The end of the year and test prep time can make any teacher’s head spin! Luckily, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to ELA test prep. I am going to share my tried and true test prep tips for helping your students have a successful end of year.
Tip #1: Check your standards and make a plan.
When state testing is looming, it’s easy to get lost in the stress and last minute cramming. To make meaningful use of the time, it’s best to have a plan. Grab a list of your ELA standards and do some thoughtful perusing. What standards are students still struggling with? Which standards haven’t been reviewed in a while? Make a list of your top skills and standards you feel need to be reviewed.
Here are a few skills that always come to my mind during test prep. For fiction, I am often focused on main idea, characters, sequencing, point of view, cause and effect, compare and contrast, fact and opinion, and story elements. In fact, I wrote a blog about how I review these key fiction skills with students. For nonfiction, I like to review author’s purpose, text features, text structure, summarization, and main idea. I also have a blog post about how I review these nonfiction skills in my classroom.
Next, get out your planner. Find the date of the exam, and begin to work backward. Map out your standards and skills. Essentially, give yourself an outline for the skills you will focus on each day until the exam. This will make planning easier and keep you on track.
Tip #2: Review all genres and use paired passages.
Before your state exam and end of the school year, you want to make sure you have reviewed all the different genres with students. This can feel intimidating though. How do you get through all of the skills and genres they need to review? The solution is paired passages.
Paired passages allow you to give time to every genre, explore several skills, and challenge your students' deeper thinking. It also allows you to cover a wider range of skills and standards in a shorter period of time. I definitely suggest mixing and matching genres, for example comparing a poem to a fiction passage.
I have a paired passage resource with two sets of passages to get you started. It also includes several pages of deep thinking questions that ask students to analyze, apply, evaluate, and create based on what they read. These paired passages will help your students flex several ELA skills at one time!
Tip #3: Make reviews engaging.
Just as you feel the pressure of test prep season, so do your students. Lighten the mood and keep students engaged through review games and interactive activities. An easy way to do this is through online games such as Kahoot! and Quizizz. The best part is that many of the quizzes are pre-made, so you don’t have to do a lot of prep.
There are also a ton of games you can use with a reading passage. These work best if the passage also has multiple choice questions. This adds a little extra fun to a typical passage. Here are a few of my favorite games:
- Four Corners – Label each corner with A-D. Students will stand in the corner that correlates to their answer. Then, have students turn and talk to someone else in their corner about why they chose that answer.
- Jeopardy – This is a classic! Put all of the passage questions onto a jeopardy board (you can find free templates online). Have students play in teams.
- Mega Millions – Have students answer the questions on their own. Then, they will craft their “winning number”. This is a list of their answers (ex. D D A B A D D). Then, the teacher will call out the winning Mega Million combo, which is the list of the correct answers. The students who have this winning combo can win a small prize, like a token or piece of candy.
As you get closer to the day of the exam, you’ll likely want to do a more comprehensive review. This allows your students' brains to see all the key information a couple more times before the exam. Personally, I like to use an ELA sort to review key concepts. With this reading skill review game, the students have to find the definition for the reading skill AND match the key word/examples to the reading skill. It's a fun, quick way to review all of these different ideas with students!
Tip #4: Don’t forget about test taking strategies.
In the panic to teach all the things before the exam, you might miss some of the most important skills: test taking strategies. The great news is that you don’t have to spend a lot of time going over these skills, but you need to practice them before testing day.
Here are a few of the ELA test taking strategies I teach my elementary students:
- Read the questions first, then read the passage. This will help you know what to look for in the passage.
- Identify the genre of the passage before you begin reading.
- As you read, underline key information. This information can be used to answer questions or help you recall details from the passage.
- When answering a multiple choice question, cross out the options you know are incorrect
- If you feel yourself getting tired, it’s okay to take a break. Stop for a drink of water or go to the bathroom.
More Test Prep Tips
I know how stressful that end of the year rush and test preparation season can be! Hang in there. I have a couple other blogs that address test prep, if you want more ideas and activities to make this stressful time more fun! This blog has ideas for additional games, projects, and activities for test prep season and this blog is full of anchor charts, motivators, and activities for test preparation.