4 Ways the Online Common Core Assessments will Affect Your Math Lesson Plans

Posted by Zack Blois on Oct 14, 2013 5:54:00 PM
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By now, it’s not shocking news that the online Common Core assessments (PARCC and Smarter Balanced) present a drastic change from the old fill-in-the-blank tests.

screen_tour_2However, as an educator, it’s important to understand that the shift goes far beyond simply moving from paper to online tests. The advent of Common Core-aligned testing will also signify major changes to your daily lesson plans as you work to prepare your student to successfully demonstrate mastery of more rigorous standards.

But, don’t panic just yet! As a part of our efforts to share valuable online assessment resources, our team compiled four general practices you can add to your daily lesson plans to help students prepare for both the functionality and depth of the new math assessments.

1) Utilize digital devices within your instruction

Until now, math testing has been more-or-less relegated to traditional pencil-and-paper methods (save the few states who have already made the jump to online assessments: Oregon, Utah, etc.). Certainly, helping students develop proper computer skills is necessary, but how exactly do these skills translate into math assessment success?

That’s a valid and important question to ask when creating new lesson plans. Traditional math instruction techniques were designed to help students create, see, and modify their work using a pencil and paper. Simply put, to help students make the transition from fill-in-the-bubble to a computer-based testing format, your lesson plans must include computer-based math instruction, which allows students an opportunity to build digital literacy skills.

We understand your educational technology resources may not afford you this opportunity everyday. The key is to work with what you have, and do your best to include instruction that helps students bridge the process of learning and mastering math standards and the implementation of this learning via digital input devices (keyboard, tablets, mouse, etc.) The more practice students receive with these tools; the better off they will be come testing time.

2) Match the "deeper" level of focus and understanding

Both PARCC and Smarter Balanced’s math assessments have been reported to require a “deeper dive” in skills and understanding than previous versions of standardized math tests. Gone are the days of testing “a mile wide and an inch deep.”

As you begin to craft and refine your own lesson plans, ensure the daily content is complex enough to help students obtain mastery and develop the deeper knowledge and skills required by the new Common Core math standards and standards of mathematical practice.

Maybe this includes increased intensity or a greater focus on analysis and critical thinking? As an educator, one suggestion may be to work with your curriculum heads to identify the complexity required and then institute instruction methods that will help students create the schema required to show their knowledge, at assessment time, of more advanced or complex math processes.

Both PARCC and Smarter Balanced have released practice materials that can help your students begin to familiarize themselves with the functionality and questions types. Check them out below:

PARCC practice materials

Smarter Balanced Practice Materials

3) Include real-world problem solving opportunties

The online Common Core math assessments contain questions that require students to apply classroom-learned mathematical skills to real-world problems. Examples include calculating the distance a car can travel on a single tank of gas or the amount of time one person spends completing tasks in comparison to another.

Hopefully, real-world application is not a foreign concept in your math instruction. However, because students will be reading and interpreting these prompts and activities via an electronic display, the value of taking in information via a computer and/or tablet and interpolating the needed information is paramount.

This may present a need for the shift towards word-based problems, problem-based activities, and group discussion of how to understand and solve real-world math problems within math lesson plans. Focus on helping students develop the ability to identify the key figures, values, etc. and the skills to create the needed equations and math schema.

4) Scaffold multi-step math processes in-class and in practice

Many of the prompts and questions found on the new CCSS assessments require students to conduct more than one calculation within a single interaction.

Because quite a few of the current state standardized tests do not account for this connection of math skills, these type of prompts and questions may be foreign to your students. Taking this a step further, the process of keeping track of the multi-step processes on paper, and then entering the response on the computer or tablet will almost certainly be a new concept.

Attempt to model the process, step-by-step with the students, via your planned activities. Much like the actual series of math skills, piecemeal the multi-step interactions in digestible blocks that lead toward the overall goal. build from the work done on paper or calculators and concluding with students entering the responses on the screen. Doing so will help you students break down the daunting task and increase their confidence in what they know.

Share your online assessment experiences!

Many of you have already started implementing online assessment techniques or maybe are on the verge of doing so. What tips can you give fellow teachers who are beginning to prepare their students for the new tests? What impediments from technology, class time, etc., have you experienced so far? 

Join the conversation on our Facebook page or reach out to us via Twitter -- @Wowzers!


Click here to download the free Wowzers PARCC eBook

Topics: Common Core Assessments

Wowzers is a comprehensive online math program covering all Common Core State Standards for grades K-8. The research-based program adapts to each learner and allows for an individualized path through the curriculum. Content is presented in multiple ways, and appeals to tactile, auditory, and visual learners. Assessments mirror those found on high-stakes achievement tests and provide teachers and administrators with the information that they need to personalize learning for each student.

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