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April 2, 2014 Test Prep With Pizzazz: Part 2 By Alycia Zimmerman
Grades 3–5, 6–8

    Every testing grade teacher faces the balancing act between "real teaching" and its cruddy facsimile — a.k.a. test prep. And while I truly believe that instruction that is heavily weighted towards authentic best practices will ultimately serve our students best in life and on exams, our students also deserve to develop their test sophistication.

    When it comes time to "teach to the test," I aim for a couple of experiences that simulate the rigid testing day environment, balanced with more lighthearted explorations of test-taking strategies. (In my last post, I demonstrated Team Test Prep Challenges, another fun way to tackle test prep.)

    In the video below, you'll see my students explore a variety of mnemonic devices about the open response questions on the New York State English Language Arts exam. I encouraged them to research the tricks other teachers and students use (unsurprisingly, Pinterest quickly became a favorite resource among my students), and then to promote a preexisting mnemonic device or develop their own. Their creations ranged from a brave attempt at rapping to colorful anchor charts for our classroom. Check it out and let me know what you think! (Mobile users can access the Test Prep With Pizzazz Part 2 video here.)

    Even more test prep ideas:

    Fellow blogger Rhonda Stewart shared her expert test prep tips in her posts "Test Taking Strategies in Reading Workshop" and "Test Taking Strategies in Writing Workshop." She emphasizes the importance of planning with colleagues when it comes to "test sophistication." I think her posts are must-reads for anyone new to high-stakes testing — she really covers it all. 

    For a comprehensive look at test prep in my classroom, check out my blog post "Battling the Test Prep Blues."


    Anchor charts support my students as they develop their test sophistication.

    Do you prepare your students for high-stakes exams? What do you do to get your students ready for the test? Please share your suggestions, comments, and questions below. I'd love to hear from you! And if you're currently buried in this testing morass, I feel your pain — best of luck!

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