In the last blog post I talked about my journey with test prep and gave you some basic tips and ideas that you could use to help you make sure test prep did not take over your reading block but fit into your reading block.
I am going to share a possible framework for a day in the life of test prep schedule and share the test prep strategy that I teach the students that I work with.
When I say reading block I mean the span of time that I get allotted in my schedule to teach reading. In my classroom it consisted of the following components: Reading Aloud with Accountable Talk, Reading Skill or Genre based Mini Lesson, Small Group (Guided Reading) and Independent Reading. What is taught during these components during the year should be based on your state standards, any district curriculum timelines and the ongoing formative and summative assessments that you give your students.
For test prep these components stay in place, but what gets taught during each one is based on what my students need to review the most and what they need most to be prepared for the state assessment.
A Sample Framework:
Read aloud with accountable talk– your book of choice, with think alouds based on what your entire class needs to review within the context of a rigorous text.
Ex: Reading Tiger Rising and reviewing symbolism and character relationships via my think-alouds, pairing that with an anchor chart where I list the specific text evidence that led to my inference.
Mini Lesson– Any skill that your entire class needs a targeted strategy lesson retaught in.
Small Group– Test taking strategies taught using a passage or other resource. These are better taught in small groups because your students are likely to pay closer attention which makes it easier to teach them your approach to test taking.
Independent Reading– Students continue reading independently and doing the same activities that you had previously required of them. Nothing changes in this section because students need to feel a sense of normalcy and routine. Also giving students time to read each day is a great way to continue to build stamina without inundating students with reading passages.
Using Small Group to Teach Test Prep:
Now we are going to zoom in on the small group portion of your test prep reading block so that I can share with you my top reading test taking strategies.
I teach students to start by reading the passage carefully and thinking about who and what they are reading about throughout the text. Students then write who and what the entire page was about at the bottom of each page.
Then I ask students to use a sticky note to cover up the answer choices before reading the questions. Students then read the question and think of an answer choice that they think best answers the question. After they answer the question they uncover the answer choices and they use the trash, trick or treasure strategy to eliminate at least two answer choices.
The Trash, Trick or Treasure strategy is a lead4ward strategy:
Trash answers- are answers that can be crossed out right away because they don’t even answer the question.
Trick answers- are answers that are almost right but not the best answer.
Treasure answers- Are the right answers and are easier to find when they have gotten to the last two answers.
Once they have gotten down to two possible choices then they look at the answer they wrote and compare that to the two choices that are left.
Taking it digital:
Pre-pandemic, test prep was a challenge. Virtual, hybrid, and pandemic test prep was proving to be a challenge. I knew that I had to figure out a way to make some of these strategies digital and interactive, so I combined the trash, trick or treasure strategy with the four corner strategy using a Jamboard.
First you choose a passage or task card of choice. Then create a Jamboard divided into four sections and labeled with an A, B, C or D.
Model reading the passage or task card for students and write the who and what at the bottom of each page. Show them how to do this with a digital post-it note, especially if your students are having to take their assessments digitally this year.
When it is time to answer a question, model how to cover the answer choices using the digital sticky note, read the question and then answer the question with student help using a digital sticky note.
Then ask students to read the answer choices along with you and have them choose which answer they think is the trash or throw away answer.
Show students the Jamboard and discuss your expectations. Have students type their name on a digital post-it note then move it to the answer they think is the trash answer when prompted.
Choose a student to explain why they chose the answer they chose. Using a random name generator could help with student hesitation.
Then repeat the same process to have students identify which answer might be the trick answer.
This will help students whittle their possible answer choices to two. Finally have students move their sticky note to the answer choice that most closely matches the answer they helped come up with as a class. Hence identifying the answer that is the treasure or “best” answer.
I have used this process with my test prep small group and I have noticed that they have been able to more easily identify the answer that best matches their own when also having eliminated two wrong answers. I have also noticed that using the Jamboard and random name picker has helped generate more participation as well.
Test prep can be stressful, but hopefully this framework will help you keep it all in perspective and help your students feel more prepared.
I have created a resource called, Reading Test Taking Strategy and Jamboard, that includes a link to google slides of the reading test taking strategies as well as a multiple choice Jamboard that you can use to teach the strategies.