With state testing in elementary schools, I've found success focusing on good test-taking strategies and behaviors, rather than on performance.
At my school, starting in August, we'd start discussing good testing strategies -- crossing out wrong answers, doing all the work in the booklet, checking answers, etc. Every time we took a practice (or real) standardized test, I'd walk around the classroom and, when students exhibited those behaviors, I'd place an eraser or small prize on their desk. After the testing, I'd single out a few students for using good behaviors and I'd specify what they did well. "Julio, I noticed you wrote a lot in your booklet today. Can you tell us why you did that?... Great work, Julio!" "Paulina, you were the last person to finish your test because you spent so much time checking all your work. Did you find any mistakes when you checked your work? ... Wow! That was really smart, Paulina."
We'd also treat testing week almost as a spirit week, with students bringing 'brain food' on one day, wearing 'smart socks' on another, etc. One teacher even decorated her classroom as a cafe, so students could relax and feel pampered during breakfast before the testing began.
With middle school students, in addition to encouraging good test-taking strategies like those detailed above, we were able to motivate them with competition. This might not work in every school, but our students lived in low-income areas and saw themselves in a certain light. We would pump them up by telling them that other people didn't expect them to do well, and they needed to prove those haters wrong. We even singled out a specific high-income school that was often highlighted in the news as a model 'good school.' We had chants and cheers about how were going to crush that school in testing, to prove that our school was better. (For the record, we did crush them.)
I like how you treat your testing week like a spirit week. That would get the kids pumped up
My school focused on test taking strategies as well. I really like the competition piece! My school is Title 1 and I really think the way your school started a competition was great! I think I'll have to share that idea on Monday! Thank you!
Hello, my name is Andrea and I teach sixth grade ELA. My school gives incentives to get our students excited about state testing. At the end of the year any students who meet the state requirements attend a Sportsapalooza party. My school rents blow up slides and moon bounce optical courses, a dunk tank that teachers volunteer to go in, and all different fun activities for the students to enjoy. Last year was the first year we did this and the kids loved it. I also gave my own incentives according to growth. In my particular class I gave out root beer floats for any student who showed 50 points of growth. Even though my students are getting older, they still like to receive incentives like this. I have also had pizza parties and bought my students lunch. My best advice is to find something your students like and play it up.
My district created a lip dub video, a school-wide project, last year, to get the school pumped up about teamwork and the positive atmosphere it created a couple of weeks before state testing was unreal!
A previous school that I worked in motivated the students very similar to Katy's. The state testing was something the students looked forward to because of all of the excitement that came along with it. This was when our state tested only once a year. Now the state tests the students three times a year and many grade levels are testing on different days/weeks so it is difficult for my school to do the spirit week focused on testing. Prior to the testing, I review test taking strategies and set goals with the students. Along with the goals, I create rewards with the students that they receive it they meet their goals. We also give them pins, bookmarks, pencils, erasers that all have motivational sayings on them related to the test. It is interesting to see how others motivate their students and it is very helpful since I have just started brainstorming for the incentives for this year!
Since our state testing happens twice a year (this year) we wait to see how our students perform after the first round of testing. Then teachers work in PLCs to organize who will meet with which students to discuss their performance and possible growth throughout the year. After the initial meetings, teachers have ongoing follow-up meetings with their students to keep them motivated to do well and meet their targets for the next round of testing. Prior to the second test, our school has a Pep Rally! It gets better every year! We are hoping that the students will have more input as to what activities are a part of the festivities this year!