Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Testing and Self Advocacy- Tips and Tricks

I never write about students leaving the room but many students with IEPs and 504s have the testing accommodation that states they test in a separate, small group (or even independent) environment. The justification for separate testing among other reasons often is that Student A is easily distracted and needs a quieter, smaller environment to show his best work on assessments. I've made that justification! I've had that accommodation on IEPs! I'm right there with ya!

Here's the irony... many students who need a quieter environment are actually met with more noise, chaos, and general goofiness in their separate testing setting. This might happen because they are not used to the setting and they have been taught routines in the general classroom with their peers. This "testing room" feels like a free for all! Fear not, comrades! I find that these testing sessions are the perfect time to teach testing and self advocacy skills. Let's kick it!

1. Greet every student at the door one at a time

In middle school, I had the students meet outside of the testing room door. With younger students, you might want to practice walking in the hallway. I would close the door and stand in front of it. Don't let students in until you are done with your directions (but keep those directions short). 

2."Find a spot where you will be successful!"

One at a time, I would tell students, "Without talking, find a spot in the room where you can be successful." I do not send the next student in until the student before has found a seat where they can be successful. If a student is unable to find a seat quietly, I have them come back to the door and try again after the other students have gone in. This is not punitive. I tell students I am going to do this ahead of time and treat it like a fun challenge. This takes time at first but after practicing once or twice, they catch on quickly.

Some students might be most successful when sitting on a yoga ball where they can fidget.

Check out the poster that says "Advocate Test Taking Strategies". The other middle school learning specialist (awesome, awesome Cara Shannon) wrote a list of strategies and students took a sticky note and placed it next to the strategy that worked best for them. I included pictures of what each strategy looked like.
Other students might be most successful when their back is toward their classmates.

Even others benefit from spreading out so they can easily all the materials that they have available.

3. "I will hand out work to students who show me they're ready."

When testing, some students use a Math Help Binder. Some students use a portable word wall. Others might use an iPad or notes from their interactive math notebook. Whatever the case, students need to have the appropriate materials on their desk in order to successfully to do their work. They need to know what ready means for them.

Once all students are seated I say, "When you are quietly sitting with all of the materials you need, I will hand out your test." This gives students time to problem solve and think about what they need. I might give prompts (visual, nonverbal, or verbal) or supports depending on the student but I let all students start off independently. I might say, "Looks like you are missing one thing" and walk away. When all of the materials needed are on the student's desk (or table, or floor, or wherever they have parked themselves) I hand out their assessment.

4. Show the time
Image result for time timer
5. Have students start work independently

Some students have the test given in chunks or read aloud. Others are working on problem solving before asking for help. Even if a student needs you to read the test right away, I like to use this time to teach more self advocacy skills. I'll make eye contact with them and raise my hand, prompting them to raise their own hand.  This is an excellent opportunity to teach students to identify and then advocate for what they need. 

6. Give students time to come up with their own test taking strategies!

I wrote "Test Taking Strategies" at the top of this student's dry erase board. He filled in the information with his top three strategies.

7. Come up with an "I'm done" routine

Typically, I had students identify they were done by raising their hand. I would go over their list of strategies (reread answers, take a break, look through notes, etc.). "Do you need to use any more strategies or are you ready to go?" Students would make that choice for themselves.

8. "Pick up your materials and meet me at the door."

In middle school, I would have students meet me at the door and go over directions for walking back to class solo. In the younger grades, I might wait until everyone is done and go together. I also like to use this as an opportunity for students to talk to the general education teacher about their work. "Hand your test to Ms. Teacher and tell her thank you for all that you do." Not every student chose to thank their teachers but I liked to use this opportunity to teach students how to express their thanks. However, I never forced anyone to say this as I can't make someone feel feelings they don't have.

I hope you enjoyed my tips! What do you do to teach self advocacy skills around test taking?


  1. You're amazing, Snider! Keep the great resources coming, I love these lists!

  2. Diggin' the "I'm Done" routine - maybe I can hang something up in the testing room.