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Three Test Prep Strategies for Student Success

March has arrived and with it the excitement of warmer weather, spring break on the horizon, and the unofficial countdown to summer! It also signals crunch time as we make the final push to help our students succeed on standardized tests. I always feel like there aren’t enough hours in the school day to adequately prepare my students for a test on which my teaching skills might be judged.

test prep strategies

Testing season is a lot like swimsuit season, wouldn’t you agree? Suddenly it is upon us, and we look back and wonder where the time went.

I want you to know that even if you don't feel your kids are as ready as they should be, you have done a great job preparing them for success. I'm sharing a few strategies I use in my classroom that have positively impacted student success. I hope you're able to take a couple of these ideas and incorporate them into your classroom routine.

You Be the Test Writer

Another strategy that works really well is a reverse technique of your typical review format. My kids are sick of the same old drill and kill prep at this point, so I put my students in charge of developing responses to question stems found on current STAAR (insert your own state testing acronym here) testing materials.

STAAR test prep task cards

When they are in the driver’s seat and writing answer choices, it empowers them to take charge of their learning and tackle a test that holds so much weight in their academic life.






Three things make this work:

  • Students view their role as learners differently.

  • Students are thinking about their thinking when writing questions (meta cognition).

  • Students become active participants instead of passive recipients.


I challenge you to incorporate this strategy in your classroom and watch as students take ownership of their learning, get excited about being let in on a “testing secret”, and score higher on your assignments and tests than ever before. It's time to start empowering teachers and students.


As a result, having students read the questions and develop plausible answer choices and distractors works when other approaches have not been successful. I'm not claiming it is the cure-all for every student, but I can see I’m closing the gap for many by using this technique.


Show it Like a Poet

One of my students' favorite activities is called “Show it Like a Poet”. Students write poems as a way to demonstrate their understanding of vocabulary words. We all know vocabulary is key to success on tests. If kids don’t understand the words used in the question stems or answer choices, no amount of practice is going to help. Here’s how it works. After students have defined the vocabulary words, they will write “formula or prescription” poems as a means to show comprehension.

First, my students get a mini lesson on the structure and format of Haiku. I model, we write a poem together, and then I turn them loose. Students who typically balk at the idea of writing poems seem to embrace Haiku. Here’s an example:

ELA test prep

The flowers will bloom,

Springtime commences on earth

My favorite time.


For this assignment, the vocabulary word was commence. I can see from the student’s poem that they understand the meaning of the word and can use it effectively in a way other than a sentence. The activity is simple enough, doesn't require much preparation on your part, and is easily assessed.


If you're looking for more ideas like this, be sure to sign up for the weekly Cheat Sheet and download a free English grammar guide your students can use. Sign up HERE.

Digital Daily ELA Skills

One routine that remains constant for me is daily ELA skills work which provides my students practice in short, manageable pieces. I found I wasn't able to fit in practice for all the skills my students needed to work on, so giving them a small daily dose worked perfectly. I created digital daily skills practice I can assign as morning work or bell ringers. At the end of the week, my students have completed targeted, self-grading assignments in reading, writing, vocabulary, and grammar. Try out a week of Digital Daily ELA Skills practice activities in your classroom.

What test-prep strategies do you find most effective with your students?


Happy Teaching!


Straight Outta Class








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