Is your test prep game in need of a rebound? Sure, March Madness is starting this week, but for us teachers, it’s testing season. With standardized state assessments and AP exams right around the corner, I worked on my game plan for test prep, and I’m sharing it today.
1. Card Challenge Quizzes
I was first introduced to this strategy by a former co-worker, and since then, I’ve used it every year with so much success. She came up with the idea of using a quiz bank to combat students sharing questions with later periods in the day. If you teach the same class more than once a day, this type of sharing is sure to happen. However, using a bank method with a random draw for questions minimizes the likelihood that they’ll share answers. If nothing else, it works because they don’t know which questions they’ll receive on quiz day. To make the stakes a bit higher and since we’re using cards anyway, the quiz is also a game of chance. If students pull a straight (it doesn’t have to be in order) with Ace being high or low, they don’t have to take the quiz and everyone gets a perfect score!
2. Prompt-Essay Writing Prep
When it comes to acing high-stakes, on-demand writing, the first and, in my opinion, most important factor is understanding exactly what the prompt asks you to do. Because standardized writing is graded holistically, it is impossible for students to score above average if they do not directly answer the prompt. If a student writes an essay with advanced diction, pristine organization, and an insightful analysis but doesn’t directly answer the prompt, their effort was all for naught. Even though students do not have time to complete developed prewriting on timed tests, the skills that are required for this analysis can be practiced and perfected. Conducting a prompt analysis is a great way to practice these skills. Here’s how we do it:
1. I give them 30 seconds to read the prompt.
2. Then, I ask them to turn the prompt over and immediately write down what the prompt was asking them to do.
3. We review their responses. It’s not surprising with such a short reading that students miss something from the prompt. During this discussion, I make the point that hurried reading of the prompt when I time them or they’re under pressure result in the same problem: lack of understanding.
We use a prompt essay writing process notebook to practice these skills in conjunction with organization. I’ve found that practicing these skills in a low-stakes environment gives them confidence and “brain-memory” to be able to do it on demand.
3. Scorer Training
I had an epiphany after I attended an AP training. I was learning how to score these essays, so I can help my students, but wouldn’t it also help them to learn what the AP readers are looking for? I decided it was important for them to learn about the grading process, so we do intensive grading training, just like the scorers of standardized tests. They learn that holistic scoring means their writing will be scored as a whole rather than individual sections. I show them the difference between a holistic rubric used for standardized tests and an analytical essay that breaks down each category for scoring with a set number of points. You can read about my “scorer training” through peer review below or on my Instagram.
This is how I set up peer review for AP, but it could work for any class. I number across desks with sticky notes (you know I love them! 😂) for how many students I have in class. I use washi tape to cover the names because it comes off easily afterwards, and it’s not see-through (but most of all bc it’s pretty!). Then, I give each paper two sticky notes. I distribute the papers and the holistic rubric, and the students read and provide comments on the sticky notes. Once they’re done, they put their numbered sticky notes back on the original table under the same number. We repeat for the second reviewer. This works really well because the second reviewer isn’t influenced by the first reviewer, but we can stick them all back together at the end for the owner. Finally, the owner reviews his/her own after now having read two other papers and becoming familiar with the rubric. Not only does this process give them valuable feedback, but it really helps them understand what the scorers need to see for a high scoring essay. 🎉
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4. QR Code Word Walls
QR Code Word Walls are a great way to improve retention of important testing terms, literary devices, or advanced vocabulary. Because students are engaged in the process of teaching, they are more likely to recall the terms later on. You can check out the details here.
5. Text Dependent Analysis Resources
6. Test Prep Fun
Remember 7 Up? We do! Today we did a throwback to elementary school to prep for our Romantic Poetry unit test, and it was so much fun! You must try this! It’s easy, fun, and effective! Here’s what we did: I picked 7 students. They picked a classmate 7-Up style. Here’s where the prep comes in: the students who were picked have to answer a question. If it’s answered correctly, they replace the person who picked them. If they get it wrong, someone who wasn’t picked can steal. In English 12, we used this game to practice vocab before our test. I give a sentence with the word; they explain the word’s meaning. For AP, I give a literary term, they have to give a definition or an example. These are seniors by the way…playing 7 Up! I’m so thankful they humor my 😜 ideas! #igteacherpd #igteacherpdtestprep
This really was as much fun as it looks!
Good luck during test prep season!