Sadly enough in third and fourth grade we do have to take a chunk of time preparing for TCAP. I'm not just referring to content, but since it's their first or second time we have to prepare students for more of the formatting and routines of testing. As we all know, this can be tough to do because my biggest goal is to try and look at the bigger picture and purpose of testing. (Which is always clear for me.)
This winter I wasn't quite sure what my fourth grade students remembered from taking TCAP in third grade, so I was unsure about what to review. So, I decided to have the students use a chalk talk to show what they know, but also review or learn from other people's comments.
By no means was this part of a backwards designed TCAP unit, but it's real life. The content needed to be covered, and I was able to use the chalk talk thinking routine to do it in a different way. The less time I spend up front talking to the kids the better. For the chalk talk I posed four questions to the class.
1. ) How do we show what I know on tests?
2.) How do we prepare for tests?
3.) What do we notice about tests?
4.) What do we notice about ourselves as test takers?
After looking at their responses, allowing the students to participate in a gallery walk, and answering questions I felt very comfortable what background knowledge they had. In reflecting on our weeks leading up to TCAP, I also feel really good about using a chalk talk to prepare-not just another conversation. When I am planning and have determined the end goal (what I want students to know/do) it's easy for me to get stuck in a certain routine. The thinking routines can be very helpful in accessing thinking through the strategies in a different way. I feel like this went really well, and I plan on doing something similar in the future.