I have been in some schools where test prep starts right about now. In actuality test prep starts in September (it starts in kindergarten if you want to get technical). But the point I am making is that it's not about shoving testing terms and practice tests at students a few months before the test and assume that this is test prep. If a child is to be successful on an exam, they must be able to read fluently, apply comprehension strategies or math strategies to process information, and use critical thinking skills to make logical choice. Reinforcing these strategies and skills from the start of the school year looks like read alouds, workshop activities, opportunities to explore inquiries, completing activities that require them to apply newly learned skills to real-life scenarios, rigor in daily instruction, repetition and the drill and practice of basic skills in math, high-interest assignments and projects that encourage thoughtfulness, integration of technology, and cross curricular activities that show how these skills can transfer into other subject areas. If this is done with consistency throughout the school year, preparing them for the test can be more meaningful. I believe that you must expose students to passage reading and standardized test questions before they take the actual test. But the focus should be making sure that the students can apply those same skills that were taught in reading and math to solving the questions on the test. I do this by making sure that the students can identify the variety of skills that I've taught. For example what does a question that is asking the author's purpose look like? I provide students with a passage and multiple choice questions. We read the questions together and the students are required to tell me what type of question is being asked. This may be a question that requires them to use context clues or identify the main idea....whatever the case may be they have to identify the strategy. This strengthens their metacognitive skills as well as sets their purpose for reading. They now have an idea of what they are looking for while they read when taking the test. I also encourage them to mark up the text (read with pen in hand). Being able to do this not only sets them up for success on the test, it also teaches them how to be active readers and will ultimately set them up for success for the upper grades.
This evening I created a game that will reinforce some of the skills we have learned so far:
Strategies Bingo is a resource with terms and strategies on flash cards and a few activities that I will be completing to reinforce comprehension and test taking skills. Feel free to download these activities and share any games or activities that you do to prepare for "THE TEST".
(click HERE to download)
SUGGESTED ACTIVITIES FOR STRATEGIES BINGO
•Strategies Bingo: you can play corners, x, or t. Give a blank bingo sheet to each student (printed on front and back). Have them randomly write 9 of the strategies on each side. Have them choose a side to play with. They can switch sides or trade with a classmate at the start of each game.
•Run off 2 sets for each pair of students. Students can play Strategies Go Fish or Memory with the cards. They can also quiz each other.
•Teacher vs Student: Every strategy that is defined correctly by a student earns the students a point. Every strategy that they answer incorrectly earns the teacher a point. The teacher can establish the incentive at the start of the game.Strategies Tic Tac Toe: Post a blank bingo sheet on the board. Between activity transitions, give the first group ready the chance to read and define a strategy card. If they get it write they can write their group’s number in the box of their choice. The first group to get Tic Tac Toe can pick from the goodie bag or add a star to their behavior envelopes.
TAG it a 3!
This is another strategy that I use starting at the beginning of the year. Open-ended questions carry the most weight and are usually the largest area of weakness on the standardized test. Overall students need to know how to respond thoughtfully to an open-ended question. They need to know how to organize this response logically and provide supporting details for their answer. By using the TAG it a 3 strategy, students practice turning the prompt/question around, answer the question and provide 2-3 details to support their answer. We practice this weekly. Students are given a rubric at the top of their writing paper and they must refer to this rubric as they write. The rubric I provide is kid-friendly and is based on the Pa writing rubric (just less wordy). When teaching students how to respond to open-ended questions, I also reinforce how to look for what the prompt is asking you to do (do you have compare/contrast, sequence events, identify the theme or the main idea, etc.). Below I have posted a TAG it a 3! picture of what the chart looks like. The PDF file is in the document link posted above. Please feel free to use it and share your thoughts and suggestions for other activities that are great for teaching test-taking strategies.