and can be completed in 10-15 minutes.

Umm, yeah, that is something we haven't learned yet!

I then do a quick check of the page or pages and go over any that were missed.  Easy peasy!

Sometimes we make things harder than they should be.  Test taking seems to be one of them, in my opinion.  With a relaxed attitude, and a little practice with books like Spectrum Test Practice, we can help our children be confident and successful test takers!

Spectrum Test Practice 6th Grade is part of the Timberdoodle 6th grade curruclum kit or can be ordered separately.

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