We’re finishing up our state tests this week, and then have five more weeks until the end of school.

It’s been an interesting experience for me. I probably spent the equivalent of about three double-block periods in explicit test-preparation (with a good portion of that time using learning games — you can read more about what I did at My Best Posts On How To Prepare For Standardized Tests (And Why They’re Bad)), and I’m feeling a little bit like I’m ready for the school year to end.

And that’s only after three double block periods of test-prep! I can only imagine how teachers who are forced to spend endless days of drill-and-kill test prep (and not games) must feel like after the tests are done.

Not to mention how the students feel. I think in some middle and elementary schools in our district some teachers feel this test-prep pressure and then inadvertently communicate a “let-down” — it’s not uncommon at our school for students to say they want to relax after state test time.

John Merrow just wrote a post about this situation titled “Solving a Man-Made Problem.” He talks about how one school has students choose a single elective class that takes place between state testing and the end of the year.

At our school, we really push to keep moving forward. You can read more at What Do You Do To Keep Students (& You!) Focused Near The End Of The School Year?

Feel free to offer additional suggestions there.

One of the items on that list which I’ve found very useful, and in many ways is similar to the idea Merrow talks about, is having students spend two or three weeks developing a thematic unit using the teaching and learning strategies that we use during the year. Small groups can choose their own topic. Then they have to teach portions of it to the whole class. If you’d like to get a sense of what this kind of unit would look like, you can see the instructions for a similar project students did on an ethnic group of their choosing at our ninth-grade class blog in the post “Ethnic Studies Project.”

Lastly, I just want to mention that I’ll be writing another post and adding it to “The Best…” list on tests. This one will be on what I do on test days themselves. Obviously, we are constricted by the state rules which — at least here in California — we have to sign an affidavit committing to obey. But there are a number of things  we can do to help student feel confident and supported on those days — including from the moment they enter the classroom — without violating any of the regulations.

That post is on my “To Do” list….