As much as we don’t want to admit it, testing isn’t going anywhere. Having assessments and using them doesn’t have to be a negative experience for students. Do I think huge changes need to be made to standardized tests? Absolutely, but there are lots of things we can do to help support students, even at the elementary level, when taking tests! These skills can be applied when taking something as simple and basic as spelling tests or more advanced such as NWEA. I’ve got some great test prep tips to share with you (plus some amazing freebies) so let’s go!
Test Prep Tip #1: Keep students from becoming afraid of assessments
So many people, including myself, have test anxiety. It comes from the fact that tests were given and seen as these super important and powerful events that could change the course of our lives. No one took the time to explain what tests were. No one took the time to explain why we were being given these tests. Something as simple as communicating, from a young age, what tests are and why we give them can help relieve testing anxiety for so many students.
So how can we do this? Even at the elementary level, teachers need to give assessments and a wide variety of assessments. This helps the students to build their testing foundation. Paper/pencil, verbal, digital, etc all should be given throughout the year in a strong balance. But before doing so, talking with the students about what tests are and why we give them needs to take place. Let students know that the tests are simply to collect data to inform our decisions we make. It’s like eating a spaghetti noodle from the pot before you drain the entire pot. You don’t want to eat them if they aren’t completely cooked. You are using that ‘data’ to inform your decision. Having frequent conversations about tests, sharing the data with students and explaining what the data means, and creating a positive and supportive culture in your classroom can all go a long way. Definitely, a must-have test prep tip!
Make sure to also head over and check out my 10 ways to increase reading test scores!
Tip #2: Teach test-taking skills
Yes, I said it. These need to be explicitly taught. Test-taking skills are different than your typical comprehension and math type worksheets. They are more rigorous and they also use different vocabulary and experiences. Preparing students to take tests is the proper way to set them all up for success. This doesn’t mean that you’re putting any sort of priority on testing or that you’re creating a test-taking culture. It simply means you want your students to do their best and are giving them the tools to do so!
Here are the 10 test-taking tips I teach my students:
- Read all of the directions carefully
- Read the questions before the test
- Identify keywords in the question
- Paraphrase the question
- Read all choices before selecting an answer
- Cross out incorrect answers
- Go back to the text to find evidence
- Select the BEST choice
- Check your work for accuracy
- Have a positive attitude
I’ve put together a HUGE freebie just for you to help make your testing time easier! I have posters for each of the 10 test-taking tips as well as a reader’s notebook size printable of all 10 tips, a colorful poster of the 10 tips (and directions on how to print it poster size), and finally, a flipbook for students to make to reflect on each step and why it’s important. You can grab all of these together just by entering your email address below!
Test Prep Tip #3: Create a positive and supportive classroom culture
This tip is so important and one that starts on day one. Creating a supportive classroom culture means that you are creating a safe space for students. This allows students to feel that they can do their best and not be reprimanded for the outcome. Students have a growth mindset in place and know that they can do hard things when they try. This also means that students feel supported by you and know that you’ll be there to help them no matter what. All of this comes from building relationships with your students. Students who don’t feel connected in their classrooms don’t perform well on tests. They don’t see a reason to, and why should they? When you have done everything you can to let your students know that they matter, that you’re there for them, and that they can do hard things – a testing day just becomes another fun day in the book with you.
So whether you’re taking a spelling test or a state-wide standardized test, I hope these three test prep tips will be helpful! Make sure to pin the image below to save this post for later!