Thursday, February 28, 2013

Test Prep Freebie! - Reversing the Question

Well, most of you out there seem to be gearing up for Read Across America with Seussy activities all week. We did make "Oobleck" yesterday with our younger grade buddies, but otherwise, we're spending a lot of this week doing the oh-so-fun test prep!

I don't enjoy test prep, and I don't think it's the best thing for my students, so really, we haven't done much up until now. We've stuck to quality educational activities that hopefully will transfer to the test. But considering how high-stakes our tests are (without an exemption, students can be held back for not passing a 3rd grade reading test), some of my students are worried and I want them to feel prepared.

"Test Prep" In My Classroom:
  • Do massive amounts of review. (Honestly, that's a good thing no matter the purpose.) There's nothing like a 3rd grader going, "What's a noun again?" in February to make you freak out a little.
  • Show students the test format, and give students practice using a similar test format so they feel comfortable with it. Most of my kids are like, "Oh. That's it?"
  • Let students see some feedback on their practice, especially those who speed through it, fail to follow directions, or don't work very carefully.
  • Teach them about tests as a "genre" that we read differently, just as we read other genres differently than each other.
  • Talk briefly about strategies for ones they don't know, and tell them that "pass" doesn't mean "perfect."
  • Show them the writing rubric. (It's important for them to know how they will be scored!) I'm letting them score their own writing to see how they would do. (They are so hard on themselves!)
  • I also share with them a few things from the state website, and a few tips for destressing (for instance: smiling and positive thinking are both proven to help you relax and do better).

It's not my favorite thing to teach- but I tell my students this is a chance to "show what they know" and I want them to know what to expect and to feel confident when testing time comes. And since we will be spending next week testing, the week after that is Spring Break, and the week after that testing, I think it's worth spending a bit of time letting them know what to expect and building their confidence.

This is my first year in a state testing grade, and I have to say, I'm a little terrified myself. My school has a very strong test record in part due to the homes most of our students come from, so chances are very good that they will do just fine. Still, it's nerve-wracking and I will be way happy when our testing is done.

Since our Indiana test starts with "Applied Skills," the open-ended and writing portions, we're practicing how to "turn the question around," or reverse the question, in order to help us write our answer in a complete sentence. I think it helps kids be able to for sure answer what the question is really asking, too.

I teach them to cross out the question word (who, what, when, etc.), move the verb, and switch personal pronouns from you/ your/ etc. to I/me/my. I also talk to them about the partners of why/because and how/by.

We did a game of Inside-Outside Circle to practice orally, and did two worksheets (different days) to practice and assess.

Is this something you teach?

If it is, be sure to check out this product here. Feedback and comments would make my (test-stressed) heart happy!

(Note: this product was formerly free for followers, but is now a paid product. Be sure to follow my blog so you don't miss out on future freebies!)


  1. Thank you for sharing. I teach second graders and we stress using the question in your answer from the first day of school. I agree it helps make sure you are answering what the question asks. Unfortunately, not everyone seems to do this, as two colleagues (4th/5th) both remarked that they couldn't get their students to use complete sentences!

  2. Sorry, forgot to add...good luck to you and your students! I am SO glad we do not have that to worry about.

  3. This looks great :) for some kiddosmthismis a very difficult thing to do!! We practice alllll the time! Thanks for sharing, and good luck on your tests!


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