Testing is a reality in any classroom, but what does it look like in a gifted classroom?
Drill and kill, test prep, reviewing material… these all go against the ideals of your gifted classroom.
Yet it would be a disservice for your kids to head into a high-stakes test without the utmost preparation, right?
Take your review to Mach speed by implementing a quick, rotating center activity. Give your students 6-8 review activities and let them spend a few minutes at each activity before rotating them along. Keep the time just a little short for the activity. The time pressure keeps them interested and I always let them have a few minutes of “catch up” time to finish the activities.
This self-running, speed-oriented review also frees you up to meet with anyone who needs more intensive review.
Plus, it’s fun to hear the kids yell “oh no!” as the timer reaches zero for each activity.
Think Like A Test Writer
To help my gifted learners do their best, we discuss how test-makers plan wrong answers. We analyze how the wrong answers aren’t simply random guesses on a multiple-choice test. Each one has a purpose and a special way to ensnare unsuspecting students.
What educators call “attractive distractors,” we dub “poison mushrooms” (after the lethal power-up from the Super Mario Bros series). Although it may look attractive, it’s really designed to trick students into picking it.
When I give a test-prep question, the class solves for the correct answer, but each student also comes up with a “poison mushroom” answer. It’s amazing how quickly they develop the skill of designing these answers (it’s also hilarious to hear students moan about “picking the poison mushroom” when I return tests).
Students who are aware of their strengths and weaknesses throughout the year will be better at preparing for a test. My students who know they struggled with fractions can more efficiently study and practice. This self-awareness is a result of reflection.
Reflection is a year-long practice that I have also touched on here using depth and complexity.
Asking “what do you think you need to focus on” puts the ball in your students’ court and gives them ownership of the test-prep process. It also builds a life-long skill of self-awareness and self-improvement.
Since gifted learners easily turn into stress machines, I also have a “reality check” talk with my class. We discuss the reality of tests in life (I recount the scores of tests required to earn a teaching credential) but we also explore ways to deal with tests – relaxation techniques, taking breaks, using the process of elimination, and simply remaining confident. In the end, I remind them our tests are simply a way of measuring how much they’ve learned throughout the year. Last-minute cramming and late-night worrying are not necessary nor helpful.