Top 5 Ways to Prepare Students for Standardized Tests
From reading a relaxing book before each test to daily quizzes (with candy prizes), see what works for other teachers.
- Grades: 1–2, 3–5, 6–8, 9–12
Sweet Treat Review
In Virginia, our standardized tests cover not only basic skills but also specific content area topics. Thus it's critical to review that information regularly, so kids will still remember the moon phases they studied in October when they take the test on it in June!
My daily "Sweet Treat Reviews" in each subject help make those cumulative review sessions quick and highly motivating. I start each subject with three questions that I have written out on the overhead. The first question is always something that we learned several weeks or months ago, the second question is on something within the past month, and the third question is on a recent lesson (which often leads right into that day's lesson). In math, at least one of the questions is always a word problem. Students write their answers to these questions on small pieces of scratch paper, write their names on their papers, and then put them into our "Sweet Treat" bucket. My students have been trained to go back and look in their notes for help if they get stuck on a question, and this has really encouraged them to keep their old notes organized and legible!
After we go over the answers to these questions, I select three correct answers out of the bucket, and reward those three kids with a piece of candy.
This method has several advantages:
1. It's quick! It takes less than 10 minutes from start to finish.
2. It is highly motivating. My kids LOVE to compete for the candy.
3. It's cheap. I recycle by using cut up scratch paper for it, and I get parents to donate the candy.
4. It gives me quick, valuable feedback. I can quickly see what topics kids are struggling with as I dig through the bucket looking for right answers.
5. It makes transition times quick and quiet. While kids work on these questions at the start of a new subject, I can be collecting materials from the previous one and setting up what I need for the upcoming lesson.
Often I'll make up the questions for the day in the morning, based on what my class has struggled with on previous reviews. I also make transparencies of old tests, then cut apart the questions and put them in envelopes. Then I can just grab a question from three of the envelopes, put them on the overhead, and I'm ready to go!
–Submitted by Julia Davis (Cold Harbor Elementary School, VA)
Game Show Warm-Up
For math tests my first graders love using white boards to answer test prep questions. I create a list of questions that can be answered by either drawing a picture or writing a numerical answer. My children are seated in groups of four so they are already in teams. In order for a team to score a point, all members must have the correct answer showing on their board. I give the question using the overhead as a visual tool for the children and then look for the first team with their boards held up showing the correct answer. That team gets a point and the team with the most points at the end of the review gets a prize (free reading time at the end of the day).
The children love this activity and it really builds their cooperative and listening skills while effectively preparing them for their tests!!
–Submitted by Lauren Crisp (Belle Morris Elementary School, TN)
I tell the kids all year that every test is a chance to "show off" what they know. I will often tell them that they must write neatly and explain everything for the people who will be grading their tests. Since Ohio History is the social studies curriculum, I have them pretend that the governor is going to look at their scores since he cannot visit our classroom. When we check our practice standardized tests they write $100 by every correct answer using colored pencil, so there is no cheating or changing answers. Then they get $50 bonuses if they show extra work, circle clue words, draw pictures, etc. to show that they have thoroughly read each question. The pretend money is a HUGE motivator. I like to make the students feel "extra smart" on all tests, so I make every test very important so that the standardized tests are not so threatening to them.
–Submitted by Linda Wolf (New Knoxville School District, OH)
A Book to Relax By
When I was teaching third and fifth grades, we took a lot of standardized tests. Before we would take a standardized test, I always read the book First Grade Takes a Test by Miriam Cohen and Ronald Himler. Although it is about first graders, the message works for any age. It lets the children know that although the test scores get a lot of emphasis, those scores don't reflect the type of person they are. I think it puts their little minds at ease prior to the test!
–Submitted by Karen Kuntzman (Memorial Elementary School, IL)
3 Steps to Less Stress
I prepare my students on test day by doing lots of pre-test stretching and showing them ways to stay relaxed during the test by doing various seated stretches. Many of the ideas about seated stretching I found in an airplane brochure that showed passengers how to remain comfortable despite sitting for an extended period of time.
I also hand out peppermint candies and remind the kids that science has proven that sucking on peppermint not only soothes a nervous tummy but also stimulates thinking!
Lastly, I give them a balloon to keep in their pocket (they know if I see it during the test, I take it) that they can feel during the test to know the celebration of their hard work on the test isn't too far away.
–Submitted by Michele Meyer (St. Joseph School, OH)