During my first year of teaching, I was told by my grade level chair that the best way to prepare for a standardized test was to give A LOT of sample tests. I thought something seemed fishy (because it went against everything I learned in college) but since it was my first year teaching, I didn’t want to ruffle any features. I decided to go along for the ride and see what happened.
I remember staying hours after work one Friday in the copy room working along side my fellow teachers making 30 page packets per subject area (math, reading, and language/writing) for our students. It was grueling and didn’t leave feel me feeling excited for the next week. This should have been a pretty clear sign that I needed to do something different because if I am not excited then there is no way my students will be either.
That next Monday, we began! My poor kiddos took the first practice test without much complaint because that is how test prep had always been. While reviewing the test together, I decided that I wasn’t going to do this again. I was so bored and knew that my students felt the same way too. Now don’t get me wrong; I definitely believe that practice tests can be helpful in teaching test taking strategies and defining expectations for students. However, there is no way that three weeks of packets is a good idea.
Of course, I didn’t want to waste the packets I had created so I used them as the questions for the games and activities I created. I walked into school the next day armed with an arsenal of fun and creative games and activities. The response I got from my kiddos was amazing. Not only did they enjoy reviewing, they also scored higher than any other class at my school. I truly believe this is because the review we did was purposeful, engaging, and fun! Since this time, I have added new ideas to my suitcase of testing activities and hope they are just as helpful for you as they were for me!
Introducing easy to play board games is a great way to make test review fun and engaging. Before a student can make a move, he/she has to correct answer a question (task cards are the best). I always have both students answer each question that way they both get the practice and can help each other if needed.
WRITING THE TEST
Explain to students that they have been tasked with creating the standardized test this year. Before they begin, I always give them guidelines and a list of the Common Core standards. Here are the guidelines that I gave my kiddos this year for math:
You must remember to include…
- A separate answer page that shows all work to complete each problem.
- No more than 5 multiple choice questions or true/false
- At least ten visuals (line plots, modeling for fractions, complex figures)
- A minimum of 10 word problems.
- The test must have a minimum of 35 questions.
- At least seven questions must be asked per domain
- Operations and Algebraic Thinking
- Numbers and Operations in Base Ten
- Numbers and Operations – Fractions
- Measurement and Data
After students finished, they took each other’s tests and then met with the test writer if they found any errors. I loved how my kiddos were able to help correct any misconceptions that either the writer or tester had.
I love my Eggspert! After dividing students into groups of four and giving each a marker board, marker, and eraser, teams have to work together to correctly answer the problem posed. Before a team can push their egg (bells works great too), all members of their team must have the answer and support work on their board. I then will randomly call on one student to explain how they got the answer. This forces groups to really explaining their thinking to one another and help those who might need extra help! If the group gets the correct answer then they earn 10 points, but if they get the wrong answer then all the other groups can steal for 5 points. Of course you can play Jeopardy, Deal or No Deal, or any other game you want!
Create a chain where each link is a different question. Ask students each morning or at the beginning of the new class period to pull a link and everyone answers it as board work. This is a creative way to create a countdown to the big test!
Don’t know what to do with your son’s or daughter’s Easter eggs? Save them and use them for test review. I place one question in each egg and then hide the eggs outside for students to find. This is always a big hint.
Everything is better when you get to use sidewalk chalk.
These are just a few ideas I have used in the past to make test prep fun, engaging, and more meaningful to students. The bottom line is that test review doesn’t have to be boring or something to cringe at! Have a great testing season!