Once spring break hits, it’s a downhill race to summer. However, we have some obstacles on the road to our final destination. One of those obstacles is our dear old friend – standardized testing week. We have it blocked out on our calendars, and we secretly hope the week never arrives. However, we know it will. In the weeks leading up to the testing week, we dive with our students into end of year test prep to give them the confidence to tackle these tests.
I have some great tips and resources to use in the weeks leading up to your testing week! Believe it or not, there are methods to ease the stress of this especially dreaded week. I hope you find helpful tips and tricks for your end of year test prep in your math classes!
Tip #1: Start with the Basics
Our students love to be in the know about things. Because of this, my students are more open to learning experiences when they know the “why” behind their actions. Their countless questions may seem overwhelming, but behind those questions is the desire to see the purpose of what they’re doing.
When it’s time to deep-dive into end of year test prep in my math classes, I start with a class discussion. It’s essentially a method of collecting feedback on the quality of the curriculum and how well the students understand the concepts. I open the floor for students to share their thoughts, questions, or experiences. The discussion builds around the students and their input into the conversation.
Based on their questions or worries, I find that it is the perfect time to introduce the Test-Taking Strategies Doodle Wheel. While you and your students are working on end of year test prep, you may discover that students are familiar with the steps to complete a math problem but first need to remember to read the directions or use a strategy to help them zero in on what to do.
I have each of my students use a Test-Taking Strategies Doodle Wheel. We go through each of the strategies included on the wheel. I explain each and give examples of what that strategy may look like in action. Students follow along on their wheel writing notes, coloring, and drawing images to help them.
Test-Taking Strategies Doodle Wheel
On the wheel are different test-taking strategies that students can utilize while they are working through their tests. Strategies included on the wheel are:
- Read your directions.
- Underline helpful words or phrases.
- Choose a strategy.
- Read all the answer choices.
- Eliminate the answers to you help choose the best answer.
- Check over your work
- Use any resources available for you for the test.
- Take your time.
Something “magical” happened when I started using this doodle wheel. Prior, my focus was on telling the students the strategy and modeling it. Then I would guide them through putting it into use. They’d remember some of the strategies some of the time.
But. . . when they were actively involved in taking notes on each of the strategies, they started remembering the strategies. My guidance went from “Don’t forget your strategies” to helping them choose the best strategy for a given situation.
Tip #2: Weave it in All Year Long
When we start the school year in August or September, the last thing we think of is the end of the year test prep. Then we find our groove and get focused on the content and the standards. And. . . then the dreaded test starts to make its way into our thoughts and nightmares. But it doesn’t have to be this way!
There are multiple ways to incorporate test prep throughout the school year to make preparing for standardized testing week less daunting and more achievable. And dare I even say, make the learning process more effective for our students.
1. Review with the End in Mind
There are many opportunities during the school day to incorporate end of year test prep. One effective resource I use several weeks before the testing week is the Math Test Prep End of Year Review. I will assign a page for morning work or as a bellringer for each math class. I will either print all the pages I want at once or in smaller chunks to have my students keep in their binders or folders. They know that when they come to my classroom for class each day, they need to take out the assigned page to work on until it’s time to start class.
I incorporate centers into my math classes. On center days, one center activity will be to complete one of these review pages for a specific math concept. As a result, students then receive exposure to the new math concept we are working on in class as well as being able to review a previous concept. It’s an easy way to review all year long and keep concepts fresh in our student’s minds.
Additionally, I’ve used these pages as homework assignments for students to continue reviewing at home. These pages also work well as a summer packet for students to work on to keep their math skills sharp while they are out of school.
2. Spiral Review
Another resource I will use throughout the year for warm-ups at the beginning of class or as homework is the Math Spiral Review Math Warm-Ups or Homework resource.
The resource covers 180 days of school, with two days on one page. I have organized these pages in a couple of different ways. One way I’ve done this in the past is by binding the pages into a book for students. However, if you have a large number of students, this might not be the most time-efficient method. More often than not, I print off the student pages and have my students place them in the first tab of their binders.
Students take out their binders each math class and work on the day’s math section on the spiral review. Each day has 2 or 3 problems for students to solve. They will also be exposed to their favorite – word problems!
There’s a slideshow with a slide for each day and a digital version that can be completed on Google Slides. If you are in a 1:1 classroom or have access to the technology, there is an instant increase in engagement when students can use a device to complete the daily warm-up.
I also love using the slideshow option as a way of discussing the problems as a class. Simply project the day’s slide so that you can go over it together. If copies are limited, you can also use this as an option for students. Instead of copying their own page, project the warm-up on the board. Then have students complete the problems in their math notebooks.
What I love most about these resources, besides reviewing previous concepts, is that there are helpful hints on the pages to help remind the students of essential parts of the concept.
3. Flashback Fridays
As we get closer to testing week, I begin implementing Flashback Fridays. On Flashback Fridays, we use the class time to focus on a previous math concept to prepare for the upcoming tests.
By Friday, all of us are spent and are just wanting the weekend to start. I will put out task cards and place them around the room. If it’s allowed in your building, you can even hang them up in the hallway near your room. We practice 2 or 3 problems together as a refresher of the concept. Then, students grab a clipboard and their recording sheet and begin walking around the room solving the problems.
My students love being able to leave their seats and move around the classroom for end-of-year test prep. Sometimes, to make the stakes even higher, I offer up small prizes for the number of correct answers. Prizes could be water bottle stickers, candy, or homework passes.
You can grab the bundle of Math Task Cards for centers, partner work, or independent work. Ten sets of task cards cover various math skills that can be reviewed. Each set has 30 different cards.
Tip #3: Create Low-Stress End of Year Test Prep Activities
A lot of nerves come with the mention of tests or testing week. Students can begin feeling overwhelmed and anxious weeks before the testing week. It’s important when reviewing for the test that, along with providing them with testing strategies, we also offer review activities that allow the students to study in a low-stress manner. In my years of teaching, I’ve noticed that students pick up on what you are feeling or how you react. If they feel our stress, they will absorb that and become even more stressed.
Color By Number is one activity I use for end of year test prep with my math classes. Students can practice previous math skills by solving problems on paper or digitally. Then, they can self-check their answers based on being able to color in the picture with the correct color.
Students are reviewing for their standardized math tests and working on being mindful, slowing their brains and bodies down, and strengthening their independence to solve and self-check their work. Coloring helps with strengthening math skills and provides a low-stress method for reviewing previous math skills.
Check out Math Color By Number Activities Bundle Math Worksheets and Math Color By Number Bundle #2 to see the different math concepts covered.
Tip #4: Incorporating Digital Centers for End of Year Test Prep
Have you ever had a lesson or project that had taken you a considerable amount of time to plan and execute, only to have a student finish it quickly before everyone else? I know I have! I learned early on in my career to always have extra activities for my early finishers. However, I wanted activities that had substance and weren’t just busy work.
That’s where digital centers come into play! If your students are 1:1 with devices or have access to it in the classroom, having digital end of year test prep activities available is certainly a game changer.
My website Cognitive Cardio Math Activities has a bountiful library of digital activities that helps student review or receive extra practice for over 30 different math concepts. I will assign specific skills for my students to focus on to help with end of year test prep. I’ll change the assigned activities frequently to prevent boredom.
The Middle School Math Online Math Activities Math Centers Year-long Resource provides access to my website. These activities are fantastic for test prep, centers, and early finishers.
Get Excited About End of Year Test Prep
So, are you excited now? End of year test prep doesn’t have to mean practice tests and stress. With a little creativity, it can be a rich review that helps your students feel confident about the testing to come. I hope that these tips and resources help make the reviewing process for your testing week more manageable and approachable for you and your students!
Save this Ultimate Guide to End of Year Test Prep for Middle School!
Make sure to save this post to your favorite classroom Pinterest board to return when you are ready for end of year test prep!