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Helping Kids Prepare for Standardized Testing

By Heather Idoni

Added Thursday, February 19, 2009

==========================================================
The Homeschooler's Notebook
Encouragement and Advice for Homeschool Families
==========================================================
Vol. 10 No 14 February 19, 2009
ISSN: 1536-2035
==========================================================
Copyright (c) 2009 - Heather Idoni, FamilyClassroom.net
==========================================================

Welcome to the Homeschooler's Notebook!

If you like this newsletter, please recommend it to a friend!
And please visit our sponsors! They make it possible.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

=================
IN THIS ISSUE:
=================

Notes from Heather
-- CPSIA Article and Feedback
Helpful Tip
-- Using Living Books with Math
Winning Website
-- Ellen J. McHenry
Reader Question
-- Prep for Standardized Testing?
Additional Notes
-- Newsletter Archives
-- Sponsorship Information
-- Reprint Information
-- Subscriber Information

=======================
Notes from Heather
=======================

CPSIA - What Does it Look Like Now?

This article is great! And it covers the current position of the
American Library Association, too.

http://www.city-journal.org/2009/eon0212wo.html

---

Feedback from Shelly

"Thanks for putting my question in your newsletter. The answers
were a really big help and I've pulled her out of school. It
really helped take some of the pressure off of me and her. God
bless you." -- Shelly

Shelly's question and your answers appeared in this Notebook issue:

http://www.familyclassroom.net/Articles20091/20090216.html

---

Do you have comments to share? Please do!
Send your emails to: mailto:heather@familyclassroom.net


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
OUR SPONSOR

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readers." -- Lori in MI

Find out more about ClickN Read Phonics and learn how to sign-up:

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~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

================
Helpful Tip
================

Using 'Living' Books for Teaching Math

http://www.charlottemasonhomeschooling.wordpress.com

"Hi -- if anyone is interested, there are some neat ideas on using
books in your math study and also in preparing for National Pi Day,
March 14th." -- a HomeschoolingBOYS.com group member

---

Do you have an idea, experience, or tip to share? Please write!
Send to: mailto:HN-ideas@familyclassroom.net


==================
Winning Website
==================

http://www.ellenjmchenry.com/

"This is a very valuable website to visit with great downloads
to really add some educational fun along the journey.

We have started with 'Digging up Greece' -- and 'Mapping the World
in Art' is pretty cool." -- Marcia


===============================
Last Issue's Reader Question
===============================

"My children will be taking standardized testing this year. We
have not done this in a while. How do I prepare them for the test
(i.e. actually practice taking tests and making sure they have covered
here at home what will be on the test)? I personally am not looking
forward to this experience but it is required by our cover school."

-- Gayle in Alabama


=========================
Our Readers' Responses
=========================

"'Building Thinking Skills' is one of the best preparations for
assessment testing. You are welcome to go to my website and check
out the sample pages. If you would like to contact me directly at
brain@brainathonemporium.com , I would be happy to direct you to
specific titles that address skills found in specific tests. BTS
teaches kids HOW to think, instead of just what to think, with
lessons formatted much like the questions on assessment tests. It
is also guaranteed to improve test scores or your money back.

--Cindy Powers, http://www.brainathonemporium.com

---

"Dear Gayle -- I have homeschooled for 21 years. I am also an
approved test giver through Bob Jones University Testing service.
Hopefully you will have already been using tests in some subjects,
like your math curriculum. Have your children practice sitting
at a table or desk, using a pencil and setting a timer while doing
these. Spend some time between then and now playing games to
review what they already know instead of worrying and trying to
get in stuff that you haven’t had a chance to cover yet. If
appropriate, have them answer questions from the Free Rice website,
where the sponsors will donate 10 grains of rice for every question
they get right, as a way to help end world hunger.

http://www.freerice.com/index.php

As much as possible, try to reduce their test anxiety. Remind
your children each day of things that they 'know' which will not
be on this upcoming test, like the amount of Bible verses they
may have memorized, the field trips they have taken, the memories
they have made, the service projects they have participated in,
sewing/craft projects, creative writing, cooking brownies, etc.
-- all very valuable learning that no test can measure. Remind
them that they are so much more than what little any test will
cover. Tell them that some test writers are trying to target a
broad audience, that there will be some easy questions that their
baby sister/brother could answer and then some that mom/dad
wouldn’t be able to get right. Remind them that you would rather
have them guess at an answer and keep on going, than to get
frustrated and just quit in the middle of a specific section.
Explain that some tests may assume that they will have studied a
certain subject (whales for example), while your individual home
school plan decided to study other things (such as dogs) instead,
and then review with them all of the wonderful things about 'dogs'
they have learned this year. Explain to them that some of the
questions will be from the first of the book that they learned at
the beginning of the year, and some questions will be from the
back of the book that they haven’t covered yet, and that it’s okay
that they don’t know everything. Tell them that a test is just a
tool, useful for some things but not a measure of their personal
or spiritual worth in any way. Explain that the test is looking
for some holes, things you may have missed teaching this year, and
that you will probably be covering next year, but you will not
penalize them for not knowing it now. If possible, after the
testing each day, go out and do something fun for the rest of the
day instead of having them cram for the next day. Try to arrange
to do something special when the testing is over, like having a
pizza party with their friends, so they will have something posi-
tive to look forward to when it’s all over.

Instead of having your children go into an unfamiliar public school
setting to take these tests, if possible, arrange to take them
either in a small group setting with other homeschooled students
or in your home with an approved test giver. Bob Jones University
keeps a list of approved testgivers for the Iowa Test of Basic Skills,
the Stanford Achievement tests and others. Contact your local and
state home school support groups for other testing options.

Good luck and God bless your home school." -- Rhonda in Florida

---

Public school classrooms often practice with the same type of test
the week or day before the test, if it is multiple choice with
'bubble'answers on a separate page. Others can address the content
of teaching, but what I would like to encourage you to do is to let
your children know that testing is a GAME and can be quite FUN.
Can you find the answer, can you select the correct bubble; did you
go back and double-check your answers? The fun part IS finding the
answer and filling in the bubble. The reward comes from you if
they had time to go back and double-check their answers (a book,
a food time, a movie -- you can tell them beforehand or decide
afterward). When they come out you ask 'Did you have fun?' -- 'Were
you able to find the answers?' -- 'Did you have time to go back and
check them out?' -- all while smiling and giving thumbs up. Testing
days here are happy days -- with a nice breakfast and some sort of
celebration afterward. My daughter has always done well, has had
no test anxiety, and when she tells me she double-checked and found
an answer that was wrong she definitely gets a high five!"
-- Gail in Alaska

---

"We live in a state that requires kids to take standardized tests
in several different grades. The materials we use for school do not
have tests involved at all. To teach my kids how to test and prepare
them we get practice tests from Bob Jones University yearly, whether
each individual child is required to test that year or not. These
tests have been great in reinforcing skills, introducing skills and
teaching test taking skills. http://www.bjupress.com/services/testing/

You can also order tests from Bob Jones University if you are allowed
to administer standardized tests of your choice. In our family we
administer the free test offered by the school district because we
found it to be much shorter and easier than any other tests I would
have had to pay for for their grade level.

Good luck in using the testing to help your family's homeschooling
journey." -- Sara

---

"We started doing standardized tests a few years back. We used the
practice books you can buy for the ST. The thing that I would offer
is not necessarily what is going to be on the test, but HOW it is
presented. Cover basic verbiage of the test. Read through the
wording of the questions. Teach how to eliminate answers that are
not at all right. Teach test-taking strategies. It can be a double
whammy for a child to walk into a test and not only not know the
material, but the whole test-taking thing is foreign. I also
explain to our child that homeschooling for our family is not about
standardized tests. If there were a section on our Faith and the
Bible -- that would be testing to our curriculum. You get the idea.
Best to you as you plan to test!" -- Lisa

---

"Maybe I've got the wrong idea, but isn't standardized testing
supposed to test what a student already knows? If you teach to the
test, then it doesn't really show what holes there are in their
education. In Washington, we have to test our kids every year with
standardized testing starting after age 8. I have never done anything
differently to prepare for the test, other than to show them how to
fill in the little bubbles on the answer sheet. I'll occasionally
mention during math that the answer they got (which was wrong) could
be easily picked on the multiple choice math test and that they need
to be careful and check their answers.

I think we need to disconnect ourselves from the results of the
standardized tests. We are not being graded here, our student is.
The real benefit from the testing comes the second year, when you can
see if improvement is being made. The first year is basically a
baseline.

My kids take the full Stanford Achievement Test. When I get the
results back during the summer I can see what areas they need improve-
ment in. In fact, I started graphing their results so I can see if
they are making progress. For example, last year my daughter did
worse in spelling than the year before, even though she was above
grade level.

Also, if you put a lot of effort into teaching to the test, your
stress will be evident to your child and they will think that testing
is something to dread. We don't make a big deal out of it and my
kids think it's actually fun (it probably helps that it's a group
setting and some of their friends are there). Be casual about the
whole experience and your child will not have test anxiety."
-- Brenda in Washington

---

"I have administered the Iowa Test of Basic Skills to those
interested in our homeschool group, including my two sons, for the
last few years. I highly recommend preparing your students by
using practice booklets. It's not about teaching to the test, but
teaching your kids how to take a test of that sort. I use Bob Jones
University for my testing materials and they have Test for Success
booklets available for all the grades. I use these for math,
spelling, and language arts (grammar) mostly. By using the math
books, it's a good refresher for the year's studies. For spelling
and grammar, the test procedure will be different than what your
child may be used to seeing and it is very helpful to already have
worked with that format before. The first year we tested I used
the practice test for reading. Now that the kids know what to expect,
I quit using them for reading. I do not use test booklets for science
or social studies, although it couldn't hurt. Generally, we start
preparing for the test about a month before by taking a test or two
out of the booklets each day. My kids have seen that they are given
ample time to finish each section and that the questions are not
difficult. This builds confidence and helps them to be relaxed
when test time comes.

Please keep in mind, if you are not following the usual public school
courses in science and social studies, especially in the upper grades,
this could affect the scores. In other words, if you are studying
ancient Egypt and the test covers American history, your kids might
not do as well. Also, let your kids know that some questions will
possibly be from an evolution-based perspective -- definitely not
creation-based. To get these 'correct', they need to answer according
to evolutionists.

Mainly, your child needs practice in timed tests, in filling in
bubbles for the answers, not writing in the booklet, and just being
comfortable in knowing what will happen. I have had students come
to take the test who had not even been informed that they would have
to fill in a bubble as opposed to writing an answer, and this was
stressful for them.

Having said all that, I would suggest that you treat the first testing
experience as a learning tool for both the student and yourself, the
teacher. Do not get stressed. Just use the results to help you
structure the next year where you may need more instruction. You will
most likely be pleasantly surprised at well your children perform!"
-- Tari in Texas

---

Editor's note: Karen Lange wrote an article in a previous newsletter
called "Testing 1, 2, 3..." that might be very helpful to read! The
link to the newsletter is:

http://www.familyclassroom.net/Articles20063/20060818.html


=========================
Answer our NEW Question
=========================

"How do you teach a child good penmanship?I have an 8-year old
boy who's doing great in all of his many homeschool subjects,
but yet his penmanship is awful -- print, cursive, everything.
It's almost completely illegible.This, of course, is causing
us to slow waaaaaay down in our attempts to begin creative writing
assignments, paragraph writing, etc., as I don't want him to make
his bad penmanship a habit.

I have gone back to kindergarten writing tablets and we've backed
way off the cursive assignments in an attempt to get him to master
his print, but it just still remains absolutely awful.Please
HELP!!!

Also, this may be cheating and putting two questions in one, but
I think part of the problem is that I was trying to preserve my
workbooks from one kid to the next (I have four kiddos of which
he's the oldest) by putting each page of his workbooks in a page
protector and then putting all of his pages in a 3-ring binder.
Then he writes on those page protectors with an erasable crayon.
When my next child is ready for that curriculum, I just erase the
pages and the next child begins using it.This has saved lots of
money in having to buy workbooks, but is there a better way out
there to preserve workbooks from one child to the next without
violating copyright laws?I'm wondering if my page protector idea
has backfired in regard to my son's penmanship.

Thanks for any ideas you have!" -- Christina

---

What do you think? Can you help Christina?

Please send your answer to: mailto:HN-answers@familyclassroom.net


=====================
Ask YOUR Question
=====================

Do you have a question you would like our readers to answer?

Send it to mailto:HN-questions@familyclassroom.net and we'll see
if we can help you out in a future issue!


=======================
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=======================

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Next - Dr. Seuss and the CPSIA, Created for Work, Penmanship
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