There’s no rule that says test prep has to be boring. I know it is tempting to just use the same old passages and worksheets that we’ve used year in and year out because they’ve worked for us, and frankly because it’s easy for us to prepare. I get it and I’ve been there. But the monotonous review of passage after passage or worksheet after worksheet left me feeling a little dead on the inside, and my students felt it too. That’s never good. That’s why it’s so important for us to use fun and engaging test prep activities.
There are so many ways to change up this boring routine to engage your students that require little to no effort, and you and your students deserve a little excitement during the day. After all, the more engaged they are, the better the review. Plus, there’s the added benefit that you won’t be bored to tears all day either. Here are some test prep activities and ideas to help you up your test prep game and make learning fun.
Jazz Up Those Reading Passages
If you’re a reading teacher, there’s a good chance that your district requires you to use some reading passages in your test prep unit. Don’t worry, you can still make them engaging and fun.
This test prep activity is so easy y’all. After you select a passage, decide which questions you want to focus on. Write those questions on separate sentence strips, pieces of chart paper, or construction paper and put them up around the room. Print out a copy of the passage for the number of questions you are using and display them next to each question. Then have your students move in groups discussing and answering their questions on the wall. When I do the gallery walk, I leave the questions open-ended and then go over them as multiple-choice questions. I feel like this gets them really thinking and prevents lazy guessing. I like to use post-its with an extra post-it on top to cover the answer, so each group gets a fresh start with each question. Once everyone has had a chance to answer the questions have them return to their seats and go over each one as a class. I really like this because it gets the students talking about the text evidence they used to justify their answers.
Turn It into a Game
This takes zero extra effort. Break your class into about 4 or 5 heterogeneous teams. If you already have group seating, this is already done for you. Have each team choose a name or assign them. Then, as you work through the passage as a class, have the teams confer about each question. When the team comes to a consensus on the correct answer, they shout their team name. Call on the first team to shout their name to answer and justify with text evidence and an explanation. Assign each question 100 points and award them to the teams as you work. In the end, the team with the highest amount of points wins. Even if they aren’t given an actual prize, the game makes the day so much more fun for them.
Using classroom buzzers can add to the novelty and fun of this game, but calling out team names works just as well and doesn’t break the bank.
Use Hands-On Answer Cards
As you work through the questions, each student shares his/her answer immediately by holding up a multiple choice answer card. When the lesson is over, each student holds onto his/her index cards to use the next time you want to do a passage this way. This not only engages every student but also serves as a great informal assessment tool.
Don’t have time to print and copy the answer cards? No problem. Give the students each 2 index cards and tell them to cut them in half. Then the students write A, B, C, and D on the cards.
You can also use whiteboards for this purpose if you have enough.
Let Them Give You a Grade
They love pointing out when you’re wrong. A super fun way to take advantage of their wannabe know-it-all status is to complete a “quiz” while purposefully making mistakes. You can do this with entire passages or even quick academic vocabulary checks for things like text features. Then hand it out or throw it in a station and let them grade your work. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how carefully they’ll read when they think they can catch you in a mistake. Little jerks. lol
Amp Up the Fun with Technology
Technology is such a great tool for student engagement! Using it for games makes test prep so exciting for the kids. I mean, who doesn’t want to spend time during school hours playing a game?
My Favorite Test Prep Activity
I’m thinking you know how Jeopardy-style games work, so I won’t waste your time explaining it to you. Instead, I’ll tell you what I love about it. Jeopardy allows me and my students to review several different standards and offers a varying degree of rigor. It’s also crazy entertaining for the students. They get so excited about earning those dollar amounts and seeing their scores increase. I’ve actually had kids groan when class ended because they wanted to keep playing! Crazy, right?! Any time they’re that enthusiastic about something we’re doing in class is a HUGE win.
The example pictured above is a Jeopardy review game for the 3rd grade STAAR Reading Test and is available in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.
Kahoot is so much fun to play. This one is easy and free to create and play but does require the students to have devices. (Just something to keep in mind and plan for.) I like Kahoot because I can create an interactive game with my own questions and answer choices, which means I’m targeting my specific students. It does, however, mean that I have to take the time to create my own questions and answer choices.
Create Fun Test Prep Activities with Your Task Cards
Task cards are a great resource year-round because you can use them in so many fun ways! They can help you create so many engaging test prep activities that target specific standards.
Place the task cards around the room or hallway and have your students “scoot” from one to the next. Simple, yet fun. They really enjoy being able to move around rather than sit at their desks all day.
Repurpose Board Games with Task Cards
Use a set of task cards with games like Connect 4, Jenga, and Candy Land. Set up the games around the room and have students play in groups. The gameplay stays the same, except that each student must complete a task card before he/she takes a turn. Super easy! This activity is perfect for test prep because you can differentiate what students are practicing based on their needs. Some may need to practice using context clues task cards while others should focus on the main idea.
What Am I Leaving Out?
These aren’t the only ways to liven up test prep. What test prep activities do you use to engage your students? We’re all in this together, remember? Share your ideas in the comments below.