You may already be familiar with my feelings about state mandated testing. If not, you should probably read this post. It is one of my most passionate (and popular) blog posts, all about the impact of state testing from a classroom teacher's point of view.
I am still hopeful that these tests will eventually go away so that we teachers can go back to teaching, and kids can go back to being kids. Despite my intense dislike for these tests, it is still my job to prepare students for the inevitable. I focus my efforts on giving my students strategies that will make them feel confident when taking the test.
"Slash the Trash" is by far my favorite test-taking strategy to teach kids. I have actually seen dramatic improvements in test scores after explicit instruction in the use of this strategy. Today I am going to share with you how I introduce this strategy in my classroom. Then I am going to share a FREEBIE that you can use with your own students!
Here's how it works! "Slash the Trash" is basically the process of elimination with a makeover. Students are taught to get rid of the answers that don't make sense or are unreasonable. In doing so, they are usually able to narrow a multiple choice question down to two choices. Then, they think carefully about the final two selections to determine which one makes the most sense.
During my introduction lesson, I gather my students in a big circle on the floor. I place my small "dollar store" trash can in the center of the circle. We have a candid conversation about how most multiple choice questions have a couple of answer choices that are just plain silly. Then, I demonstrate with some multiple choice questions about myself. Here is an example.
In this question, my students are asked to make an educated guess about how I spent my weekend. Choice A is unreasonable since a weekend would not be enough time for me to take a trip to Australia. I would ask a volunteer to crumble this paper up and throw it in the trash. Choice D is also trash. It is unrealistic that I won a marathon because, well, let's just say that I am not very athletic. :-) Again, I would have a volunteer toss it in the trash can. Then, we would be down to the final two choices. Choice B is a possibility, but my students would probably have a hard time imagining me at a rock concert. We would set that one aside and think about it some more. Choice C makes the most sense because my students know that I have a camper. They have heard me tell stories about going camping in the past. They know that I like to spend time with my family. We would then crumble up Choice B and put it in the trash. Finally, we would be left with the best answer!
I go through this process with a few more questions about myself. Then I make the transition into reading comprehension materials. Here is an item sampler from the PSSA test in Pennsylvania. We would immediately "slash" the two "trashy" answer choices. Then, we would discuss the final two options and decide which one is the best fit for the question.
The little trash can is the perfect hook for this strategy. Plus, kids love to crumble paper! When I introduce the "Slash the Trash" strategy this way, my students really seem to remember and use the strategy on their own when taking any type of multiple choice test. They definitely begin to analyze the answer choices more carefully.
If you would like a copy of the label I put on my trash can, plus some editable question and answer cards to use with your students, click here. You can change the questions and personalize the answers if you download the file and then open it in PowerPoint.
Also, you may be interested in my Testing Strategy Flip Book, which is a very simple tool for teaching six common test-taking strategies. I use it every year during the week before the big test in order to give my students the confidence they need to succeed. "Slash the Trash" is one of the testing strategies featured in this flip book.