National and state high-stakes testing is part of our students’ lives for the foreseeable future. While we should continue to work with legislators, vital stakeholders, and other key policy-makers to change this practice, we need to ensure that students are best prepared for these assessments.
Yet, it’s not about teaching test-taking strategies. You can only talk about “slash the trash” and “read the question carefully” so many times before students start tuning you out.
Testing has evolved, and many assessments now include what are commonly referred to as “technology-enhanced items.” These are questions that are not the traditional, ABCD multiple choice questions, and can have multiple answers. Common types include “drag and drop”, “hot spots”, and many more.
If students don’t get exposure to these types of questions, they may be in the habit of looking for only one correct answer or even not being sure how to respond to the question. They may know their content inside and out, but not be sure how to demonstrate it.
What’s worse is that practice resources are not easily accessible. If you can find released tests, they’re often outdated, won’t work on certain devices/operating systems, or limited to one practice test per content area. We need to do better.
Luckily, with GSuite tools, this is easily achievable. By using a combination of Slides and Classroom, teachers can make numerous examples to provide their students with ample opportunity to practice. The process is simple and straightforward:
- Click here to access a premade template deck. Click Use Template in the upper right for your own copy. (Pro tip: Modifying the URL to remove /edit and add /preview gets you the view you’ll see here.)
- These templates were developed based on the Virginia Department of Education’s Released Items for Reading and Math in grades 3-5.
- If you need a different template, make one of your own in Slides by playing around with the shape tools and text boxes!
- Create a new slide deck. (Pro tip, part two: slides.google.com/create is a shortcut to make a new deck!)
- Decide which template style you want. Copy that entire slide into your new deck.
- Edit anything you want in your new deck. Be sure to fill in the question number on the top and delete any information you do not need.
- Download the slide as a PNG by clicking “File → Download as → PNG.” Remember where it saves.
- Right-click your slide and select “Change background…” Go to “Image” and choose the downloaded PNG from step 5.
- Delete everything on the slide EXCEPT what you want the students to be able to move.
Repeat for more questions. More of a visual learner? Check out this screencast.
From there, attach the entire Slidedeck on Classroom as “Every student gets a copy.” Students will be able to access and edit their own deck. From there, it’s up to you how you use the assessment tool. It’s a good idea to teach your students the keyboard shortcut for undo (Ctrl/Command + Z) to quickly fix mistakes.
My fourth-grade students actually call taking assessments in this manner “fun,” as evidenced here. That’s definitely not something you hear every day in regards to testing.
Take it a step further – share your Slidedeck here in the TEI Question Bank. We’re all better together and no sense in recreating the wheel. If a fifth-grade teacher in Oregon is teaching about geometry, there’s got to be another teacher in a completely different state (or even country) needing the same thing. Work smarter; not harder. All you need to share is the link to the Slidedeck and a few bits of content-related questions. It’s that easy!
Hopefully, by all of us working together (and even getting our student in on creating some), we’ll have a robust bank of a ton of resources to share, remix, and use!
Justin Birckbichler is a fourth-grade teacher in Spotyslvania, VA and a Google for Education Certified Innovator. Justin presents about technology integration at national events, including a 2016 keynote address about challenging teacher mindset. Connect with him at @Mr_B_Teacher and read his blog at blog.justinbirckbichler.com. He is a testicular cancer survivor and shares his mission to spread awareness and communication about men’s health at aballsysenseoftumor.com.