Testing season is once again upon us. I can hear the collective groan from students and teachers alike echoing from every classroom around the country. While test prep may not be our favorite part of teaching, it is essential not only for our states to assess growth and knowledge from our students but in some cases is also tied into budgeting for school districts. So, how do we test prep with minimal headaches and resistance from students? By turning test prep into a game of course! I’m here to help alleviate some of your stress with some fun and effective test prep activities. They are sure to get your students engaged and ready for those all-important tests.
1. Jeopardy-style review for math and reading
Some of my favorite tried and true test prep activities are Jeopardy-style review games for math and reading. It’s so popular, I had students on the first day of school asking when we will be playing Jeopardy. And that’s the best part, isn’t it? When a student thinks they are playing a game, but in reality, they are learning. I just love a little teacher trickery now and then.
Even if you don’t have a fancy buzzer system, this activity works. I would start by dividing my class into 3 or 4 “teams” and rotating them around the room. Instead of single-player style jeopardy, think of this more as a team effort to answer each question.
This allows students to participate in some healthy debate if there is disagreement on an answer. In this Jeopardy-style review activity, students cannot submit their answers unless everyone in the group agrees.
My students tackled the challenge of working collaboratively and it’s something we focused on heavily in my classroom throughout the years.
Another way to make sure everyone is working on answering every question is to allow teams the opportunity to “steal” the points. If another team gets the answer wrong, another team gets the opportunity to answer. I would use dice, sticks, or pick a group number from a container to select the team who gets the opportunity to “steal” the points. However, the stealing team doesn’t get any extra time. Think of it as a lightning round. All teams must have their answers ready to go just in case they are selected to be the stealing team. This gets everyone engaged and the kids love the competitive nature of the game.
I used this game every year as part of our test prep activities because it works. My students were engaged and having fun reviewing multiple topics and practicing different skills from context clues, fact and opinion, cause and effect, reading for details, inferencing, and main idea number lines, story problems, geometry, graphs, fractions and so much more.
2. Get Crafty
This is a great activity for those creative souls in your classroom. With just a little prep beforehand, students will be chomping at the bit to uncover a hidden picture. They will be excited to be the first to guess what the image is.
Repurpose old Posters
I would start by grabbing a large poster, the sillier the better. Just grab some super silly posters from our annual book fair or snag some leftover posters from teacher friends who would otherwise be throwing them away. I would put sticky notes all over the poster to cover up the image and label them with points from 1-5.
This can be a group activity or an individual activity based on your preference or subject being reviewed.
Be sure to print out a list of questions and assign them values from 1-5. 1 would be the easiest question and 5 would be the most difficult. Use a spinner, dice, randomizer from a phone app, or a class list to call on students to take turns answering questions. I liked to give my students the opportunity to choose the level of difficulty before I asked a question.
Once I asked the question, they would have a predetermined amount of time to give the correct answer. If they answered correctly, they could go up to the poster and take off a sticky note revealing some of the image below. When they thought they know what the image was (you decide how specific you want them to be) they could take a guess. If they were correct, I let them choose a goodie or piece of candy from my class stash as a reward. If they didn’t answer correctly they didn’t get to pull a sticky and another student, randomly chosen, would get the opportunity to steal by answering. I always encouraged students to write down their answers on a piece of paper during the game. This also helps with recall and repetition while prepping for the test.
3. Grade Level Games
Grade Level Games are a fantastic way to build excitement and engagement during an otherwise boring week.
My teacher friends and I loved getting into the spirit by creating a theme for our week-long Grade Level Games by decorating our rooms and hallways. One year, we had a Star Wars theme as we prepped for the STAAR test, and another year we did a sports theme. It’s super fun to get together to plan a week full of activities that students always look forward to.
During our Grade Level Games week, students would rotate through different rooms as a class. This gives each teacher the opportunity to choose which test area they would like to cover. Instead of prepping a week of fun test prep activities, you focus on one or two and teach them to all the classes in your grade level.
It also gives a refreshing perspective by a different teacher than students are used to. During a specified time of the day dedicated to testing prep, our students would rotate into the different classrooms for review. The rotations usually lasted anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and a half. It really just depended on what we decided as a grade-level team that year.
4. Off to the Games
Using a sports theme and a variety of fun and interactive games, this test prep activity can feel a lot like the Summer or Winter games we know as the Olympics. This one is especially fun if you happen to be in an Olympic year. I have also incorporated learning fun facts about the country where the Olympics were being held. It’s a great way to introduce some cultural activities into your test prep as well.
This is a fun and competitive game that doesn’t require any actual running. Students compete in teams to get their runners to the finish line first.
Easy Set up!
Some fast and fun prep work for this game could include taking pictures of you and your fellow teachers sprinting in some fabulous track gear, printing them out, and laminating them if you have a laminating machine available at your school. You also need a track that can be as simple as using pieces of black or grey construction paper or butcher paper and cutting it in a loop or line with a starting and finishing point.
The track should be divided into as many sections as you choose. I liked to keep mine between 10-15 sections to keep kids engaged and keep the game within our 45 minutes to hour-long rotation. Each of the teacher runners will progress around the track when their team answers a question correctly. My students loved seeing their teachers “running” along the track and cheered us on as the game progressed.
I have used reading comprehension, main ideas, vocabulary, and sequencing questions for my questions in the past. You can use questions for any skill or concept that you would like your students to focus on.
The game should start with a question being asked to all groups. When a group finds the answer they can ring a bell, raise a hand, or stand up. I like to use little bells on their tables for teams to ring in with their answers. If a team gets the answer correct, their runner moves on to the next space on the track. If they are wrong, the runner will stay put and another team will get the opportunity to “steal” by answering the question correctly. Continue asking questions until one of the runners crosses the finish line and we have a winning team.
I have also made medals for my students in the past. These were simple yellow construction paper circles tied with string to give to each member of the winning team. My students loved the collaboration and competitiveness of the Reading Runners game.
5. Finish Strong!
Nobody wants to spend the entire week focusing on test prep, so we always ended our Prep Week with a relaxing day that didn’t focus on the test at all. Our school has done everything from family picnics, learn outside day, days of reading in desk forts, and more! It’s a great reward for a week and year of hard work. After all, if they don’t know it on Friday they probably aren’t going to know it during testing the next week. So instead of cramming, have some fun celebrating the hard work of your students.
Focusing on building up kids for what they already know and are doing well by incorporating games into test prep builds confidence and positive attitudes. This helps to build excitement and buy-in from students during this otherwise tedious week of test preparation.
While there are tons of ways to be creative with your test prep, here are a few of my favorite resources to help with review. Be sure to grab these fun and exciting resources to help your students with successful test prep this year!
Be sure to save these test prep ideas to your favorite teacher Pinterest board! With a little bit of creativity, you too can get your students prepped for the test while having fun!
For more testing time ideas be sure to visit my Testing Time Pinterest board.