The adventures of a fourth grade teacher in East Central Illinois.

ISAT Practice II

It is strange how a small slice of my day can come to dominate my thoughts about what we did. School starts at 8:10 in the morning, when students enter the building, and ends at 3:00 in the afternoon, when students are dismissed. Add on the ten minutes that usually attach themselves to the end of the day as parents pick students up and we have a regular working day of 8:10 am – 3:10 pm, or a seven-hour work-day. But the one thing that has been filling my mind about today was something that took a total of 55 minutes.

Our first ISAT practice test for reading.

I spent the beginning of the day teaching my students what to do during the practice test as I continue to prepare my students for this exam. A big portion of this teaching focused on the point that the ISAT tests are a considerably different format than those we usually do in school, which is why I am taking time to have the students practice. We also discussed the reason for standardised tests; namely, that it is a way for the district, the state, and the nation to gather data about what students are learning and what teachers need to be teaching (with emphasis on the latter). Then we talked about the types of questions they could expect to see on an ISAT reading test: questions about explicit details from the text, questions about implicit details, directions to summarize, directions to identify the main idea, and directions to respond to a change-prompt. (These are all topics we have worked on in our class regularly since the beginning of the year.)

Having reviewed all of this information, I distributed the practice test books and the practice test answer sheets. I let the students know that, even though this was a practice test, I wanted them to treat it like the real thing. No talking, no leaving seats, staying focused, looking over answers, and doing silent independent work at their seats when completed. They were given 45 minutes to complete session one of the test, with a ten-minute buffer attached to the end.

The boys and girls did a fantastic job of staying focused and being respectful of others. There was no talking, no fidgeting, and there were no disruptions. Not everyone finished in the allotted time, but everyone worked hard until the very end. When everyone was done, we took time to discuss what went well during the practice test time. The students were able to identify all of the positive things that they saw and heard, and I wrapped up our practice session by observing that they had just demonstrated that they could all follow and maintain classroom expectations and that they could do it well.

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