Here in my neck of the woods, state testing begins in third grade. Students are given a test booklet with questions and answers, and they are expected to fill in the bubble for the correct answer right there.
But in fourth grade, the publishers of The Test decided nine and ten year olds were ready for something bigger and better, so they separated the Test Booklet from the Answer Booklet. That means that students need to navigate the Test Booklet accurately, read the passage and then each of the questions that follow, and then find the corresponding answer number in the separate Answer Booklet and fill in the Correct Bubble. And this year a Part One and Part Two in two questions have been added to The Test, just to make things interesting.
While that may not seem like such a big deal to adults or even many nine and ten year olds, it is a big deal to students with disabilities, including dyslexia and ASD.
By nature of their disabilities, my students have a difficult time navigating common texts in chapter books, nonfiction books, and text books. This added layer of complexity makes The Test more about their ability to find their way through it, rather than their ability to read it.
But this post isn’t actually about my viewpoint on standardized testing (unless, of course, you read between the lines).
I wanted to share an inspiration on how to help students navigate between the Test Booklet and the Answer Booklet, without mistakenly filling in the bubble for question 7 when they’re actually working on question 6. It’s a two-part solution, really.
First, I hand each student a sticky note and have them place it directly under question 1 bubbles in their Answer Booklet. They move the sticky note down one spot each time they are ready for the next question. Then I remind them to circle the answer they believe to be correct directly in their Test Booklet, before filling in the corresponding bubble in their Answer Booklet. That way, if they do misalign their answers, they can simply go back to their Test Booklet for their answers, rather than re-reading every question.
Believe me, this system has worked tremendously well since I started using it last year. Obviously, I don’t know whether my students are answering their questions correctly. I am merely ensuring that they have the best chance for accurately indicating the answers they chose. I can only stand by and hope for the best.