Final Push to Finals: Test Taking Strategies

PencilYou spent the whole semester teaching content. From commas to compositions, your students have the skills, but do they have the skills to successfully navigate your final exam?

I’ve found it difficult to balance the need to teach students content with the need to teach students how to demonstrate they know the content. Assessment is a reality of life; from state tests to college entrance exams, students will face tests throughout their lives. All this to say, teaching students explicitly how to successful navigate a test is critical to their success.

Top 5 Test-Taking Skills to Teach Before Finals

  1. slide1Preview the Test: Spend a couple minute previewing the test before starting to get a sense of the question types, length, and difficulty
  2. Annotate Passages: Write a gist of the main idea next for each paragraph or the entire passage depending on the length and task associated with the passage
  3. Circle Key Terms in the Question: Teach students to circle key words that help students identify what they are/aren’t looking for; this helps avoid selecting distractors that are unrelated to the question
  4. Eliminate Distractors Before Selecting an Answer: Teach students to eliminate answers before selecting the correct one. It’s also important to teach students the different types of distractors.
  5. Budget Time: Do you have students who perpetually run out of time on tests? Teaching them to budget time is a skill that has to be built. Help students build the habit of skipping and coming back to tough questions.

Learning test-taking skills require lessons of their own. Students need strategies, resources to reference, and practice. Remember, this is not a natural skill. It takes time, explicit instruction, and lots of practice. The Test Taking Strategies Anchor Chart in my TPT store is a great place to start in teaching your students test-taking skills.

Best TNReady Resources on EduTools

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As this semester winds down and you’re getting ready for the spring semester, now is a great time to take a second look at TNReady standards and resources to ensure your units and lessons for the spring are closely aligned.

Remember that all resources for educators are now on eduToolbox and TNCore is no longer used. Tennessee tools for ELA Literacy Assessments are available by grade herescreen-shot-2016-11-12-at-11-14-57-pmOnce you select a grade, you will see additional resources, tasks, and scoring guides for your grade.

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These links aren’t the easiest to navigate and there’s almost too much information available. The vast majority of resources are downloadable documents, and a large amount are rubrics and scoring guides.

There aren’t nearly as many item samplers and practice questions to use in your classroom, which I’ve found to be the most valuable state resources. Hopefully, there’s more to come in upcoming years. For now, I’m highlighting the best resources available through EduTools.

This list is specific to 7th grade, but there are similar resources across all grade levels:

Informational/Explanatory Rubric

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How to Use in your Classroom:

  • Give to students to use in peer-reviews and self-assessments of writing
  • Review the different scoring categories with students so they understand how their writing will be assessed
  • Make it a habit of using the names of the scoring categories in your daily instruction
    • Example: When teaching a skill-based lesson on prepositions, make reference to the Conventions category of the writing rubric and give students concrete examples of how they can use prepositions to improve their writing
  • Show students examples of essays with different scores and examine what differentiates the writing
  • Follow the same protocol for the Narrative Rubric  and the Opinion/Argument Rubric

Literacy Toolkit

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How to Use in Your Classroom:

  • Includes 8 Interim Assessments with passages, multiple-choice questions, and prompts from Pages 9-63
    • You can use these as interim assessments or extract questions for your own assessments, lessons, or bellringers
    • Given the lack of item samplers and practice tests this year, this is a great resource
  • Page 5 includes an overview of other resources where teachers can find assessment questions

Practice Writing Task: Informational Texts

Screen Shot 2016-11-12 at 11.39.50 PM.pngHow to Use in Your Classroom:

  • 2 practice tasks and 4 texts 
  • Use as a practice writing assessment
    • I’ve found it incredibly important to provide students with several opportunities to practice reading a response and completing an on-demand writing task
    • This is a tough exercise for anyone, so building the muscle memory of completing this task in ~45 minutes is critical
  • Use the informational texts to improve reading comprehension on informational texts
  • Additional Practice Writing Tasks:

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 For more no-prep TNReady-aligned resources, check out my Teachers Pay Teachers store, which includes assessments, lessons, projects, and more. 

New Freebie: Be Specific Anchor Chart

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Freebie Alert!

The Be Specific Anchor Chart is now a free resource on my Teachers Pay Teachers Store.

Do your students struggle to use specific word choice in their writing? The Be Specific Anchor Chart includes strategies and tips to make writing more specific. This is an increasingly important skill in the Common Core era, especially on the writing portion of the assessment. Hang this anchor chart in your room or print out and give to your students as a handout.