My least favorite time of the school year is standardized testing time. I believe our students are overtested and that state testing does little (if any) to provide better outcomes for our students. Nonetheless, as a public school teacher, I know my students must take the state tests, and I do have a responsibility for preparing students for state testing.
These are a few tips I have for preparing students for state testing in a way to encourage students without taking too much instruction time.
1. Trust the work that you and your students have done all year.
You have been working with your students all year long. If you have been following state standards all year, trust that you have been providing students with meaningful instruction. Ideally, students are receiving high-quality and engaging instruction all year long.
Throughout the year (not just at testing time) students should be encouraged to explain their thinking, work on multiple solutions, build their reading and writing stamina, apply problem-solving strategies, and think about solutions in multiple ways. In fact, so much of the amazing work that happens in the classroom cannot be tested and won’t show up on a standardized test, but it will make them ready for it!
2. Preview the test
I taught third grade for over 10 years. That meant, that my students took the state tests for the first time. While I don’t like to put too much official “test prep” on my lesson plans, I do believe it is important to show students the format and go over practice problems, especially if it is their first time taking the test.
Most states provide examples of their state tests online and provide practice tests. We go over some of the example tests together and students get some time to practice on their own. I like to split this up over a few weeks, sprinkling it in here and there.
Exposure to the test and test-taking tools is important. I also find that reflection on the test and the practice can help students feel more confident. It also gives us a chance to discuss how to use tools and students can play around to find out what tools and strategies might be helpful to them on actual test day.
3. Let students share their feelings
Research from 2011 shows that students can increase their test scores by having a chance to write about testing anxiety. After reading this, I have always included time for students to write about their feelings. Over the years, I have found that many of my students are nervous about state testing, but some also feel excited about showing what they know.
Once students share their feelings, I make sure to validate them. I also encourage them to try their best and assure my students that these tests cannot show all the ways that they are smart.
4. Provide students encouragement on the day of the test
I like to remind students how important they are on the day of the test.
One way I do this is by giving students a physical reminder of how much I value them. I give them V.I.P. tags because they are very important people to me, but they are also very intelligent people. We usually tested over 5 days, taking one test a day. My students cared for their necklaces all week and made sure to wear them for each test.
I also include others in encouraging students for state testing. I asked other teachers at school and families to write encouraging notes. On the morning of each test, students received a quick note from someone who cares about them. Students LOVED receiving this “fan mail.” These little notes were often stored in students’ folders or pencil pouches for the rest of the year. A sweet reminder, inside joke, or encouragement would put a smile on students’ faces!
I send the notes home for families to fill out with a few weeks’ anticipation. This allows time to get grandparents and other family members involved, too! Once a student received an encouraging note from their dog! I make sure to have enough notes from school staff in case not all my students receive enough notes from home.
Preparing Students for State Testing Made Easy!
A few years ago, I created this resource that helps me in preparing students for state testing! With a rock star theme, this resource does it all! I wanted all the components to be included from the list for preparing students for state testing.
The rock star testing packet provides reflection questions to give during and after practice tests. There is also the stage fright page to give students a chance to write about their feelings. There are fan note pages for teachers and family members to write encouraging notes for the day of the test. It also includes a parent note and everything you need to set that up!
I hope that you and your students rock your state testing!