If you teach at a public school, there is one thing for sure: state standardized tests. Despite how you might feel about standardized tests, our public schools rely on test scores as part of their rankings. As a high school English teacher in California, I administer the state test to my juniors yearly. Adding to the pressure students feel during their junior year, it is the only year they take our state test -the CAASPP (which is California’s version of the SBAC). While some of my test prep is more direct, I try to make other test prep in my classroom engaging.
Here are some of my favorite activities and lessons for test prep!
When students take state tests, they’ll encounter reading passages and various questions that assess their learning and understanding. This escape room provides students with an opportunity for collaborative, hands-on practice with common state test questions stems. Plus, since it is an escape room activity, students enjoy working together to win the challenge.
One of the most-assessed writing skills that accompany the state standardized performance tasks is the ability to synthesize information from a variety of sources. My synthesis writing unit includes multiple writing prompts, links to different sources, brainstorming organizers for argument writing, and an argument writing assignment. The more students practice synthesis outside of the state test, the more prepared they will be.
For the revision portion of the test, my students need to know parallel structure. Sometimes, content like parallel structure requires tried and true direct instruction and practice. This teaching unit includes a PDF with student materials and an editable PowerPoint presentation to review the material with your students.
The colon and the semicolon are some of the most confusing punctuation. Even adults who’ve graduated from college struggle with the colon and semicolon. However, they are on the state tests. Students need to know when and how to use each of these punctuation marks. My teaching unit reviews the basics of each and includes a PDF with student materials and an editable PowerPoint presentation to review the content with your students.
Knowing the parts of speech is one of the fundamental skills students need to know to be able to grasp more complicated grammatical structures. These parts of speech task cards will help your students review their parts of speech and gear up for state standardized tests without having it feel like test prep.
Once again, I am recommending an escape room to help you prepare your students for state standardized tests. On the SBAC, there is a listening component, and students historically perform the lowest in this section. My listening skills escape room combines the fun and engaging elements of an escape room activity with the rigorous questions, and tasks students will encounter on the listening portion of the test.
One of the essential skills for students to learn and master when it comes to academic writing is how to embed quotes properly. This skill is one of my go-to resources multiple times throughout the school year. This mini-unit includes a PDF with student materials and an editable PowerPoint presentation that shows students the various ways to incorporate quotations in their writing.
It doesn’t matter how much test prep you do in your classroom if you don’t teach and review essential vocabulary terms. This academic vocabulary teaching resource includes several weeks’ worth of CCSS high-frequency vocabulary words, instruction, activities, and assessments.
State testing is not my favorite thing to do because I know the stress that it can put on students. One way I like to encourage and reward my students for all of their hard work and effort they put in is to greet them each day of testing season with a small little treat and an inspirational message. My favorite candy message is the jolly ranger one!
A final resource that I like to incorporate into my classroom around testing season is my Growth Mindset Activities for Secondary Students resource. I genuinely feel that with so much emphasis placed on state tests, students also need to examine their goals, strengths, accomplishments, and successes. This resource helps students regain focus on things that truly matter to them. It is perfect for just before or just after the test.