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Meeting Archive: Carolyn Chapman of Test Success in the Brain Compatible Classroom (February 2, 2000)

Kathleen - Teachers.Net welcomes Rita King, co-author with Carolyn Chapman of Test Success in the Brain Compatible Classroom (Zephyr Press, Spring 2000). Rita will be the presenter tonight. The topic is how to prepare students and classroom environments for testing. Rita, does your book offer information that will help remove some of the stress related to what some see as the overuse of testing in our educational system?
Rita - Thanks!!
Mrs. G - Our grade 4 and 5 students are taking MEAP tests (Michigan Assessment Program) this week...I'm looking for some last minute ideas, or confirmations that we're doing the best we can at this point!
Kathleen - Tonight's sponsor is Zephyr Press,
Mrs. G - Fourth graders take tests in reading and math...Grade five takes science, writing and social studies. I don't see much evidence of student stress...but I see a lot of stressed out teachers. The pressure is enormous on them (and me...I'm potentially at risk if scores aren't high.) I do believe, though, that if the adults are stressed, the kids feel it.
Kathleen - Rita, does your book offer information that will help remove some of the stress related to what some see as the overuse of testing in our educational system?
Mrs. G - We do take seriously some of the tips for testing that are offered in some of the brain research, ie: water bottles, cinnamon, lemon or mint candy; baroque music, etc. I worked this week and last with "at-risk" kids...actually tested them in a quieter room. We took fresh air breaks and did some mid-line exercises. Don't know if it made any difference, but it was a fun break for them!
Kathleen - Carolyn Chapman, co-author with Rita of the Test Success book is here. Carolyn, any pointers for creating a friendly environment for testing?
Carolyn - The teachers stress does effect the children.
Kathleen - There is plenty of stress on the part of teachers about testing
Carolyn - The survival kits. The spirit week before, a lots of these kinds of things are suggested in our book .
Kathleen - Rita has worked with university students in teacher training programs for over 20 years
eimmik - i found a recent study where they tested a controlled group of students taking the SAT. Half the students had music playing during testing and the other half didn't. With this research, do you think there is any hope of "the powers that be" allowing us to play music, allow more stretch breaks, allow water during testing, etc?
Patti - I've heard about the research on the baroque music but not the other. What about it Mrs. G?
Kathleen - Carolyn, what is the most dramatic new information you can offer for those wishing to provide a supportive environment for testing?
Carolyn - Knowing the test format and test taking skills will make a difference
Kathleen - So Carolyn, test practice is important?
Carolyn - The music question If the students are used to the music then the music will help most students. there are some that this would hinder their concentration. Listen station headphones work for them.
Carolyn - Test practice all during the year using the content works
Kathleen - Rita, what is the most important point you would like to offer about testing environments?
Rita - Tests and test preparation should be seen as challenges by students, not as dreaded events!
Mrs. G - I try to help out our teachers who are testing. I change around their specials schedules so they still get their breaks, cancel staff meetings and school improvement meetings. Candy and nice messages help too. Our 2nd graders wrote good luck notes to the 4th graders and the 3rd wrote to the 5th graders wishing them well.
Kathleen - Rita, what is new as the result of brain research that would help adjust the students' opinion about testing?
Smoothe - Hi Rita, must admit I have dreaded them for years (standardized tests). Would love to get lots more info. on how to integrate test-taking skills into curriculum. I'm a second grade teacher. Could you tell me how I can buy a copy of your book?
Mrs. G - We did a MEAP parent meeting and offer suggestions to parents about testing. Suggestions include protein breakfasts, letting them wear comfortable clothes, and no fighting in the morning of a test! Seems pretty obvious, but some parents need the written reminder!
Rita - The pressures placed on teachers by accountability have taken must of the joy learning. Many times students are expected to learn the test taking skills on their practice sheets and workbooks. The drill and practice is not exciting or interesting.
Kathleen - I agree about test practice. Back when I taught grades 5 & 6 (long, long ago now ;-), we found that a helpful strategy, removed much of the dread.
Kathleen - Mrs. G. good point, so much is obvious, but people have to be reminded. It's nice that these topics are being brought back out to remind educators and the public about these common sense tactics.
Mrs. G - I agree about loosing the joy of learning. We have pretty much abandoned the old "fun" things like plays and seasonal art projects (unless it's by the art teacher). Pretty academic. Unless it's on the MEAP we don't do it!
Rita - Our book Test Success in the Brain Compatible Classroom will be published this spring by Zephyr Press and will be available through Creative Learning Connection. You can get it on-line at Thank you for your interest!
Kathleen - Rita, I agree, and too much time is taken up prepping for tests, or teaching to tests
Smoothe - Mrs. G. I like the idea about writing letters. Thanks
Kathleen - Yes, much of what we used to have time to do that accommodated MI and learning styles, there is no time for because of testing pressures, but that's a catch 22
Carolyn - ex Smoothie Make up a passage and some multiple choice questions, then play a game to answer, then talk through your thinking of how you approach the answers
Kathleen - Rita, can one place advance orders for the book?
Mrs. G - Rita, I hate to admit this, but I'm not familiar with your book. Tell me about how it will help me, as a school principal, lead my staff toward more academic achievement as measured through a state assessment test.
Rita - Test preparation should begin when the first test is given in the fall. Too many times we expect the students to learn all of the test taking skills within a few weeks before the achievement test is given in the fall.
Rita - Our book presents ideas to "dress the school" for success. It has an entire chapter devoted to students as self-regulated learners who can master the skills in creative and interesting ways.
Mrs. G - Michigan's assessment program is moving rapidly to constructed response tests. By 2002, 38% of the math test will be constructed or extended response...(short answer or essay type for the "boomers" among us).
Kathleen - Test Success in the Brain Compatible Classroom will be available Spring 2000
Mrs. G - Rita...why should a principal buy the book?
Rita - There are many ways to personalize the school and classroom environment for test success. The test should be view as a celebration of learning!
Kathleen - Rita, what are some specific ways to create that feeling of celebration?
Mrs. G - Perhaps you could elaborate on the many ways to personalize the school
Rita - I just retired as a principal by the way. I know the book will give you ideas to motivate your students as a team. One of our many suggestions that is easy to implement is to have students write raps, jingles and rhymes to read over the intercom. An example would be "We'll Do Our Best on the Test"
Kathleen - Rita, other suggestions?
Carolyn - Most schools have a reading week to celebrate reading why not decorate halls, door, and cafeterias with slogans, cheers, and mottos. Also pep rallies for test spirit to show we are ready to do our best on the test
Rita - Pep rallies, principal challenges, grand openings for the test and parties after the test will be incentives for the students to work hard.
Kathleen - The Teachers.Net Brain Compatible Learning Chatboard
Doug - Rita-I am very afraid about what i see my state doing with testing....teaching needs to drive testing rather than the reverse. Any ideas on convincing the administrators about the importance of putting kids first?
Smoothe - Rita, I must admit this dialogue is changing my attitude toward testing my second graders. Thanks to you and Carolyn for giving the classroom teacher ways to feel positive and to transfer that feeling to the students. They do pick up on our attitudes and respond likewise.
Rita - I know how hard teachers have to work to meet the administrators' expectations, but I believe we need to use the ways students learn to teach the test taking strategies. Administrators are pressured by the district and by the state. I believe the legislation will have to change before principals will have any relief from the high stakes testing movement. I believe students are not becoming lifelong learners because of the test pressures.
Mrs. G - In our state, Michigan, it is not the administrators who dictate the tests. It is the legislatures. Are you aware that 46 states have some sort of assessment program? I'm not in favor of abandoning the entire state level testing system. It has merit. We have revised our curriculum, and our teachers are more concerned with "Best Practice". Unfortunately, when the newspapers start sorting districts by test scores then the public responds. People tend to buy homes where the test scores are higher, and the economic and political ramifications change the way the tests are interpreted.
Mrs. G - Rita...can you give us some more examples of using the ways students learn to teach the test taking strategies?
Kathleen - Rita's doctorate degree is in Educational Leadership. She believes teachers are "the leaders" whose energy and enthusiasm influences the way children approach the learning process. Her formal training (ED.D., Ed. S, M.A., and B.S.) has been directly related to elementary education and teacher training.
Rita - Students need to know about the purpose of tests. Fear of the unknown can be a barrier to thinking and learning.
Doug - Rita- in our state we have asked testing companies with making exit far all have declined except for a company that has never made any. has California gone too far with this "standards" stuff?
Kathleen - Rita conducts training sessions for teachers and administrators on local, state and international levels. Her areas of expertise include multiple intelligences, brain-compatible classrooms, parent involvement, humanistic approaches to discipline, school climate, internal motivation for long-term retention, and providing loving/learning environments. More information available at
Tallytchr - Florida is considering basing all promotion and retention on standardized test result. I have a problem with this!
Rita - The Multiple Intelligence Theory provides an excellent approach to the many ways children learn... through music, dance, art, movement, team activities, etc.
Kathleen - Tallytchr, that is frightening!
eimmik - NC does that now Tallytchr
Tallytchr - That's like taking your temp one day and declaring yourself healthy or sick for the entire year
Mrs. G - As a principal I go into each classroom to give them the "MEAP Challenge". I talk to them about the history of the MEAP, it's purpose, how and when it is scored, and what happens with the results. I stress that they have been preparing for this test since kindergarten. They are considered part of a team and everyone counts!
eimmik - you must score a 3 or a 4 to pass or you are retained, you do have two more chances to retake the test...even students that have made a years growth from a 1 to a 2 will be retained
Kathleen - Rita, wouldn't it be nice if we could test students in ways that address their MI and learning styles?
Rita - There has been a movement toward authentic assessment in the past ten years that has more recently been placed on the back burner. I am hoping that standardized tests will include more authentic assessment in the near future.
Carolyn - Have the parents, volunteers and community leaders write positive notes for test success to the child that they can open at a transition time during the testing week. Not only is this exciting for students but it gets the community involved
Tallytchr - How do teachers combat this mentality while still preparing kids....
Mrs. G - Kimmie....How, where and how much does it cost to retain all of those kids?
Rita - Mrs. G I like your MEAP challenge.
Kathleen - Tallytchr, with persistence!
Kathleen - Those interested in discussing the abuse of standardized testing can chat about the topic on Thursday, Feb.3, here at 10-11 pmE
Tallytchr - I laughingly call myself a test trainer opposed to teacher...
eimmik - exactly how problems with it Mrs G! That is why I asked the question earlier about with all the research we now have on conducive environments to relieve some of that stress, when will the "powers that be" allow us to give every PASSING opportunity to the students
Kathleen - Rita, at the early childhood level authentic assessment is more accepted
Rita - Teachers need to teach the test taking skills through activities that challenge and interest students. Our book is filled with raps, jingles and rhymes to teach strategies. Of course, these skills carry over to all learning experiences.
Tallytchr - oh...excuse me...I thought this chat was about standardized testing...I'm sorry
Doug - Kathleen- that is a very political topic!
Kathleen - Though it seems a new crisis, the controversy about the way tests are used has been around for decades
Rita - We need to educate the "powers that be" with the research on how the brain functions best.
lisa - Could you give us an example of one rap, jingle or rhyme?
eimmik - I have a legislator coming to my next BCL workshop in March Rita....any chance your book will be out by then?
Kathleen - Rita, even for the more "seasoned" educators, reminders about what they learned in their early training about how kids learn best would be helpful. They know this, but just need more convincing, more ammunition during each 10 year cycle. Very frustrating
Mrs. G - I guess we're lucky. Our district can't afford a huge testing program, so we give MAT in 3rd and 6th, and the MEAP in 4th, 5th and then again in 7th and 8th. The MATs are norm referenced, of course, but the MEAPs are all criterion referenced. All of the tests give our School IMprovement Team more information on which to set our goals for improvement in teaching and learning.
Rita - This chat is related to standardized testing. The research on how students learn should be applied to teaching test taking skills so students will enjoy this part of the learning process, too. I have heard teachers say, we will not be able to play until these test are completed. The students will have higher rates of success if they have mental breaks to relax especially outdoors in fresh air.
Kathleen - Rita and Caroyln, what are some of the titles of chapters in your book?
Kathleen - Zephyr Press is the source for many classroom resources
eimmik - Rita, did you see my statement/question? I had a white out and wasnt sure you got it. I said that a legislator was attending my next BCL workshop and I was wondering if your book would be out by March?
Rita - We use the stage metaphor of preparing for a top performance. The largest chapter is devoted to strategies to prepare for tests using the multiple intelligence theory as the basis of the skills taught.
Mrs. G - Good question, Kathleen! This will help
Doug - Rita- in California, the 3rd grade portion for reading takes 1 hour. I believe that takes too long and it is not in the best interest of the kids when you see them crying as they struggle through. One thing I have asked our staff to do is for them to insist on returning the test booklets to the teacher so they can see how they scored not what they scored....this has been creating a confusion with the testing company. Should we continue to be doing things like this?
Kathleen - Authentic Assessment
Carolyn - There are chapter about setting up the external environment as well asinternally getting one prepared to take the test
tallytchr - our principal bought chewing gum for every kid ...for each day of testing. Our kids actually looked forwar to each day of testing to see what kind of gum they would get. this really helped the relax
eimmik - tallytchr we did that too, but this past year the State Board sent a letter saying that no gum, water, anything could be used during testing
Rita - Zephyr Press notified us that it may be out in March! We are keeping our fingers crossed. We have a chapter called Memory in Action. It is filled with ideas to show students various ways to remember information.
tallytchr - what!!!!!
Kathleen - Windows on Learning-Documenting Young Children's Work (Early Childhood Education Series (Teachers College Press)
Kathleen - Rita, please share some of those ideas
Mrs. G - Tally...I give the kids lemon drops...part of the brain research on flavors and tastes. I think the Brain Gym, midline stuff is important. Try it sometime when YOU are studying. Also...lots of water and frequent breaks. I'm in grad school now and I use the BBL stuff when I'm studying!
eimmik - Thanks Rita!
eimmik - I thought it was peppermint? Anyway, they said we couldnt give candy out either!
Kathleen - Brain Gym
Mrs. G - FLORIDA? Shame on Governor Bush! I'll have to write my legislator before he becomes influenced by John Engler who is a friend of Gov. Bush
Rita - When I was the principal of a K-4 school last year I played "I'm Great and Getting Greater" every morning before the tests began. The entire school sang. The cooks even asked me to come into the hall to dance with them. The students love the song. I told them that tests made them greater because it "Shows What You Know". This song is on Carolyns CD If the Shoe Fits. It has many numbers to make students feel good about learning.
eimmik - Rita, I really am interested in more strategies for this time of year to prepare the students for testing. We do exactly what others and you have mentioned. Anything else?
eimmik - Mrs. G, North Carolina
teach4fun - During our Am break on tests days, I provide, orange juice and mini banana muffins...I have that leeway at a private school...and it really cheers the kids up during the long tests
Mrs. G - Rita, now you have my attention! Tell me more about the memory ideas. Is memory the same thing as learning?
eimmik - Carolyn, I just saw your book in my latest Brain Store catalog yesterday!
Carolyn - Yes Doug if we started analyzing which parts are students doing weel on and what parts do we need work on. For example graphing is done so much in the early grades. On the tests the graphs are usually drawn already and the question analyzethe data. When teachers realize this they can start working more on the analysis. This is just an ezample of how looking at the language, the formats and the emphases of the test can help
Mrs. G - Sorry eimmik....I'm on the BBL or BCL mailring, and I've read your posts. I thought you were Florida. My mistake.
tallytchr - I teach in far as I know....we have no mandates against snacks, water and gum...
Rita - Students need to learn how to select the correct answer in multiple choice questtions. Knowing how to eliminate wrong answers and narrow down the choices is extremely important. They need to know how to make wise guesses and how to move on if they don't know the answers.
Doug - Carolyn- I was just sharing a strategy for sabotaging the testing because it is not in the best interest of children or the community
eimmik - Mrs. G, if this testing mess continues here, if we keep setting our students up for failure, I might move there! :o)
Kathleen - Rita, so you advocate earlier training on test taking strategies, such as has been done for college prep exams?
Rita - We refer the the testing mess mentioned as a testing frenzy. Hopefully this too shall pass! I know we must test students but not to the extent that teachers and students love their love for learning.
tallytchr - Do you all feel that standardized testing for first and second graders gives valid and usefule information?
Kathleen - Rita, the problem is, while we wait for the pendulum to swing back, kids are at risk of losing the disposition to learn
Kathleen - tallytchr, very few ed experts believe in standardized testing for that age group now
Kathleen - And teachers are losing the disposition to facilitate learning
tallytchr - I find myself dragging on getting started preparing my second graders...the test seems so far removed from the real learning my kids are doing
Mrs. G - Tally...I agree with Kathleen about the standardized for young. You get much better information using performance assessment and teacher observation for the very young.
tallytchr - I'm trying to teach kids testing strategies...when they can barely read yet!
Carolyn - Rita a dn I wrote about testing because we do not like the testing dilema. We want to do something about it. So why not work on these strategies in fun memorable ways, get the test a celebrating spirit of showing what we have learned and use the results to help plan curriculum These are some positive ways to help this. either and legislators are passing these mandates
Rita - Yes, Kathleen. I was the principal of a Kindergarten School. What a joy! I used many of the strategies with these students. They don't know what it means to CHECK YOUR WORK. They have to taught directly. Too many times we THINK student know what we are saying. We have an activity called Mr. Bubble Cop. He reminds students to STAY OUT OF BUBBLE TROUBLE. I've retired and teach university students. They still do not know how to take tests. They've taken approximately 1000 tests since first grade. They get very frustrated and anxious. I think we need to begin with the first test and help them approach testing with a more positive attitude.
Mrs. G - Oh yikes, Tally. Please remember to do your part preparing the kids. The upper el people CAN NOT do it alone!
Kathleen - Well, the hour is over already. On behalf of Teachers.Net I thank Rita King and Carolyn Chapman of Creative Learning Connection for presenting tonight.
Doug - In student teaching, we learned that no matter what we use as a method, good teaching will produce good test scores. Is there research contrary to this position?
Mrs. G - Perfect ending Doug!
tallytchr - oh I prepare them...if I don''s the kids who suffer
tallytchr - goodnight
Kathleen - Doug, good topic for another meeting! :-)
Mrs. G - Keep the faith Teachers of America!
Rita - Thank you for inviting us. I have enjoyed chatting with everyone. Good luck to all as you deal with the testing scene. Try having more fun with it. You will enjoy it more and your students will, too.
Kathleen - Thank you to all participants.
tallytchr - It's tough to think of testing and fun...but I'll try LOL thanks....
Kathleen - Thank you all, and goodnight!

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