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Preparing Students with Exceptionalities for Tests

Updated: Apr 13, 2022

By Shawna Audet

Each student is a unique individual, with their own strengths and weaknesses, For this reason, if we create a one size fits all test, we can expect that we are creating a assessment situation in which some students will thrive and some students will struggle. How do we create a testing situation that levels the playing field for all students? I have some ideas to share that I've used in my classes for testing which allow all of my students to show their abilities - not their disabilities.

The most common problem that I face when creating assessments is the issue of how give a written test to students who can't read. In my high school social studies classes, 60% of my students read below grade level. In every class, there are several students who suffer from reading failure. So how do I assess these students to find out if they understand what happened on the Plains of Abraham in a way that gets around their reading problems?

One of my favourite tools to help students with reading problems take a written test is to provide the test on Word 365. Word 365 has a text-to-speech tool called Immersive Reader that works very well. The students can choose the speed at which the computer voice reads and they have the choice of having the text highlighted as it is read. Having the student use Immersive Reader is preferable to having a teacher-aid read to the student because it empowers the student. (Here is a link to a video tutorial that I made to show my students how to use Word 365.)

Another way to get around the issue of testing students with reading problems, is to provide all students with different options to show their learning. Make sure that some of the options do not require them to read. For example, the students could show their learning by making a video or giving an oral presentation.

The second problem that I need to overcome when I am creating assessments is that many of my students struggle with writing. Reading and writing challenges are related so many of my students struggle with both issues. Luckily, the solution is the same in both cases: it is Word 365 to the rescue. Word 365 has a speech-to-text function. At times, the speech to text tool can have a little lag time, making it a bit difficult for some kids to use. If this is the case, I have the students use OneNote speech to text tool.

In testing situations, the third most common hurdle that I have to help my students to get over is anxiety. I help to ease my students' anxiety about an upcoming test by having them make study guides. I use their study guide questions to create the test. I also give a practice test to them prior to having them take the real test. I make sure that a large percentage of the questions are the real questions that will be on the test and assure the students that if they can pass the practice test, they can pass the real test.

One final area of need upon which I need to focus is that some of my students have difficulty putting information into their long term memories. One of my most unusual solutions to help my students to remember information was that I got a grant from Historica and put my social studies units to song. If my students learned the songs, they had all the knowledge that they needed to pass the unit test. The songs were a hit with the students and many of them used the songs as a study aide. Here is a link to one of my songs that I made to help my social studies students gain an overview of the different Prime Ministers and the major events that took place in Canadian history during each of their terms.

When it comes to assessing students, I try to keep in mind that my goal is that I want to accurately assess the knowledge that a student has about the target content. Providing my students with adaptive tools does not give some students an unfair advantage because any student in the class is welcome to use Word 365 during testing if they choose to do so. Making a written test available on Word 365 is good for all of my students but essential for some. When create assessment situations that help my students to overcome challenges such are reading and writing problems, anxiety, and poor memories I let them am creating assessments that are valid for everyone because they give all students the chance to show what they know.

Works Cited

"board-361516_960_720" created by Geralt is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Audet, S. (2021). Video Gallery. Adventures in Arcana. Retrieved February 28, 2022, from

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