Who Says Test Prep has to be Boring??

Ashley Odham | New York ‘06

Spring Break is over and for most St. Louis schools that means its time to buckle down and prepare for the MAP test. As the pressure to increase test scores among the cities schools mounts, that doesn’t mean that the test anxiety has to filter down to you and your students.  There are plenty of ways to prepare your students while also creating an engaging learning environment.  I have included a list of ideas that I have gathered over my years of teaching. This is a great starting place, but I encourage you to reach out to other corps members, TFA alums and veteran teachers to find other great ways to spice up test prep. Remember: who says test prep has to be boring?? Let’s make it fun!

  • Create a classroom test prep theme: Turn your classroom into a Top Secret Test Taking Spy Agency, a camouflaged test prep Bootcamp, or a MAP Madness Training Camp.  Your lessons might be basic test prep, but the theme will increase the engagement and get students excited about answering those pesky multiple-choice questions. Try dressing up in costume, bringing props for students to use, and decorating your room to fit whichever theme you choose.  No matter the age group, if you get into it, your students will get into it as well.
  • Make a class chant about passing the MAP:We all know that pouring over a Buckle Down book is mind numbing, so why not wake up your students with a class chant.  You can find lots of great ideas on Youtube or better yet, have your students create their own song.  You can use saying the chant as a way to reward students for their focus or to break up the monotony of hours of test prep.
  • Get your students moving:Test prep does not always have to take place at a desk with a number 2 pencil in hand.  Instead, try having students answer questions in one of the following ways:
  • Label each wall in your classroom either A, B, C, or D. When reviewing answers, have students move to the wall labeled with the multiple-choice answer they chose.
  • Give students different colored pieces of paper or Popsicle sticks.  Each color can correlate to a multiple-choice answer (red is A, blue is B, etc.).  Have students hold up the color based on which answer they chose.
  • Turn your classroom into a museum by creating a gallery walk. Hang test prep questions around the classroom, students can move silently, in partners, or to music to the different “exhibits” around the room. They can then answer the questions on a worksheet or in a notebook that they carry around the room with them.
  • Take time for a “Break” dance. In order to ease test anxiety, take time out for students to get up and move around the classroom. Play music and let them dance, orchestrate a class stretch, or teach students a few yoga moves. The movement will increase the flow of oxygen to the brain and can really help relieve stress and refocus student energy on preparing for the test.
  • Make a game of it: Students love competition, so turn test prep into a game.  Having students partner up and complete test prep tasks together can easily do this.  All you have to do is add a timer and a small incentive (homework pass for the winning team, a piece of candy, class job, extra credit, prize from the prize box) and you have a game. You can find a list of other great test taking games here.
  • Encourage Students:  As the MAP approaches, it is important that we build student confidence and remain positive.  There are lots of fun and easy ways to do this. Try taping a fun saying to a piece of candy as a sweet and encouraging treat (Candy Motivational Notes). You can also try hanging inspiring posters around your classroom, writing a motivational letter to your students, or having students write “good luck” notes to their classmates. Check out Pintrest for other creative ideas.

ImageAshley Odham is the 5th grade reading teacher and reading department chair at KIPP: Inspire Academy. She was a 2006 corps member in New York and prior to her role at KIPP she was a Recruitment Director for Teach For America. She is currently a Teach For America Alumni School captain.


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