Preparing for the Test: Teaching Testing Skills

I have blogged about my feelings about standardized testing before here.

One of the things I do is explicitly teach my students how to answer reading comprehension questions using a variety of passages.  There are many different ways to do this.  I have taken from several different ideas and have created my own version.  I am sure it is not right or wrong, just my way : ).

I show students this poster (I have laminated it since taking this photo, so it is not all wrinkly!  Ick!  I will take a new picture of it since is now smooth!).  We walk through several of these together and model how to answer the questions.

I found this example passage of a practice CRCT tests from 2006.  I wrote on the test, showing how I would model this for my students.  Obviously, the think aloud bubble is for all you teachers out there!  But this is what I would model as a think aloud for my students.  The blue arrows show how I frame and number paragraphs (number 2 on the poster above) and the red arrow shows how I decide key words ( number 4 in the poster above).  If you click on the pictures they will take you to Google docs and you can see the picture in a larger size : ).

Another lesson that I teach is "What do I do if I freak out?"  Many children get test anxiety right before the big day- and since it is high stakes I understand.  I think I would freak out, too!  We talk about taking a deep breath, counting to 10, and eating a peppermint (we are allowed to give one to students). 

I also model how to pace yourself when taking a test.  We discuss how the test is 60 minutes, or one hour.  If there are 30 questions,  I model how to find half of 30 which is 15.  Then we discuss that at half an hour or 30 minutes into the test students should be around question 15.  Then we practice with other numbers like 22, 24, 35, and 26 since teachers have no idea how many questions are actually on the test.

I also model and think aloud HOW to check your work.  Many students  have heard this term many times, but have no idea what it means.  I model the correct and incorrect way to go back over the test and then we create an anchor chart of the correct way.  We also discuss if you get stuck on two possible answer when you check your work to go with your first instinct. 

And viola!  That is how I teach test prep.  Boring, no fun, but I do feel it is important.  Looking back I did MANY of these things in COLLEGE to make sure I did not freak out, paced myself, checked my work and answered reading questions.  It is a sad life skill, but a life skill none the less.



  1. Your post comes at a perfect time as we are beginning to enter the "testing season." It outlines excellent strategies to help students do their best on the test. Thanks for sharing your method!

  2. What an answer to prayers! I am a 3rd grade teacher in Ga too and just found your blog and TPT store. This is my first year in 3rd after many years in Pre-K. I appreciate your insight regarding CRCT and am your newest follower!

  3. This is awesome Mandy--I will definitely be referring back to this post, THANKS!

  4. I love this poster! I may steal it for a kido I tutor as a last minute test reminder review. She has her big ELA test in a few weeks!

    Thanks for sharing!

  5. I just noticed you were my newest follower to my blog, 3rd Grade Grapevine, so I thought I'd check out yours. I really like your test taking ideas. We seem to have very similar strategies. I would love to see the anchor chart you mentioned when you teach students how to go back and check their work. Thanks!

  6. This is exactly what I was asking you for. Thank you!

  7. Such great tips as usual, Mandy. Thanks for this post. I was just going through all my "starred items" in Google Reader and am so glad I came back to this just in time for testing :)

    Fun in Room 4B

  8. Great post! Please consider accepting my invitation to link up this blog post at the TEST PREP LINKY PARTY being hosted at


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