The Dos and Don'ts of Test Prep

How can we make test prep engaging and valuable? Here are a list of dos and don't to help guide you as you plan your class test prep!

In my last post, which you can read HERE, I talked a lot about why I believe that test prep is necessary. It can help to increase student confidence and relieve some of their test taking anxiety. However, only quality test prep will help! If you are not using test prep time to review important skills and strategies while building your students up- you are wasting valuable time. 

I have compiled some test prep dos and don't to help guide you as you plan for your class test prep. 

Test Prep Dos

1. DO plan fun review activities.

Test prep should NOT be boring! Test days are boring enough. Let's keep the days leading up to testing engaging. Get kids out of their seats. Play games and rotate through centers. Creating a fun test prep environment will help to alleviate some student test taking pressure and decrease the negative connotations associated with testing.

You can read more about this FREE vocabulary game by clicking HERE.

You can read about how I used games and crafts to encourage my students to work extra hard on test prep activities by clicking HERE.

You can read about some ways to use task cards for test prep by clicking HERE.

2. DO teach test taking tips and strategies.

It is a good idea to teach (or review) test taking strategies. Talk about marking up the text, reading all of the directions and eliminating obvious wrong answers. It is a good idea to remind students that skipping a question will automatically make the question wrong. As a last resort, it is best to give an educated guess than to leave a question blank. I also talk to my students about the importance of rest and healthy food choices. We read books about perseverance. (My favorite is Thank You, Mr. Falker.)

These test strategy posters, along with other fun test prep activities, can be found in THIS test prep resource.

3. DO teach students to properly bubble answers. 

If students have not had much experience with bubble tests, make sure you practice. It might sound silly, but it's important! Show them how to darkly color in the bubble without ripping the paper. Also, practice erasing if they change their mind about the answer.

Bubble sheet practice can be boring! Bring in some bubble gum as a fun reward for afterwards! 

4. DO tell students you believe in them.

During test prep, tell your students how proud you are of them! Remind them that it is okay if they don't know the answer to every question (no one gets a 100%!), as long as they did their very best. You might be the only person that believes in them, so make sure they know! 

5. DO plan a post testing celebration.

Testing is tough so I like to plan a celebration. It's a chance to have some fun with my kiddos! Since I have a game day theme for test prep, we have a baseball themed party. You can read more about it HERE.

Test Prep Don'ts

1. DON'T expect test prep to replace great instruction all year.

You can plan the most engaging test prep activities, but if you haven't been differentiating instruction and creating hands-on learning experiences all year- test prep won't fix the gaps. Test prep should be a review. If they never learned it, they probably won't learn it the day before the test either.

2. DON'T cram two months of curriculum into two weeks of test prep.

Testing rarely occurs at the very end of the school year. With this being said, we are very rarely done teaching all of the curriculum. That is okay! Hopefully your curriculum map has the skills that make up the least percentage of the test questions scheduled for the end of the year. Perhaps you have been able to teach a few extra skills to your enrich math group. Still, there may be questions that students are not prepared to answer. Warn them, but don't cram the skills down their throats. If you try to teach everything that is left during the week or two before the test, they won't learn it well and will be totally stressed. That's not helpful!

3. DON"T give more classwork and homework.

Increasing the work load due to the upcoming test will only make students and parents grumpy. You may want to change your homework and make it more spiral or more differentiated. But if they are struggling with multi-step word problems, giving them 20 of them for homework will not make them better problem solvers! 

4. DON'T make test prep a series of worksheets.

Worksheets are not engaging. In fact, typically, they are just plain boring. The test will be boring enough. There is no reason test prep can't be more fun. Incorporate games, centers, task card scoots and project-based learning into your test prep. Students remember more when they are engaged and moving anyway!

5. DON'T disrupt classroom procedures and routines.

If you change everything about your classroom procedures during test prep, you are going to have confused students and an increase in discipline issues. Do your best to keep the procedures and routines relatively in tact. For example, I continue using math centers and guided math groups. The only thing that is different is that we are reviewing skills rather than learning a new skill. I only completely disrupt our schedule for one day to do our Work Hard, Play Hard centers. Keeping rules and routines gives my students some semblance of normalcy. 

6. DON'T tell them how much you hate testing.

You can hate testing, but you can't tell anyone but your spouse and your closest coworker. Don't tell the students and don't tell the parents. Whining about the test will just decrease motivation and effort. It creates a negative atmosphere and there is no benefit in that. 

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