It’s the not-so-favorite time of year – state testing. And while students may agonize and teachers may groan at the thought of another year of standardized testing in the midst of whatever this new normal is, it’s up to us to prepare our students the best we can. Here are six ideas to help you prep for the test prep season.
1. Get organized
This applies to you as well as your students. Think about your game plan. What are you going to accomplish? “Prep for state testing” is too broad a statement. Think about specific tasks, specific knowledge your students need. Think about how you’ll organize your students and how much time you will need. Don’t add more stress to the situation by going in at the last minute with packets you found on the internet but didn’t have time to vet. Be methodical in what you plan. If you’ve waited until the final hour, focus on one or two main test prep areas: writing with evidence or focusing on listening skills.
2. Try something fun
Students don’t need endless packets of review work and they certainly don’t need to do tests before they test. I rarely have had students who didn’t like games, so I try to work in some fun activities for the students. Try fan favorites like Jeopardy and trashketball. Prep some Jenga games with literacy questions or vocabulary. Play 4-corners to get students up and moving while still assessing areas to study. However, my absolute favorite way to prep students for state tests is through escape room activities. I love using Escape Rooms to review and have three options in my store. You can find Escape Room activities for non-fiction, vocabulary, and listening skills.
3. Target practice
It’s a bit more prep on your part, but try targeted practice rather than having the whole class participate in the same activity. Think about the “weak areas” of each student. Students can then be put into groups based on skill level and work collaboratively, or they can be given individualized tasks to hone their skills. If you use any type of test-prep service at your school, you should easily have access to not only individual data for your students, but also be able to assign practice at their level for review. From what I’ve seen through years of analyzing student data is that one weak area is listening skills. Focusing solely on improving students’ listening skills is a great way to target student test prep.
Help students strategize for test day. I’ve had so many students with testing anxiety, and I give them every tip I find. In one of my placements, the school counselors led up reviewing testing strategies. It was a great way to show there was a collaborative effort in seeing students succeed. Even if that’s not an option for you, putting together helpful tips and tricks for students can make a huge difference.
5. Keep it positive
Unless you have specific testing areas, you’ll have to take down your subject-related posters. Why not replace the space with positivity? Use posters that you’ve bought or make it a fun project for students to work on leading up to testing. Work together as a school or grade to fill your room or the hallways with affirmations for students. I think this is an important part of preparing emotionally and helping to remind students that they are not “the test”. I also like these motivational candy message tags on the day of the test.
Plan activities for students to do post-testing that don’t include more academia. Some might say that’s “wasting class time” when we veer from our subject matter. But being a diehard for your lesson plans isn’t what students need. Find something fun and interesting to learn about, discuss how the test went, what questions they have, let them vent, create a fun project to work on, or simply let them veg with a film (there are plenty of school-worthy options out there). Another great way to decompress is to show a Pixar short film and have students discuss the literary elements. It won’t even feel like classwork to them.
If you’re looking for more prep tips, I have another post with five more tips that you can find here. I also have tons of test-prep related resources in my store. Some of my favorites include independent and dependent clauses, commas, colons and semicolons, parallel structure, and this academic vocabulary bundle.
Don’t let this test season stress you or your students out.