Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Testing, Testing...

One of my big fears for Samantha entering 2nd grade has been the frequency and difficulty of tests.  In the 2nd or 3rd week of school we were informed that there would be not only a spelling test at the end of the week, but a history test as well!  History, science, math...all too conceptual for Samantha.  I am sure she can memorize nearly anything, but she won't have any idea what they're talking about.  President of the United States?  Means nothing.  The whole concept even of the United States is foreign to her.  Maybe more is sinking in than I think, but I can't even imagine how little any of that means to her. 

Children with Down syndrome often need their testing modified in some way, whether in the content or just the delivery.  I haven't quite figured out what kind of needs Sammi has as far as testing goes, except that after her first history test, when the students were given 5 or 6 questions, each with 2 multiple choice answers, it was apparent that she couldn't be given the test in that form.  She could read the questions and read the answers, but her careless reasoning saw her circling the answer on the right each time.  Totally random.  She managed to get 2 right, but not because she selected that answer for it's correctness. 

I mentioned something to her aide, and the next time she had a test that was similar there was a note written at the top that said "adapted," and she got 6 out of the 8 correct.  I am almost positive that "adapted," in that case, meant that the questions were read to her and she was allowed to think about what the correct answer was before circling it. 

It's interesting, learning how her brain works.

Spelling is another story altogether.  Seriously, this kid can spell!  The last few spelling tests she's done amazingly well, but the words are certainly not 2nd grade words - they're far too easy.  But the added task of sorting the words by their endings has added a little extra spice.  I've been quizzing Sammi like mad, not only on the simple words on her spelling list, but pretty much on any word that pops into my head.  And she loves spelling!  As an extra treat, she likes to turn it around and play teacher, asking us to spell the words she dishes out herself.

Last night, as we sat watching TV before her bedtime, I started asking her to spell different body parts.  She got pretty much all of them.  Then I said, jokingly, to Steve, "I won't *even* ask her to spell knee..." thinking it would be entirely too hard for her.  But then I stopped that silly thought and decided to just come right out with it. 

Me:  "Sammi, spell *knee.*"

Sammi:  "K..."  (omg...Steve and I just looked at each other, our jaws beginning their descent to the floor)  "N...E...E!"

Let's just say the whooping and hollering could probably have been heard out on the street.

So, I leave you with this thought:

Never, and I mean NEVER, underestimate your child's abilities.  Challenge them, but be careful not to discourage them.  Provide positive reinforcement no matter what the results.  Back off if they begin to show signs of distress, disinterest or frustration. 

And, extra-important and so, so difficult to remember, TEACH, don't TEST

If you plan on quizzing your child, make sure they know that's what you're doing.  That you've told them you're going to quiz them, and that they're open to it and prepared for it.  This is so hard for us, as parents, to do - it's natural for us to want to quiz them on their knowledge.  But teaching, and keeping the lessons fun, is the most important ingredient in providing a comfortable, happy learning environment.

So...on another note and back to the conceptual stuff that makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck...Sammi has another test on Friday...in scientific hopotheses.  Something about coming up with a hypothesis, testing it, and coming up with a conclusion.

Can you hear me laughing?  I bet you can... 


Rochelle said...

Great advice. Could they give her a study guide before the test so she had more time at home to review?

I love that our district has gone to testing spelling only in writing not via weekly tests.

Good luck and keep those expectations high she is amazing.

Becca said...

Rochelle - yes, the words come home at the beginning of the week for review.

Nan said...

Seems to me reading the question and giving her time to answer and/or choose from the selected is not an adaptation, but an accommodation, no? Sounds goofy, but at a certain point this becomes important. For Jess, multiple choice actually HELPED (in middle school and higher) because of her short term working memory issues. Only because we had a psycho-ed report and recommendations did this work tho. However, why so many tests? Is this the best way of Sammi demonstrating her knowledge??? Just curious.

Becca said...

Good question, Nan. At this time she's just doing the general ed curriculum, and we haven't yet had reason to make any real modifications to the content or tests. We may be re-evaluating now that we've begun to see some of the stuff that's coming up (like the conceptual science, civics and history portions). We just didn't/don't know what to expect yet, and I think we've now had a taste that gives us pause.

Stephanie said...

Very good post! I've been thinking a lot about how Owen will do with a test. Obviously right now he's non-verbal, but that could change. So I think about it from both perspectives.

Like I said to you on FB, I used to read the test to all of my spec. ed. students and if they wanted the choices, I'd read them and if not, then I turned it into a fill in the blank. I wrote/circled all the answers given to me so that they would have test to look at in the future for studying.

I love that Sammi loves spelling. I was a big word nerd too and won lots of spelling contests. I'll bet that's why she likes to read so much!

Lori said...

Sammi is not only gorgeous - but she is amazing!
Our middle child is in 2nd grade this year -- it seems to be a big year for going from the "little kids" to the "big kids"