5 Fun & Effective Test Prep Tips

by Patti Clark | Lakeshore VP of Research & Development

It’s that time of year again—when state testing begins in classrooms across the country. Standardized testing has become a reality in today’s classrooms, and it’s important to help students perform to the best of their ability—but that doesn’t have to mean “teaching to the test,” pounding students with endless drills or trying to squeeze one more thing into an ever-busy school day. Here are some tips for making test prep quick, effective, meaningful—and even fun for kids!

1. Charge Kids Up with a Daily “Brainiac” Question

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Make a “Daily Brainiac” area on a bulletin board or whiteboard. Display a daily math question for students to solve and explain—either in a math journal or on a piece of paper.  Give students a few minutes to work out the problem, and then discuss the answer and students’ strategies for solving the problem.  After the class discussion, recognize a student who was able to explain their reasoning as the “Super Brainiac” of the day. This is a great activity to do in the weeks before testing begins, but you can start as early as the first week of school—giving students the quick, daily practice they need to ace these problems on test day.

2. Race to the Finish—with Weekly Comprehension Sprints

To show reading comprehension, most standardized tests now ask students to back up their answers with examples from a text. Learning to find text evidence is a great comprehension strategy—even when students are answering basic multiple-choice questions. To help kids practice, set up a weekly “comprehension sprint.” Divide students into teams. Have students read a text passage and then place copies of the passage—along with several comprehension questions—on a wall or bulletin board. (You’ll need one copy of the passage and questions for each team.) Give each team member a different color highlighter. On the count of three, one student from each team races to their team’s copy of the passage. The team member answers one question—highlighting the text evidence in the passage—and then races back so the next team member can run to answer a question. Continue play until all questions are answered. Then come together as a class to discuss the answers and the evidence that was selected.

3. Get Kids Excited with a Math Quiz Game Show

This is a fun way to get the whole class involved in problem solving—and discuss different math strategies. Give each student a write & wipe answer board or lapboard and a write & wipe marker. Write a “test prep” problem on the board and ask students to solve it on their individual boards. When they’ve solved it, ask students to hold up their boards.  Discuss the answer and compare students’ methods of reasoning in solving the problem. For extra motivation, award points for correct answers and ask students to add up their own scores. Award extra points to students who can explain their answers.

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4. Use Anchor Charts to Give Strategies for Answering Test Questions

Anchor charts that you display in class can help reinforce test-taking strategies students will use on test day. Teach students specific strategies for solving each type of question they may see on a test. Then make an anchor chart for each one, such as Strategies for Multiple-Choice Questions, Strategies for Extended Response Questions, Strategies for Word Problems, and so on. Display the anchor charts around the room and refer back to them often as students engage in classwork. You may have to take the charts down during actual testing, but if you use them throughout the year, your students will know them inside and out.

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For additional reinforcement, use math & language test prep activities that provide extra practice with test-taking skills. Remind students to reference the anchor charts as they work through the questions. Then use the answer keys to help students analyze their responses.

5. Regularly Use Computers or Tablets for Classwork

Many of today’s standardized tests are being given online. Students will need to answer language arts questions by typing out extended responses, and they will need to type explanations of their reasoning when solving math problems. Be sure to give students plenty of digital/keyboard experience by having them type responses to classroom questions on their tablets, computers or Chromebooks. Also, it is important that they practice responding directly to questions, rather than writing their answers on paper first and then typing them. This way, they will be fully prepared for an all-digital test-taking experience.