When it comes time to start prepping for standardized testing, I like to plan a variety of activities to review the materials we’ve spent all semester covering. We all want students to show what they know and do their best on the tests that mean so much, and if you are like me, you are always looking for new test prep ideas and strategies. Thus, to make your job easier, I’ve curated this list of the Best Test Prep Ideas and Strategies for middle and high school students for any subject.
During the review process, it can be helpful to hang up posters that provide students with test-specific information and vocabulary. We often forget that test vocabulary can be a barrier for students, but a quick review of those words could really be worthwhile. Hello Teacher Lady created a poster set that contains 15 high-quality posters — including definitions and question/sentence stems — along with a helpful one-page student reference sheet to showcase test terms such as summarize, analyze, compare, interpret, and more. They are perfect and pertinent for any subject.
For all my ELA friends out there, you may be interested in some ELA-specific term posters. Capture your students’ attention and decorate your classroom with my 12 ELA terms posters made with real pictures that teens will love. Each picture illustrates, defines, and provides an example of one term.
O Some Great Stuff for English Teachers has an alternative to the posters above. She created a vibrant presentation illustrating Literary Elements and Devices. It has slides featuring plot elements, characterization, and point of view and even literary devices such as allusion, foil, satire, hyperbole, etc.
Perhaps you’ll eventually have to cover your subject-area posters or remove them from your walls entirely. In that case, you’ll need new cute and motivational wall coverings that you can print and use easily! If you like an eclectic flair, check out my ten pack of posters with positivity and motivational reminders.
The Scholar Source created a set of seven test motivation posters in a black and white with glitter gold theme that you can just print and go, and they are super cute.
I also like how Think Tank gets her students involved in creating the motivational classroom decor. Students work together to piece their Test Prep – Test Motivation “block” with their classmates. The result is a beautiful, fun, one of a kind pop-art to hang in the hall. Check it out here.
Motivation & Emotional Prep
At the end of the day, I suppose that no one really wants to take a series of tests, and no one really gets excited about all those bubbles. However, we need our students to feel upbeat and energetic about testing because the results often mean so much. That’s why this category is so important! One of the things that has always stuck out to me is how much emphasis we put on the tests… so much so that it’s easy to forget how all that pressure makes the students feel. A few years ago, my students were really worried, and I realized they were internalizing the test. I created a quick lesson and activity right away to teach them about the true meaning of success and how they are more than the test. You can grab that lesson here free.
During the testing week or weeks, it’s also important to keep students’ energy levels up. I created a Surviving the Standardized Testing Season Survival Kit with tons of goodies to do just that all around the theme of Rocking the Test!
Gifts are another easy way to motivate students by reminding them you care. Teaching and Caffeine created an entire bundle of test treat tags that you can print and use in a snap. There are tons of options!
The Literary Maven helps relieves her students’ stress by giving them a fake test... all in good fun! You can administer this fake test as if it were real and once students realize that it’s not, ask them to generate their own ridiculous test questions. Have students take each others’ “tests” or ask students to share out their best questions. Laughter is the best medicine, after all!
Read a bit more about busting test stress over at my blog post, “Ways People React to Test Anxieties That Might Annoy Others”. My ELA teacher friend, Lauralee over at The Language Arts Classroom also shares four ideas that help her help her students shed the test-prep anxieties over on her blog.
Students can know all the content possible, but they most likely won’t be as successful as possible without some test-taking strategies up their sleeves. The Literary Maven also designed a lesson to help students be successful on standardized testing. You can use the section focused on multiple-choice questions, constructed responses, or both depending on the format of the test and your students’ needs. Students will fill in strategies in the guided note-taking packet and annotate the questions, passages, and prompts as directed throughout the lesson. Think Tank also gives her students some test-taking tips by having them complete an escape game! This Test Taking Strategies Escape Room will take students on a secret mission through two 360° VIEW rooms. This digital escape room has students decode interesting facts about basic test taking strategies/test prep to help them succeed on a test. Your students will definitely have a blast; I want to play this game, too!
Review Games and Strategies
From games to stations to task cards to Kahoot and Quizlet to trashketball to old-fashioned bubble sheets for practice, we are doing everything we can do keep the subject-area content fresh and our students engaged until it’s time for them to take the test.
If it’s ELA review you need, I love to play “I Have Who Has” to review vocabulary. The Littlest Teacher uses a variety of games to review terms and grammar with her English language arts middle school students. You can grab her entire bundle here. I also have my students review grammar with basic skill drill worksheets from my ten-minute grammar packs. Sometimes we get creative with my real-world grammar fails task cards — they are super funny, so they relieve stress, too! Melissa over at Reading and Writing Haven also shares a fun list of resources over at her blog, too.
High school history teachers will want to check out this bundle of US History Review Games from Social Studies Success. Plus, she has a very detailed blog post with tons of ways to review using task cards with any subject. Other subjects might enjoy this list from Write on with Miss G that offers plug and play ideas, which would work for any content area. Endeavors in Education shares her take on a test-review scavenger hunt; it looks simple and fun! When I’m having students work through a sample test, I like to use an activity called Tear and Share. Students fold a piece of paper down the middle vertically. They write their answers twice, and turn in one side. After everyone has finished, they take their remaining side to a group for collaboration. While working through the test again, the group creates a team answer sheet. It forces them to review, re-read, and justify their answers. We go over the sample test, and the team with the most correct wins a prize. No prep at all, but super effective.
After the Test
Once the tests are completed and sent off for scoring, then what? There’s likely weeks of school remaining, and failing to have student-centered, engaging lessons for those days following the test will only leave you frazzled and frustrated. The OC Beach Teacher is an expert at developing student-centered lessons, and she shares her tips here. I like to plug a movie in here and there, too, to mix it up a bit. See my entire catalog of ready-to-go movie guides here, and click over to this blog post where I share how to make showing a movie meaningful. You can also have students select a book to read independently… any subject can join in on this fun. Choose no prep book activities from my Making Literature Come Alive pack. Short research projects, escape games, and informational hot topics lessons are all other really doable choices that keep students tuned in the last few days of school without much prep.
As you are planning for test prep, it’s important to remember that mixing up your choices will help students stay focused. It’s also important to remember to keep the content first — and games second, meaning, if the game or activity is too complicated or too trivial, your entire purpose will be lost. As you and your students take on the test… best of luck!
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