It’s testing time again and with it comes anxiety, nerves, and worry. For little learners, those emotions can get the best of them and make testing the worst time of the school year. While nothing can completely alleviate the pressure and stress of standardized testing, there are some ways to help. These testing strategies by Elizabeth Supan are a great place to start. Give your students tools that will make it easier to succeed.
Testing Strategies for Kids
by Elizabeth Supan, Guest Writer
Standardized testing is inevitable. Even if we as teachers don’t like them, in most states they are commonplace. I have come to the conclusion that if I do not prepare my students on how to take a test, then I am leading my students down a slippery slope without anything to grab hold of to keep from falling. In a lot of cases, this may mean failing, too.
There are few ideas to consider when preparing students for standardized testing. For one, we are not “teaching to the test” if we are teaching testing strategies. Students need to be equipped with the tools that will help them be successful on these tests. If we don’t give them some tips, they are going to be lost come test day. That simply is not fair to the students, either. When someone learns how to drive, we give that person pointers and hints about what to do when taking the driving test. The same should be true about standardized testing.
One of the most important strategies I teach my students is how to “R.E.L.A.X.” during the test. I use this acronym to help my students remember to stay calm and focused on the test.
Read the question carefully and then reread the passage or problem to find the right answer.
Examine every answer choice before you choose your answer.
Label your answer in the passage or in the problem.
Always check your work.
X-out answers that cannot possibly be correct.
We use this acronym, which applies to all subject areas, daily for many months before testing begins. It is hanging on a poster in our classroom that is visible by all students. We review the steps each time we take a classroom assessment so that it becomes a habit. These simple reminders about slowing down and reading through all of the questions and answer choices are so important. Oftentimes, students get overwhelmed and just start marking answers. If we have reminded them to “RELAX”, hopefully they will slow down and work more carefully.
One of the largest, and possibly the most daunting, portions of the standardized testing in my state is the reading portion. Students are given long passages and then between 5-10 questions about each passage. It can be so overwhelming. I teach my students how to “code the text” in order to find the answers to the questions. We follow six simple steps when using this strategy:
Step 1: First read and underline the title. Now make a prediction about the topic or main idea.
Step 2: Is the passage fiction or non-fiction? Once you decide, frame and number the paragraphs and get ready to read.
Step 3: Read the questions first! This gives you an idea of what you should be looking for as you read.
Step 4: When you read the passage, look for key words that will help you answer the questions. Circle, highlight or underline the key words.
Step 5: Once you look over the questions a second time, eliminate answers that don’t make sense.
Step 6: Answer the questions. Is the question “right there” in the passage (and not one using inference)? If so, write down the paragraph number next to the question.
We practice this strategy as a whole class using our projector. I go through the steps with the students so they know how to “code the text”. Then, I partner students up to work on a passage that I have copied for them. They label their passage as a team and decide on the answers to the questions. After the students have had an opportunity to work on a passage of their own, we come back as a whole class to discuss how they have “coded the text”. I have my students continue practicing this strategy for months in order to become confident on how to find the answers when reading long passages. These tools help my students feel equipped and ready for the test in the spring. If we don’t prepare our students with strategies to help them feel confident, we are setting them up for failure. I prefer to set my students up for success.
About the Author
Elizabeth Supan is an elementary school teacher in South Carolina with 18 years experience. Currently she is a 4th grade math teacher. She uses small group math instruction to meet the needs of her diverse learners. You can read more about her teaching on her blog Fun in Room 4B. Aside from teaching, Elizabeth enjoys crafting, completing DIY projects and spending time with her husband and children.