Easing M-STEP Stress
While all eyes are on spring break, just behind it lurks the dreaded, gray fog–the time when the use of technology in our building becomes dedicated to one purpose: M-STEP.
Our online standardized testing begins right after we return from a much-needed respite. However, as we are frantically wrapping up our informational unit of study and preparing for parent-teacher conferences, who has time to prep?
Thankfully, most of the “prep” for my students has already happened, thanks to our use of online reading and writing resources. Still, though we’re just two school weeks out, there is much that can be done in terms of online practice.
Early in the year I created an account at ReadTheory for all of my students. This is a great online program that provides students with an experience that is very much like the M-STEP format: students read a passage and answer multiple choice questions.
What I love about ReadTheory is that it is computer adaptive when students pretest. It also gives them an explanation as to why an answer is incorrect. ReadTheory also offers free, printable assessments that can be used in the classroom if paper-and-pencil practice is needed. (Blogger Jianna Taylor describes how Edulastic addresses many of these goals as well.)
Newsela is another great resource for leveled passages. With Newsela, students can read passages online and answer questions. There are abundant resources on this site, which is also searchable by topic and grade level. (For more on Newsela, check out Amy Gurney’s post from 2016 about the site.)
Often, I find inspiration on other teachers’ sites. Mr. Nussbaum is one of them. His site is full of resources, and the reading passages are not only leveled, but they look very much like the screen that students view when taking the M-STEP.
Between these three sites (and in addition to the actual M-STEP prep site) students should be well prepared for the format, and comfortable with reading and answering questions in this online format.
These days, there are many resources available for online writing. Many students at the elementary level are using Google Docs–sometimes even in kindergarten. Other online story creation sites have exploded over the years as well.
One of my favorites–and, for my students, most beneficial–is blogging. Blogging is something we do all year long, but in the spring we also participate in the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Classroom Challenge. This challenge changes the game because now there are real people–not just teachers and classmates–reading our writing. Students begin to care more about how they write, what they write, and what other people think of their writing.
This lends itself very well to M-STEP. I tell my students to imagine they are writing for their blog audience. The feedback, I tell them, will come from your score. So use everything you know about good writing.
I am so fortunate to teach in a district that does not place great emphasis on these tests. Our superintendent is very clear that this is one score, on one day, and does not begin to tell the story of who the child is as a learner. We all know that the true “prep” is in the good teaching that we do day to day.
However, ease of use with technology will allow my students to relax and get down to the business of showing what they know, the best that they can. To me, this is the perfect combination.
Beth Rogers is a fifth grade teacher for Clarkston Community Schools, where she has been teaching full time since 2006. She is blessed to teach Language Arts and Social Studies for her class and her teaching partner’s class, while her partner teaches all of their math and science. This enables them to focus on their passions and do the best they can for kids. Beth was chosen as Teacher of the Year for 2013-2014 in her district. She earned a B.S. in Education at Kent State University and a Master’s in Educational Technology at Michigan State University.