By Teachers, For Teachers
In order to measure what our students comprehend and don’t comprehend, each state administers standardized tests. Standardized testing time for teachers is a time of year that is chaotic. There is so much to do and so little time to do it in. For many of us, it’s easy to abandon everything that we do and just use teaching strategies that have students practice until they reach their breaking point. What many of us fail to realize is that we don’t have to stop everything and have our students cram for the test in order for them to succeed. Here are a few test prep teaching strategies that experienced teachers have learned throughout the years.
Don’t just block off time where you will focus on test prep, but try and integrate it all throughout your day. Experienced teachers will tell you that you shouldn’t teach to the test, but rather incorporate it into your everyday lessons. Cross-curricular connections help students learn information more accurately, which means learning outcomes become better understood in a more meaningful way. For example, by combining two lessons, students can see how one can be connected to the other.
Introduce students to what will most likely be on the test. When students can anticipate the test questions, it can help relieve a lot of anxiety. Use older versions of the tests and have students practice answering those questions. You can also incorporate typical questions that will be on the test and add those to your quizzes, tests, and homework. This is a great way for students to get used to the format of the test, as well as familiarize them with what types of questions they are bound to see on it. When we arm our students with this knowledge, then it can help them predict what will be on the test, therefore making the testing experience a little less frightening for them.
One of the most challenging things about standard tests is that they have many distracting answers that are very close to the right answer. To help students not get confused by these distractors, teach them how to predict the correct answer before they even read the multiple choice options. They can do this by just simply covering up the answers and trying to answer it on their own. Once they think they have the answer, then they uncover the options and choose the one that is closest to their own answer. This is an easy way to help the distracting questions not look so confusing.
Standardized testing assessments want students to use their higher-order thinking skills. If you teach your students to think critically, make inferences, and use context clues when reading text, then they should be able to handle any question that they come across. Any easy way to teach this is to encourage students to make inferences when they are reading. Have students use context clues to help them and challenge them to think critically about the main idea, characters, and plot.
There are practice tests available both online as well as offline. Make students familiar with both types of formats. Allow them time to familiarize themselves with the test without the pressure of having to get everything correct. Point out the types of questions they will see as well as the types of answers. Challenge them to find the distractors in the answer options, and ask them to try and figure out how they can tell you the difference between what is the correct answer and what are the distractors.
In order to ensure your students are ready for these assessments, then you must integrate these test-taking strategies into your daily routine. Remember to create cross-curriculum connections, offer plenty of time to familiarize your students with practice tests, have students practice answering the questions by giving their own answers, and teach your students to use their higher-order thinking skills. Once you have done all that, then you can be comfortable knowing that your students will be ready to take the test.
What are you best test prep teaching strategies? Share them with us in the comment section below, we would to hear your ideas.
Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds Masters of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com, TeachHUB Magazine, and Hey Teach. She was also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com for five years. You can follow her on Twitter @empoweringed, on Facebook at Empowering K12 Educators, or contact her at Janellecox78@yahoo.com.