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Tammy Dunbar: Sharing Test-Taking Tips With Sway!

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by Tammy Dunbar
Expert Educator Columnist, USA

teachergeekOne year when I was teaching a First Grade class and we were nearing the end of our week-long standardized testing, one little student was so stressed out that he wrote an inappropriate word on his testing booklet. When I showed it to my principal, she sighed and said, “At least he spelled it right.”

No one enjoys standardized testing. Not students. Not teachers. Not administrators. Is that a number two pencil? Did the students bubble things in clearly? Did they put the right answer with the right numbered question? Erase those stray marks, please!

The new Common Core-aligned Smarter Balanced Assessment is administered online, which brings a whole new set of difficulties and challenges. Wait! The volume isn’t working. Did you turn it up before entering the secure browser? What’s that flashing on my screen? My screen went blank in the middle of my test! What do I do now?

But we know testing – in some form – is necessary, and we know we must do it. But how do we get our students both ready and perhaps even excited to take standardized tests?

One way is to put your students in charge of creating a Test-Taking Tips presentation to share with the rest of the school.

since-2015 Since 2005, we have created some sort of standardized testing video that we’ve shown school-wide at an assembly. (Check out today’s Tech Injection for examples!)

But in 2015, we have Gone Digital in Manteca Unified School District, and all of our students have their own device. So this year, we decided to create something a little more personal. Something that any student, teacher or family member could access from any device. However, since we all had different ideas for our creations, we decided to work by ourselves or with a small group and then find a way to combine them in one neat package.

Some students filmed advice skits, others created memes online; one did a music video and another tried her hand at animation. We filmed with our Panasonic 3E student devices, my teacher Surface Pro 3 and even with an iPhone! We app-smashed with Animoto, GoAnimate, MemeCreator, YouTube video editor, BeFunky, Wordle, ArcSoft ShowBiz and, of course, the best platform to bring it all together: Sway!

Our final product was shared by embedding the Sway on our class and school websites. Proud of their final product, students shared the Sway link with family, friends and other students from other schools. And so far, every day of testing, my students have asked me to show their Test-Taking Tips Sway before they embark on the day’s test.

Focusing their efforts on helping others do their best on the test prompted my students to reflect on best practices without feeling overwhelmed. Watching their handiwork on the big screen prompted them to heed their own advice and do their best on the test!


techinjectionSince we teach students about the dangers of propaganda, why not use those lessons for good? In past years, our class has created standardized testing commercials (called STAR Commercials, since the testing in our state used to be called “Standardized Testing And Review”). Using a particular propaganda or persuasive technique, students write their scripts on Word, work out the blocking, cast the parts, film the skit and then bring it all together with Microsoft Movie Maker or iMovie (nowadays we might even use ArcSoft ShowBiz). Here are two examples of our past movies. Please feel free to use them to inspire your students to invent even better ways to share their own test-taking tips digitally!

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Mission Possible: Test-Taking Video 2006                                   S-T-A-R Test-Taking Video 2011


tammy2Tammy Brecht Dunbar, M.Ed., S.T.E.M. teaches 5th grade in Manteca Unified School District and Pre-Service Technology at Teachers College of San Joaquin (Stockton, CA). She will be presenting at the 2015 Microsoft Global E2 conference, ISTE 2015, CUE 2015 and CTA Good Teaching North 2015. Tammy has presented for CTA Good Teaching North (2014), Cap CUE (2014), all three California Subject Matters Project Conferences, Capitol Area Science Education Leaders, and several San Joaquin County Office of Education events. She has trained teachers in educational technology from 2005-present and has earned the designation of Microsoft Innovative Educator Master Trainer. She won the 2010 eInstruction $75,000 Classroom Makeover Video Contest, wrote a successful Enhancing Education Through Technology grant for Manteca Unified School District in 2008, and was Teacher of the Year in MUSD in 2006. She serves on the MUSD Superintendent’s Technology Committee and as district Tech Champion as MUSD embarks on its “Going Digital 2015” project.

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