Getting Ready for High Stakes Testing

By Eric Antuna on January 28, 2010

It may be just the end of January, but there's that yearly test just lurking around the corner: the State test. As my principal put it, we have 10 weeks before testing (as we are on a single-track year-round schedule). Test prep can be a long arduous process and many students may find it hard to maintain focus. Here are a few ideas to help with that process.


Test preparation can be a hard thing to tackle for some students, but here are a few strategies to help you get going for the upcoming testing season! (Sounds fabulous, no?!)


Start Early

Review and practice a few months ahead of the test as opposed to cramming two weeks before will help not only help students with retention of the skill, but also help ease any anxiety that comes with test taking. Start out small with a few problems a day, and divide up the skills to learn as you see necessary between English-Language Arts and Math. Begin, or add to your existing, word banks or word walls to include vocabulary that is necessary for students to understand questions and phrasing.

Develop Skills

Students that have a routine on how to attack problems are much more able to retain the necessary information to solve the problem than those that are left to "figure it out" on their own. That being said, there's tons of skills to develop from critical thinking and open ended questions. Focus on specific skills, and target those when teaching. Need a little help?  Check out Scholastic's Math Test Prep That Matters! or Scholastic Success with Reading English-language arts series.

Develop Vocabulary Skills

Many times students just don't understand the questions asked on the test. They may understand the concept, but when unfamilar vocabulary words are thrown in, they seem to get lost in translation. So? Pull them out!  Make those words vocabulary they must know. One idea is for students to make a vocabulary book of testing words. In California we have the "Released Test Questions" - questions that came from previous year's tests for grade 2-11 teachers to use and practice with their students. A few of the teachers at my school site have began working with students on pulling out those words that many students, especially ELLs may get hung up on. One teacher had a great idea of making them the testing-vocabulary book. Students make a "book" of folded, stapled paper and write the words on it. The teacher provides some graphical representation of that word for students to hook the word on to.  Then, each day, students can "read" their books, practice with a partner, or take it home for "fluency" reading.  

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Have a testing idea? Please share!

Thanks for reading!

Eric

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