This week, our school tried a new endeavour to help prepare our students for the OSSLT. Our students have historically not scored well on this test and it is met with great anxiety every year, because the students feel defeated even before they begin.
We were feeling the pressure to somehow produce results and perhaps outsiders to the building didn’t realize the effort we were putting in to help our students succeed.
We tried some methods to help the students prepare. We started introducing the types of tasks in grade 9. We repeated them throughout the year. In grade ten, we had practice tests, which I can say did not go over well with many students. Individual tasks seemed hard and sometimes they felt they were writing the test twice. No matter how we packaged it, it seemed a huge task, a mighty undertaking, and was met with resistance.
This year, we tried “literacy carnival”. It was met with much more open attitude from the students. We mixed them up, from different classes, had small group setting, and took them out of the class. We had dedicated staff delivering the SAME message to all the students. The halls were decorated beforehand and we left clues over announcements, social media and through staff members that something was coming.
The days of carnival had staff in noticeable attire as leaders. The room was decorated. We offered writing utensils, water, and prizes for participation. The information was delivered in a fun way, encouraging students, alternating between staff and occasionally throwing in some humour to bring home the point.
Students were shown the type of question, the scoring, given an opportunity to ask questions and given key strategies to help alleviate anxiety and de-mystify the test. Asking students afterwards, independent of the participating staff, most were feeling better about the test and felt encouraged the understood what was going to happen on the day.
I don’t know if the results will show significant improvement or not. I also think any gain is success. If only one or two feel more confident in themselves, that’s a success story already. What I also want to point out is that we keep trying. New ideas, new approaches, new enthusiasm, all in the best interests of our students. We keep an open mind to trying new ideas and engaging our students. We cheer for them. We want them to graduate. I hope test day they feel empowered and ready to take it on, and do their very best. Go team!