State testing is coming. It is not my favorite time of year and not my favorite work to prepare for. But as I said to a class of fifth graders today, “it will be whatever you bring to it. If you think it’s going to stink, it probably will. But if you look at it as an opportunity, it can be kind of…fun.”

We’ve been using a listening protocol, introduced to us from Teachers College. I first introduced this strategy for listening to audio texts to students in fourth and fifth grade connected to their research units of study, a way to first listen or read for the gist and then re-listen or read to take notes.

Then this week, I’ve been making the connection between using the protocol for research to how it can help you when actually taking the test. We practiced using a sample listening section of the test.

We began by just listening to a passage all about caterpillars and how they can sense danger by the vibrations made on a leaf. After listening, we reviewed the questions the students would have to answer. Many of them immediately called out what they thought the answers were. “That’s great that you’re already thinking of what the answer might be!” I exclaimed. “Now when we listen to the passage again, you can confirm your response.” I could tell they were skeptical of my strategy. I knew what they were thinking. It would be so much easier to just choose a response and move on.

After reviewing the questions, we listened to the same short passage again. I’ve done this work in a few different classes now and I swear you can feel the energy change from listen one to listen two. The second time around you could hear a pin drop. The kids are so focused.

After the second listen we went back to answer the questions. As we went through the choices, some kids would say, “Yes!” when we came to the right answer.

“Maybe,” I’d respond. “We haven’t looked at all of the options yet.”

By the time  we got to the second question, there were some mixes of “yes” and “maybe” when we got to the correct answer. They were catching on. In many cases we confirmed their earlier shout-outs. When this happened, we reflected on how good it felt to be certain that we had chosen the best answer.

“I totally get why we listen two times now!” a voice called out from the back of the rug-an initial eye roller, his face now beaming.

I turned the class, my hands over my heart. “You just made my day. I see so many lightbulbs going off.”

We were finding purpose and, I might even dare to say, a little bit of joy in test prep.


11 thoughts on “Lightbulbs

  1. What a joyful slice! I love how you helped the students take ownership of their test taking experience. “It will be whatever you bring to it. If you think it’s going to stink, it probably will. But if you look at it as an opportunity, it can be kind of…fun.”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Test prep, ughh. You so eloquently explained a wonderful lesson to prepare. I don’t think our state test has a listening component but want to try this with kiddos. I think there’s potential for great transfer to determining importance in reading.

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    1. Yes! It makes so much sense. We’ve also incorporated it into the way we read. Read a chunk, ask “what was it mostly about?”, take notes. We want to introduce this earlier next year. It makes so much sense!

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  3. We are really doing some side-by-side work, aren’t we? I love the way you make this work connect to the work the kids are doing and how you show them the importance (beyond test taking) of listening well.

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  4. Yes! When you hear a little voice say, “I know why we listen two times now” it does make our day. Test prep is a necessary evil, but when you can find joy in it for yourself and the students, that’s really doing something.

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  5. Love that you are using strategies across learning areas – and that it’s working! I also admire that you model a strategy for approaching things we don’t really want to do but have to. Might as well learn from it, right? It is what we make it. Such a great post – joy (like your blog title) even in the midst of test prep!

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  6. Remarkable the way you can take TC work and bring it to teachers and kids in the classroom. Feedback from kids “I know why we listen two times now” is more precious than any feedback from a colleague or administrator! Clearly you know that because it is the heart of this slice! Yay you! Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I love the positivity and focus on learning, in spite of the looming test. Thanks for sharing this slice–I’m definitely going to have to borrow this protocol for our own test prep and learning in my classroom!

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