About the Authors

Carrie Lobman and Matthew Lundquist are the Authors of Unscripted Learning: Using Improv Activities Across the K-8 Curriculum.

Carrie Lobman, EdD is Assistant Professor of Education at The Graduate School of Education, Rutgers University. She is the director of the Developing Teachers Fellowship Program at the East Side Institute. Send an email to Carrie

Saturday, May 26, 2007

A Playful Antidote to Standardized Test Stress

In the past few years the release of New York City's standardized test scores has become a spring ritual for anyone with connections to children, teachers, schools, or politics (pretty much anyone). Each year there seems to be one grade level which everyone hails as a huge success and another whose scores evoke concern. This year, according to the New York Times article by David Herzenhorn (New York Eighth Graders Show Gains in Reading), its the Eighth Grade that has made significant gains and the third and fourth grades that showed decline. Last year, if I remember correctly, the opposite was true. One of the more disturbing aspects of this constant shifting of concern and pride is that it leads to an enormous amount of stress among teachers, parents and children.

In writing Unscripted Learning one of Matthew's and my goals was to create a book that could be used by teachers who worked within the real world of high stakes testing and its ever shifting priorities. While I believe that the assumptions behind standardized tests are about as undevelopmental as you can get, I think there are opportunities to create test taking performances that have the potential to be developmental for everyone involved. The best program I've ever seen that does this is called TeamPlay for Test Stress developed by Gwen Lowenheim and Stuart Sears. This program uses improvisation and team-building to help inner-city elementary school students and staff deal more productively with test anxiety and stress. The teachers and kids work together to come up with test taking performances and while obviously each child has to take their own test, the class approaches the test as a team and works hard to help everyone succeed. Its one of the best examples of creative teaching out there.

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