Last week, our focus was on studying. Study tips, good habits, the importance of proactivity, etc. This week, we zero in on those mandated tests looming ever-nearer, TCAP season—the albatross around the neck of all students with dyslexia.
If you have an IEP/504, your child should be in a small group or have the test read to them. This will depend on what your IEP states or what your 504 requires. Math exams may allow the use of a calculator in some areas. Make sure you know ahead of time how your school will be presenting the test for your child and what will be allowed; this way you can prepare your student each day, building them up so they don’t get overwhelmed and showing how proud you are of their efforts this year.
Your student’s classroom teacher has probably been working on test taking strategies for your child recently—hopefully! But here are some tips and knowledge nuggets for you as well. Firstly, brushing up on the most basic information about the test is a good idea. If you or your child is about to take a series of lengthy exams, you should find out why and for what purpose these tests are administered and recorded. You can find such information, practice tests, and any updates from the Department of Education here.
In terms of testing tips, let’s take a moment to review some quick and easy steps to get pumped and make the most of a long day of testing. These are suggestions for your students for both TCAP exams and everyday tests.
1) Eat a good breakfast! That’s an easy one. Don’t walk out of the house without a full tummy to keep your energy up.
2) Move around a bit before the test to get your blood pumping. Do some jumping jacks, run around the house, shoot basketball, jump rope, and think big thoughts! Getting the blood flowing to your brain and thinking positive thoughts will help you build confidence to fight off the sense of being overwhelmed each day! And if this were done every morning, class would consistently start better.
3) Always read directions. Take a minute to ask yourself, “What am I supposed to do in this section?” The worst feeling is finding out after a test that you got the directions completely wrong because you didn’t take the time to understand them. Even if the teacher reads them to you, read them again yourself.
4) If you are NOT getting extended time for your test, read carefully: Don't spend too much time on questions you don't know. This is very important in TCAP testing, because time constraints have never been the friends of students with dyslexia. Instead of getting caught on a question you don’t know or can’t understand, consider your two options: 1. skip it and come back, or 2. pick a letter and guess. If you skip and come back to the difficult question at the end, make sure you pay close attention to the letters on the scantron. Say to yourself “2-B” when you go to answer so that you mark it correctly. If you are taking the exam by computer or iPad and you have no idea, it is always better to guess.
Now, grammar has always been and will always be a big part of TCAP. (Tip: the tests often like to focus on the rules of commas, colons, and semicolons, so be sure to brush up!) English Grammar Pass is a fantastic resource where you can find all kinds of grammar and vocabulary exercises organized by grade. Or if you prefer to learn from others’ mistakes, the site offers many quizzes to focus on improving your knowledge of common errors in English.
Another spectacular TCAP practice resource (for older students) comes from the website called Test Prep Review. Exploring the site, you will find a list of "self-assessment modules" that quiz you on any areas you might need practice with. Once you have taken a quiz, you can click on the "Self Improvement Directory" that will connect you to a list of the same subject areas with a link to a specific resource beside each. These might include charts of grammar rules, mathematic formulae, or illustrations of scientific processes. Whatever you need, Test Prep Review has got it!
There are a lot of long passages to read in TCAP exams, no doubt about it. But don't let them scare you. Take a deep breath and tell yourself, “I AM DOING THE BEST I CAN!”
When approaching a long passage, first look over the questions and then read the passage. As you read, mark in the text any answers or information that you remember from the questions. This will make answering the questions easier. And if you are taking the test on a computer or iPad, you may have the ability to highlight the information.
Also, in the face of a long passage, try to remember to RELAX and UNWRAP your reading: (This is great for everyday tests too!)
R ead the question carefully
E xamine every answer choice before you choose
L abel your answer in the passage
A lways check your work
X –out silly answers that cannot possibly be correct (50/50)
U nderline the title
N umber the paragraphs
W alk through the questions and answers
R ead the passage
A nswer the questions and mark out wrong answers
P rove your answers by underlining the evidence in the paragraph
If you follow these tips and brush up on what you need to know, you’ll find that when TCAP rolls around, you have some good strategies to help you succeed. Good luck! And remember… TCAPS DO NOT IDENTIFY HOW GREAT YOU ARE!
Tennessee Dyslexia Centers is here for you and can help your struggling reader. We are equipped to work with all ages and have the ability to increase your child's reading skills drastically. Contact our office for a free consultation today! 615-236-6483 | email@example.com