Prepare Students for Standardized Tests
Teachers share their best ideas.
- Grades: 3–5, 6–8
My class uses the phrase "Thank Goodness I Can Read Better" to help on standardized tests. This sentence is actually a mnemonic device to help students remember the following test-taking strategies:
T=Take your time.
G=Go back in the story to find answers.
I=Italics are important.
C=Check your work.
R=Read all choices.
To strengthen listening skills in preparation for our state's tests, I have my students practice note-taking — by watching television! When the children hear that their homework is to watch television, taking notes suddenly stops seeming like a difficult task. I create a story map to guide them and have them fill it in while watching one TV show. They'll think you are the best teacher,and you will be getting them to practice a very difficult skill!
I like to read an article to my students from Scholastic News magazine. Then they have to recall the main idea and important details. This helps prepare them for the listening part of the fourth grade exam. I find it is very effective.
Make sure that you check what number you are on every fifth question, and that you are marking that number on your answer sheet. This way, if you are off your mark, you will not have as many answers to correct.
Teachers should make students feel comfortable taking tests throughout the school year so it will seem like normal procedure during test time. In addition, teachers should time students when doing certain activities so students will be used to having a certain time frame to work within. Teachers should also have students practice taking tests on scantron paper. Most important, teachers must make all students feel confident and ready for the assessment. Self-esteem is a BIG part of the testing procedure.
My students and I always use three different-colored highlighters when practicing for the reading TAAS in Texas. The three colors coordinate with a traffic light, and they are assigned to the three types of Question-Answer Relationships (Raphael, 1985) we've discussed. We use green for "right there" answers because you "GO" right to the passage for the answer. Yellow highlighters are used for "search and think" answers because you should proceed with "CAUTION" when putting answers together from different parts of the passage. Finally, we use red highlighters for "on my own" or "author and you" answers because you must "STOP" and think carefully about answers using proof from the passage. The various colors give students a concrete link to something they are very familiar with — the meaning behind colors on a traffic light. They also give the kids an exact process for working through different types of questions on standardized tests — a must for success on these types of tricky tests.
Start your day with a warm-up activity that involves a testing strategy. Teach the skill, discuss it and provide lots of examples, then allow time for students to practice it. This practice may be assigned as homework or added to the "workshops" list for the week. Workshops are independent activities that students must complete each week. They list the workshops at the beginning of the week and show accountability for their accomplishments at the end of the week, recording in their spiral notebooks. This way, students always know where to look for a review of a particular testing skill or strategy they are required to know.
A fter discussing with the students the importance of being prepared for standardized tests, such as getting a good night's sleep, eating a good breakfast, etc., we play test bingo. Students use Fruit Loops or similar cereal to mark the cards as a reminder to eat a good breakfast the morning of the test.
I think it's really important to take the stress out of doing standardized tests. This year, two of my LD students joined their homeroom for the test. The other teacher and I decided that the students needed lots of time outside, away from the classroom. We took them on walks, held various races and played cooperative games before the test began and in between the different activities. The students seemed more at ease and better able to handle the long periods of time spent sitting at their desks during the test.
Each week, my students receive a "test practice" section on their homework. These include mini bubble-in answer sheets and a separate question form. When the students return these forms to class, they may redeem them for a "test pattern" — a small maze, tesselation design, or similar sheet to color. As simple as this is, it really works. When the real tests come, the students enjoy being able to work on large test patterns following a heavy day of testing!
Videotape and use a small portion of the Who Wants to Be a Millionaire program. Choose a contestant who verbalizes his or her thinking and you have an opportunity to discuss metacognition on tests. I paused after each question for the students to make their choice before we viewed what the contestant selected. Contestants model how one answer is completely wrong and easily discarded. "Lifeline 50/50" models the concept of narrowing your choices to the two best answers and then selecting between those two. When asking questions in class, I would ask my students "Is that your final answer?" It was a great way to reinforce taking time to think a response through before answering. My students loved to participate and I found that after the demonstration, students began watching the program at home, often with their parents — an easy parent-involvement activity!
I use a response card activity. I have transparencies with standardized-format questions as a class opener each day. The students respond by raising the card with the letter that matches their answer. This allows the students to become familiar with questions in the test format, which in turn lessens test anxiety.
Before our North Carolina End-of-Grade test, I serve my students granola bars and juice. I give each student a special bookmark with Goofy holding a pencil that tells them good luck on the test. Right before the test we stand up and stretch, and end with each student giving him- or herself a pat on the back. I am saying a silent prayer and hoping I don't throw up in front of them!