Monday, April 5, 2010

How to improve those national student test scores.

     As we move into the annual test-every-child season you might want to consider one of the best methods ever devised for keeping students alert and focused during those endless days of exam after exam. It was devised, actually, by a desperate Russian elementary school teacher named Lester Pavlov.
     You have to make exams more fun, and to make them more fun there has to be some immediate reward. The exam, then, becomes an interesting game and the student becomes more actively engaged in trying to remember everything he or she knows to win it.
     Personally I never had more fun in 5th grade myself than with those daily spelling bees in which the whole class stood up along the blackboard and got knocked off, one at a time, until only one student was left standing. Usually it was Marcy Cotton but sometimes I got lucky and that occasional gratification was all I needed to keep alert every time.
     So how do you overcome test fatigue, attention drift and other problematic test factors today? You might try this.
     First tell the class that they will win a prize for different test scores. One top prize for a perfect score, another prize for just 1-3 wrong answers, and perhaps yet another prize for only 4-5 wrong answers. Devise your own prize system according to the kind of test and results you might generally expect, and try to deliver the results of the test and prizes on the same day or within the week.
     Results for the individual student on state and federal tests may not be available for some time, but do not let that deter you from installing your prize program for ordinary day-to-day content tests, standards tests, and any form of review and practice tests. In fact, that's where it will help your national test scores the most.
     Remember, it's Pavlovian. The increased fun of test-taking will carry over into the larger exams which are key for state and national school evaluation.
     Plus, once you try our tests-are-fun methods you'll be pleasantly surprised at how, all of a sudden, some students just seem to wake up and actually know a lot more than they might have appeared to know before.
     So what kinds of prizes should you offer? Now we get to the best part.
     You've heard of the National Book Award for excellence? Same idea, only right in your classroom.
     Instead of prizes like candy crunchies, which only promote student obesity and tooth decay and are not so good for their teacher, either, now you can give your students the very special prize of an honorific KBN book. We hope that by now your students have already learned how to download and make books from our free KBN book library, but perhaps they have just been making books in black & white format. So as a special prize they might now be awarded a KBN book in full color.

     You can devise the book prize system that works best for you. A book for the best test score. A book for the best essay on being nice in the playground. A book for the best homework. A book for – well, you get the idea. The more ways you distribute free KBN books to every child in your class the more you will encourage them to read for pleasure and strengthen their interest in personal reading.
     And if you can use the same KBN invention of free books for every child to help improve student attention during test season, well that's pretty good, too.