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 worksheet 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.
So, spice it up a little. 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 a few ideas to get you started.
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 one 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. At 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, it also serves as a great informal assessment tool.
Here is a FREE copy of my multiple choice answer cards.
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.
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?
This is my favorite. I’m thinking you know how this game works, 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.
Get Creative with Your Task Cards
Task cards are a great resource year-round because you can use them is so many fun ways! That’s why I think they’re an excellent test prep tool in targeting a specific standard.
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.
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. Game play stays the same, except that each student must complete a task card before he/she takes a turn. Super easy! Teaching with a Mountain View has a great post about it. Check it out here.
What Am I Leaving Out?
These aren’t the only ways to liven up test prep. How do you like to engage your students? We’re all in this together, remember? Share your ideas in the comments below.
Check Out the Rest of the Test Prep Blog Series Posts:
2. 7 Fun Ideas to Up Your Test Prep Game and Engage Your Students