Here are my top 3 tips for preparing your middle school students for their standardized ELA tests.
Although most teachers are not fond of yearly standardized tests, we acknowledge that, as of right now, they are a part of the educational system in the United States. So we are doing our best to make sure our students are ready to rock those tests!
Preparing your middle school students for their standardized tests can seem like a daunting feat. However, really good test prep comes down to accomplishing 3 specific goals.
- Relieving Stress: Many students will be very overwhelmed and uncertain about taking standardized tests. So…one part of preparing your middle school students for their standardized tests must be telling them what to expect.
- Giving Tools: If you have any test-creator secrets, this is the time to share them. Any helpful hacks or tools should be a part of your pre-test planning.
- Planning to Win: Your students can’t ‘win’ at testing time if they are not adequately prepared. Just as athletes train, practice, and learn new skills, your students must have the proper training if they are going to ‘win’ the test. That means they need explicit instructions on skills and concepts related to the standards.
Let’s go into each of these 3 goals a little deeper, shall we?
#1 | Know the Test
You need to make decisions about test prep season through the lens of the test itself.
Spend some time getting to know the test your students will take.
- Is it online or is it paper/pencil?
- Can they use a note sheet?
- Can they write on it? Highlight it?
- Is it all multiple-choice?
- How long are the reading passages?
- What kinds of questions are typically asked?
- How many questions are there?
- Is it timed?
- What happens to the questions that remain unanswered after the time is up?
If you know the answers to these questions, you can help your students manage some of their test stress. Preparing your middle school students for standardized tests means talking to them about each of these pieces of information. Give them all the information you have about the tests and tips on what to do during specific testing situations.
For example, If you know that every question that is unanswered after time is up is counted wrong, then encourage students to guess on the questions they aren’t sure about, and make sure every question has an answer.
If you know the test includes a lot of passages, tell your students how to appropriately manage time during those types of questions.
Helpful Hack: If your tests use a lot of passage-based reading questions, then you’ll want to spend some extra time working with and answering questions based on passages. These paired passages are a fantastic resource when preparing for these tests!!
To learn a few additional tips and tricks for using paired passages for test prep, check out this post!
Knowing the test is one of the best ways to support your students.
Note: Make sure you follow all testing laws and guidelines for your test. Do not give students any questions from the actual test they will take. Always check with the upper powers about what is acceptable and use practice tests and testing websites to learn information when possible.
#2 | Think Like a Test Writer
If you have any knowledge about what goes into writing or creating tests, share them with your students. Talk about your time in “Teacher School” and what they taught you about creating a test for students.
One test-creator inside tip I like to share with my students is that of the 4 questions on a multiple-choice test, usually, two are clearly wrong, one is the right answer, and one is the distractor.
If you can minimally narrow down the answers to the distractor and the answer, you now have a 50/50 shot. You also know that one of the answers was specifically designed to make you think twice, so you can review the information provided specifically about those two answers to make an educated guess if needed.
If you have any other great “Test Creator” hacks, we’d love to hear about them, but your students NEED to hear them, so start giving away those industry secrets!
#3 | Standard-Focused Activities
This one may seem obvious, but it is important to say.
Make sure you are covering the standards regularly as part of your classroom instruction.
Standardized tests are not intended to surprise students or confuse them. They are simply supposed to test their understanding and application of the standards.
If you are using the standards to guide your instruction, and you have managed to cover all the standards well, then your students will be ready for the test.
The spring semester is a great time of the year to revisit all the standards. You can get in some quick assessments. Then see what you need to touch on more to have the biggest impact.
If you find your students are lacking on a specific standard, find a resource like one of the standards-focused resources below to explicitly work on that content before testing time rolls around.
In addition to these standards-focused resources, we also have a great ELA Test Prep Digital Escape Room that will allow students test-like practice in a fun, escape room atmosphere. This is a fun activity to cycle into your test prep work.
Preparing your middle school students for standardized tests is a big part of the spring semester. However, don’t let it overwhelm your class time!
Talk to your students about testing, but make sure to pump them up rather than stress them out.
Remind them over and over that they are in fact ready for this! They have all the skills to conquer the test! Your confidence will give them confidence!