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.