January 6, 2011

How Can ART Build Test Taking Skills?

FACT: To "succeed"in a lot of things you have to be able to take a test.
FACT: I am a horrible test taker! I had to take the SAT three times to get a college worthy score. Each time was more grueling then the last but my scores did get better.
Unfortunately, taking tests is a fact of life. Being a good test taker is a skill that can be learned and a skill we can develop even in the creative space of the art room.
 A little background info: 
The test scores in our district are really low. . . I mean failing low. Our elementary school has been making the biggest strides in the district to bring up our scores. Teachers have noticed something really interesting. Some of our students know the answers to the questions on the mastery test but yet they get it wrong on the test. So why can't they answer the questions when it test time comes? They are too tired! They give up. We can't make the tests any shorter, so what can we do? Build their focus and stamina!  

So I am experimenting in the art room with building stamina. . . observational stamina.

Here is my first experiment.

For a 1/2 hour a week for 5 weeks one third grade class (one of the average performing classes) has been practicing blind drawing and observational drawing. The kids have been working so hard. . . what used to be 30 second blind drawings have now grown to 1 1/2 minute drawings. That is over a 100% increase in stamina.

Here are our rules for blind drawing
1. Keep your eyes GLUED on the object. No looking at your paper.
2. Keep your pencil on your paper (no lifting your pencil).
3. Silent Work.

Once they break one of these rules (their concentration breaks) I write in my book the time next to their name. I have been charting their growth. Some students are even practicing at home!

I hope being able to build focus and stamina will translate into other areas of their lives like test taking. Collecting data is also a small way I can build a case for a strong art program.

Are there any ways you build test taking skills in your classroom?
Or do you keep your classroom a "test free" zone?

Blind Drawing in Progress!

BLIND DRAWING 1minute 30seconds

Drawing (with looking) 5 minutes 


Becca Ruth said...

I am just like you Erica. I took the ACT 3 times and on the third time I finally had a good enough score for college. Some people just don't get it. I was a good student and an A-B student in High School and College. Tests just suck.
I have not given any tests, but I think next year I will. I don't think that that makes my program less effective. I see the students retain the information. I have had my students do "mini" projects for practice and then when it comes time for the major project; I love to sit back and watch what they have learned.
I love your idea for the blind contour. My 6th graders love to do them. I like how you put the pencil through the paper. I'm gonna try that with them. Thanks for the post!

Angie said...

There is so much emphasis on testing that I've never tried working on it. I do like the idea of building their concentration. I also like the paper on their pencil idea.

Angie said...

There is so much emphasis on testing that I've never tried working on it. I do like the idea of building their concentration. I also like the paper on their pencil idea.

Anonymous said...

I love the concept you have come up with here, showing ways art can help with test taking skills! Like it or not, we are always being asked to connect to other disciplines and be part of the school community to raise scores, and frankly, I think it is important in some ways, but what I like about your idea is that it accomplishes this goal THROGH art. Great!

I talk about the tests we give- They are not the best art assessments and we are looking at doing some new assessments.


Jessica Balsley