Well, we in Pennsylvania we have new(er) standardized tests, the Keystone Exams. It was my distinct pleasure to be permitted to proctor them this year, sarcasm is intended. I hate standardized tests, but that is a rant for another post. The state window for testing started after Thanksgiving break and ended a week or so after we got back, sorry, but I do not pay attention to such details, I just focus on when we HAVE to take them in our school. Our district took the tests right out of the gate following break; if you have to do it, just jump right in and start. With the majority of my students testing at least one of the three scheduled days I knew I would not be able to accomplish much. My students would either be testing and out of my class, or coming into class after testing and have their brains fried to a mush-like substance. All students who missed class would need filled in, and students who had their brains curdled would need remediated…what a world, what a world.
I chose to jump into collaborative project week and expand the assignment by a week. Each of my subject classes had a different project focus of topic, but similar style projects to create. Podcasts, websites, videos, to combinations of such things were highly encouraged. Students were to use the new iPads or their own personal mobile devices to work on the projects. With a week of near empty classes, or classes filled with zombified students I rolled out the projects.
We started slow, students used Google Docs to sign up for groups, topics of research/presentation, and methods of presenting. We brainstormed ideas of research together as group, discussing why topics were of interest and should they be accepted. As usual, Edmodo was used as the mothership platform for communication and organization of the classes. This first week went well, students were able to accomplish work and decompress from the testing. The opportunity to collaborate, socialize, and have others to lean on was a major benefit for the students. Those students who did not have to test benefited from not having to do extra assignments, or busy work as they call it. As you will see in my next post, students who missed for testing even started the projects while away from class.
While I still thoroughly despise such tests, I now have a worthwhile concept to get my students involved in while we grind out these mandatory requirements.