Diary of a Not So Wimpy Teacher: March 2018

Reading Test Prep Tips

Taking standardized tests can be scary for elementary students. With so much emphasis on testing in schools, it’s not surprising that even young students worry about test performance. Fortunately, teachers can help students (and themselves) lessen test taking anxiety with these simple reading test taking tips.

Don't call it a test.

Terms like “learning snapshots” or “show what you know” are far less terrifying than tests or assessments.

In my classroom, I called the test days- Game Days.

I liked to tell my students that all the assignments (formative assessments) we do in class are practice. They’re working on their skills to prepare for the final performance or game.

Getting their heads in the game can be easy by putting up positive signs and having countdowns to “game day”. Write your students some fan mail and encourage their parents and other teachers to do the same. They will love being superstars on the field for their big day!

You can read more about my game day testing theme by clicking HERE.

Practice reading the directions.

Remind your students that there are different types of questions on the test. This is especially true of the ELA tests.

Carefully reading the directions for each section is imperative to make sure answers are marked correctly. With more and more tests being taken digitally, there are test items that require multiple answers, highlights, and manipulation of text. 

Give your students a chance to see these types of items and clarify directions on practice tests. Check your state's testing website for examples to show your students.

Teach how to eliminate obvious incorrect answers.

Talk to your students about answer choices that are most likely incorrect. Answers that give choices like always and never usually indicate incorrect answers. Any responses that are counter to what the student knows can be crossed out to help narrow down options.

Show students how you want them to eliminate these answers without getting pencil marks in the answer bubbles!

You can do a Google search for bubble test paper. Print and actually let students practice bubbling.

Review context clues and vocabulary skills.

Reading passages often feature vocabulary words in context. Practice learning how to find the meaning of words by looking at synonym, antonym, definition, example, and inference context clues in narrative and informational texts. Prefixes, suffixes and roots are also great tools.

I found that my students greatly improved on this skill after I implemented my tier 2 vocabulary program! They were so used to being word detectives.

This is not only a great test taking skill but something your students can use across the curriculum as they read and unpack different pieces of writing.

Incorporate review centers and games.

Passages are a necessary evil when preparing for an ELA exam. Students need to practice with longer text. I do my best to make these passages fun with my Work Hard, Play Hard review day. Students are rewarded for completing the passage and questions with a fun activity such as art or a game. My students were sad when our time was up. They literally begged for more!

Engaging Reading Test Prep CentersI love to use THESE reading centers. The cards make them a little more fun than straight up passages. Plus, they cover so many skills that my kiddos needed to review.

My students love to be the teachers. I will split them into groups and give each group a topic (main idea, character traits, context clues, etc). The group will make posters/anchor charts and then give the class a short lesson. You remember more of what you teach!

I add some serious test prep fun with THESE free vocabulary games! Make sure to include words that students are likely to see on their test such as: examine, compare, contrast, support, etc.

FREE vocabulary games

I hope that these tips give you some ideas for making ELA test prep meaningful and fun. Most importantly, don’t stress yourself or your kids out before game day. 

In fact, if you have been practicing since the fall, they’ll be ready to go and so will you! Believe in them!

Math Test Prep Tips

Test taking season is here. <Insert groan and eye roll.> 

I know that testing is not fun. Test prep does not have to be stressful for you and your students. Check out these simple tips for preparing for math testing.

Use math centers to teach skills all year

Coming up with engaging math lessons for both new concepts and to review can be exhausting and time consuming. But, I've got you covered!

 Try THESE math centers. They have the same set-up with all your math concepts for the year. 

Students love the fun activities and I love that they are consistent so that I don't have to waste time teaching students HOW to complete the activities.

I even have sets specifically for test prep!

Click HERE for 3rd grade test prep centers. 

Click HERE for 4th grade test prep centers. 
Click HERE for 5th grade test prep centers. 

 Since the centers are fun and engaging, they take the groans out of test prep.

Use reference materials that mirror the test.

Most state or national standardized tests have reference cards or materials (formula sheets or rulers) that may be printed offline for practice.

Even if the actual testing materials are digital, it’s important to let your students know what the reference guides will look like and what they can use on the day of the test. Head to your state's testing site to see what they have available!

Review using technology.

Do you have any devices in your classroom?

Getting ready for testing can be fun by using online, interactive competition games like Kahoot or personalized learning websites like Moby Max or Zearn.

Check out THIS post to see other fun ways I’ve used technology to review math in the classroom.

Review with hands-on activities.

I have said it before, and I will say it again: I hate worksheets. I really do. They are so boring!

Students will engage and remember more of your review if they are moving, playing and creating.

My students love to practice their math facts (crucial for the math test!) using THESE free games. The fidget spinner is a fan favorite for sure!

Another fun way to get your kiddos practicing tough skills is with interactive notebooks. I use them in small and whole group all year. During test prep, I choose skills that students are still struggling with and give them additional activities for their notebook. I also like to take any of the activities that I prepped, but we didn't have time for, and put them in their centers.

Keep it meaningful- but hands-on and your kids will learn so much more!

Don't rush the curriculum.

Your math curriculum was written to take the entire school year. Testing is not on the last day of school. The reality is that you will not get to everything before the test, but your students will be tested on everything.

Don't get scared and start teaching three lessons per day! You will lose your students. You might cover everything before the test, but your students won't learn everything before the test.

Instead, look at your pacing guide and make sure that you cover the biggest testable units prior to testing. In third grade that would be multiplication, division and fractions. Put the units that don't have as many questions on the test at the end of the year. For third grade, that would be geometry. Check your state's testing website. They might even have a guide as to the percentage of questions from each domain.

If you use math groups, you can teach some mini lessons for those skills that you won't get to teach before the test. You could do this with groups that are higher and don't need as much small group time to review the current skill you are teaching.

This means that the lower groups might not even get introduced to a skill before the test. That's ok. I would rather spend tons of time helping them to master multiplication and do well on that portion of the test than to quickly teach everything and have them do poorly in all areas.

Foster a growth mindset.

When it comes to math, the phrase “I can’t” gets tossed around a lot. Adults and children alike can have a mentality that they are not good a math or not a math person. Use positive language and tell your kids that struggle with math concepts, to ask questions and approach problems differently. Instead of saying, “I can’t”, try saying, “I’m getting better with practice.” Positive language makes all the difference when promoting growth in any subject, especially math.

When it’s time to take the big math tests this year, your students will be prepared with these math test taking tips.

Focusing on big concepts and having fun all year will help your students have the confidence they need to continue to show progress and pass their tests.

Have a Not So Wimpy day!