Tips for Prepping Middle Schoolers for State Testing

It’s that time of year again! For many teachers and students, spring means one thing: standardized testing season. (Cue the collective groans.) I know, I know…state testing typically isn’t anyone’s favorite way to spend the day, but here’s the good news: test day doesn’t have to be a day filled with stress and test anxiety for you OR your students! That’s right! With a little test preparation, state testing can actually be a relatively smooth process. Here are my best tips for prepping your middle schoolers for state testing!

TEST PREP IDEAS

Most teachers dedicated at least a little bit of time to prepare their students to take a statewide assessment. This is a delicate practice. It can be helpful to spend time refreshing content knowledge and getting familiar with test prep strategies without putting too much emphasis on the big test. When it comes to incorporating test-taking strategies into your classroom plans, here are my favorite tools and tips for prepping middle schoolers for state testing:

CHECK OUT “EDULASTIC”

Edulastic is a fantastic resource for teachers of every grade level. They offer all sorts of formative assessments for every content area and grade level. Using Edulastic is one of my favorite tips for prepping middle schoolers for state testing because they have an entire section of assessments focused solely on state test prep.

As we all know, different tests come with their own unique nuances. They have different types of questions and test vocabulary. In order to effectively prepare your students for the specific test they will be taking (ex: AIR, MAP, STAAR, etc.) it’s a good idea to take some time familiarizing students with a similar test structure. Edulastic has you covered! They have free test prep assessments for every major state testing assessment. Simply select the state in which you teach and you’ll find resources for your students.

LOOK UP RELEASED TEST QUESTIONS

Each year, most test companies release a selection of test questions from previous tests. I recommend looking up the released test questions for the assessments your students will be taking and finding ways to work them into your classroom instruction and test prep. Here are some of my favorite ways to use released test questions:

  • Mix them into classroom assessments while teaching a specific standard
  • Use them as part of a review game
  • Assign a few questions as homework practice or station work
  • Add them to classroom worksheets

TRY “PROBLEM-ATTIC

More than a test generator, Problem-Attic allows you to deliver test prep questions in a variety of formats to meet your students needs. The questions in this online data bank can formatted and used as practice tests, flash cards, exit tickets, games, slideshows, and more. Problem-Attic is easy to use and pairs easily will all major education platforms, including Google Classroom, Schoology, Powerschool, and more.

USE “LANEY-LEE” ASSESSMENTS

Over the years, I’ve worked hard to create standards-aligned assessments that accurately measure student comprehension of understanding of middle school science content. These assessments work well as quizzes and tests within each individual unit, but they can also be used as preparation for state testing. The questions in these quizzes and tests are designed to be rigorous and require students to predict, reflect, connect, and think critically about the content being presented. Each of these assessments can be printed from a PDF or shared digitally via Google Classroom.

Here are a few examples:

MAKE TIME FOR PRACTICE TESTS

While I don’t typically spend tons of time repeatedly taking practice tests, I do think it’s a good idea to incorporate a practice test (or two) to get students familiar with the testing process. Not only do these practice tests have similar questions to the actual test, the are formatted and timed to give students a true experience of what “testing day” will actually be like. Here are a few examples:

PLANNING FOR SUCCESSFUL TESTING DAYS

Don’t forget the essentials

Take some extra time in the days leading up to test day to remind your students of the important habits and routines that can help them on test day. Things like:

  • Eating a good breakfast the morning of the test
  • Getting a good night’s sleep…having enough sleep is essential for good focus and concentration.

They may be small things, but they have a big impact.

CHECK YOUR OWN ATTITUDE

Whether you teach elementary students, middle school students, or even high school students, your personal attitude as their teacher will play a major role in setting your own classroom environment the week of the test. If you appear stressed, anxious, or flustered, your students will likely feed off of those emotions. It may even create otherwise avoidable anxiety within them. Attitude and mental state can have a huge impact on student performance.

So…my advice?

Don’t forget your “testing day” self-care practices.

Prioritize your own good sleep. Eat a nutritious breakfast. Stop for that “splurge” coffee that just puts you in a good mood! Managing your own stress levels and emotions and maintaining a positive attitude is the best way to support your students as they tackle their standardized test.

PLAN FOR RELAXATION

In most districts, students will be testing for several days on end. Achievement tests can be long and exhausting. After students complete each test, they are going to need some time and space to unwind. (Wouldn’t we all?!) It’s a good idea to have some relaxation techniques on hand for students to engage in after they’ve finished their test.

This may include:

  • Books and/or magazines for them to read
  • Coloring sheets and plenty of colored pencils
  • Play Dough or modeling clay (yes, even middle schoolers can find this colorful, squishy dough cathartic and relaxing.)

WHAT TO DO AFTER TESTING

Alright, you’ve made it! The state tests are over for this school year. Sure, you probably don’t have the results yet and won’t for awhile…but that’s alright! With the testing dates behind you, what should you do now?

Take some time to celebrate!

Your students have just spent days (possibly even weeks) working hard on their state assessments. Their effort deserves acknowledgment (yes, even without knowing the results.) I recommend setting aside a class period or two to celebrate their hard work and dedication. Here are a few ideas:

  • Have a movie day! (If you’re looking for some good movie ideas — check out this post!)
  • Bring in special treats (ice cream, pizza… you name it! Your students will probably love it!)
  • Play games! Whether you play a “whole class” trivia game or let them break out the board games, your students will enjoy a fun game day.

Let’s Stay Connected!

Continue the discussion in my Facebook Group for Middle School Science Teachers or my Classroom Management Facebook Group.

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