Kids preparing for the Reading State Test.

4 Effective Reading Test Prep Strategies

I’m just gonna say it (and I have a feeling no one will argue with me here…)! Reading Test Prep is tough! The “test modeling” style of review is excellent for teaching students the “right way” to take a test (click here if you missed that post!), but it can be exhausting for everyone due to the level of focus, energy, and brain power that goes into that!

Full-on “Test Modeling” is only a one or two-day-a-week activity (unless you want to completely fry your students’ brains!). You may be thinking, “What should I do the other 3-4 days of the week?” I am so glad you asked because I just happen to have a few Reading Test Prep ideas lying around here somewhere…

1. Practice Reading Test Prep with a Partner!

Students working together or prepare for the state reading test.

All that “test modeling” gets put to good use when you give students a chance to practice what you’ve been preachin’! Give students a Standardized Reading Passage and a partner to work with.

It’s still working, but Reading Test Prep is much more fun because they have a partner. I alternate between allowing them to choose their own partners and me choosing for them.

When I choose the pairs, I put students together who I think will score similarly on the Test. If the student is a “Bubble Kid” (meaning they could pass or fail- they are capable but need a bump to get them over), I put them with a higher performing student who is still somewhat close to their level.

Students who I know will most likely not pass, I work with in a group of 3 or 4. I know that sounds cold and uncaring to say “I know they will fail”, but I promise I’m not being mean! I am ridiculously proud of the majority of these students because they have worked so hard to grow so much, and I remind them to focus on growth not passing (see this blog post for more on how I do this).

We work through the story together just like I do when I model test-taking, so they get extra support and feel successful on these tests that normally they don’t pass on their own.

Work Expectations for Partners

Students working on reading test prep in a collaborative group.
  • Both partners participate in reading the story, questions, and answer choices
  • Both partners explain their thinking when discussing answers (including finding support in the text if necessary)
  • No arguing- if partners have different answers and both “prove” why they chose that answer, each student should mark what they think and move on to the next question
  • Be respectful of other people’s opinions and answers.

When students are finished, we check the questions together by reviewing each answer choice and students explain to me why the choice was right or wrong. This is similar to the way I model testing, but it’s much quicker because they already know the story and the answers. We only deeply discuss if there are students who got a question wrong but don’t understand why or there was a tricky question/answer choice that could come up on the real test.

My students love this Reading Test Prep activity because the partner thing makes it social and getting to talk through the questions makes it less stressful. The kids learn a lot from each other, and it’s great review for everyone!

2. Practice Reading Test Prep at home!

In an effort to save class time, I had students practice a bit on their own for Homework. I don’t give HW throughout the year other than to read 20 minutes each night, so reading one story for HW just takes the place of that 20 minutes they would have been Free Reading. 

I also broke down the Reading Test Prep into steps that students completed each night. Here’s how I did this in my classroom and how to make it work for you!

I printed out 2 EOG-style stories with questions and added this Test Prep “Reading Comprehension HW” sheet on top as a packet. You can grab the same Test Prep HW Sheet in my Freebie Collection! This packet will last the whole week. If you need an incentive to bring them back each day, offer a small reward.

I used Class Dojo, so when students brought their packets back to class each day they got +1 point for being Responsible. I also gave a check on their paper each time their parent/caregiver signed it.

By Friday, if students had 4 checks, they got an additional 5 points. So just for getting a signature and having their paper in class every day, kids could get 9 points in one week! I know it sounds crazy, but I rarely had kids come to class without their paper.

Reading Test Prep HW Procedures

The first story was read on Monday night and students practiced jotting notes and connections as they read. Tuesday night, students answered the questions for the same story.

We reviewed the answers on Wednesday in class by talking through each answer choice. Students not only shared their answers but had to prove where they found them.

A mom helping her daughter with a practice reading test.

We repeated the same pattern for the second story. Read the story Wednesday night, answered questions on Thursday, and quickly reviewed on Friday (and I mean quickly, because Fridays are special….). I have even pushed review to Monday if my Friday was full.

Now, you might be thinking, “Will students get help from parents at home?” Maybe, but I don’t mind. Even if parents do help, students are still reviewing by talking it over with them. I think of it as one on one tutoring!

What I ask my students to do at home is exactly what I teach them when I model testing. I just broke up the steps into manageable chunks for HW. The more students practice working through a story this way, the more likely they will work this way on the real test.

3. Practice a “Real” Reading Test!

Speaking of the real test, that brings me to my next way to practice. This may not be the most glamorous idea of the post, but it’s a necessary one.

Give your students a practice Reading Test where you can talk them through what to expect while they are actually testing. My state has a released version of the test that you can use for instructional purposes, so you can check to see if your state has one.

Students taking a practice end of grade state reading test.

On “Fake Testing Day”, we pretended it was the real deal, but I got to give them advice and answer any questions about testing that they had. You know, all the things I wasn’t allowed to do during the real testing session!

I started out by having students take a good Stretch Break before we began the test (more on how I lead stretch breaks in a minute). After this, I allowed them to sit in their “perfect testing spot” (which students picked according to where they thought they could focus and felt most comfortable). I began the test, then circulated the room.

While working on the test, students had scrap paper to write on. This paper was used to write down any words they couldn’t read or didn’t understand what they meant. They also wrote those comments and connections for the story on that paper if their test is on the computer.

If I noticed that a student was working too quickly, suuuuper slowwwly, not marking out incorrect answer choices, or needed any helpful pointers- this was the time I could say something! And I did, in a positive way!

Check out the following graphics for Testing Advice I gave to my students!

Stretch Breaks during Testing

When it was time for a Stretch Break, I talked my students through how they should use their time. I had my kids moving the entire 3 minutes! Brains work best when bodies have been moving (think how much work gets done after PE or recess!), so we practiced how to “wake up” and get our blood pumping!

Here’s what to include in a Stretch Break:

Stretching helps students during breaks in State Testing.
  • Start with jumping jacks, squats, invisible jump rope, and jogging in place! These are perfect for getting blood pumping so oxygen flows to their brains to wake them up (even if you don’t feel tired!).
  • Next, students cross their midline (the invisible line that divides your body right down the middle, creating your right and left sides) by crossing their arms and legs, tapping their left knee with their right hand (then right knee with left hand), or gently “punching” your right arm across your chest to the left side of your body (then left arm across your chest to the right side of your body). This strengthens neural connections and makes both sides of the brain “talk to each other” leading to better focus and thinking.
  • Finally, we stretch. Stretches are perfect for releasing the stress your muscles are holding onto! Reach to the ceiling, put hands on the floor, and other arm and leg stretches will also calm students down before resuming the test.

After the Practice Test

Student raising his hand to answer a question during test prep.

When back to the work on the test, I continued walking around checking on students and giving positive feedback!  

Once the “test” was over, I asked students to share what they were thinking while testing and any questions they had about anything Testing related. If you’re out of time, students could write these ideas instead and discuss them the next day.

I also shared overall what I noticed about how they tested or anything that came up while chatting with other students. This is always a time when students begin to feel more relaxed about the Test because they feel like they know better what to expect, but I am very clear that this was a practice! I absolutely can not do this “coaching” during the real Testing Session!

And remember those words students wrote down on their scrap paper that they didn’t know from the test? They go up on my Word Wall the very next day, and I teach those words till the cows come home (or at least until the test!).

Every year, my kids say that this practice test is one of the biggest reasons they feel more prepared for the real thing. I highly recommend this for your students as well!

4. Give your kids a break from Test Prep with FUN FRIDAY!

The first 3 Reading Test Prep Strategies are less intense than “Test Modeling”, but still a lot of work! There is just no way to keep up your Testing Prep stamina ALL WEEK LONG! It is too much for anyone, especially nine year old kids!

When I first begin Test Prep, I make a deal with my students: if you work your hardest Monday-Thursday, we will have Fun-day Friday! My students always rose to the occasion and gave it their all because they knew I would make it worth their while!

Fun Friday can be as simple as a fun review game paired with a 30 minute break that is not necessarily educational like silly board games, extra recess, a short movie, etc…

Or, you could choose a longer time frame for fun activities that are educational such as board games or internet-based learning games, puzzles, brain teasers & mysteries, or art projects where students create a painting or paper project based on a book or certain theme.

TPT Making Inferences with Superheroes Text Evidence Activity for 3rd 4th 5th

I LOVE big, splashy immersive activities where students have to use critical thinking skills and make inferences! And a fun theme never hurts either!

If you are looking for an activity like this, then check out my Making Inferences Using Text Evidence Digital Activity!

It is exactly what you need for a Fun Friday activity that engages your students and feels like a big reward for all their hard work!

Try a Superhero Theme Day

This superhero-themed resource includes a vivid Google Slides presentation that begins with a Name Generator that gives students their superhero name! Students then read 3 superhero-themed stories and answer a question from each story.

Students must think critically and find text evidence to support their answers. Each answer choice could be correct, depending on students’ prior knowledge and the evidence they found.  

Students imagine themselves as superheroes during a Superhero Theme Day.

The answers students choose determine aspects of their Superhero Alter Ego: Superpowers, Backstory, and Archenemy! When they’re finished with the quiz, students will have created their own superhero identity!

You and your students will have the best time blowing off Testing Stress, all the while practicing Reading Standards like Character Traits, Cause & Effect, and Theme! Who doesn’t want to make up their own Superhero Identity and pretend to have superpowers instead of Test Prep? *crickets*

I thought so! You can grab your Superhero Inferences Activity in my TPT Store!

However you choose to spend your Fun Friday, a day of lighter, more fun “work” will truly be what everyone needs to keep from getting burned out by all that Test Prep!

Be Positive about the Test in front of your students!

A teacher encouraging her students before the state reading test.

Friends, none of the Prep Strategies I have shared with you will mean a thing if your attitude towards the test is negative. Don’t act like the Test is something to be afraid of or angry about or your kids will feel that way too.

My students knew that I didn’t like Testing, but my attitude was always upbeat!

“We’re going to beat this Test! Let me show you how!” was my promise to them.

Show your students they can do this! Tell them you believe in them! Promise LOTS of amazing treats after Testing is over (and totally deliver!). But mostly, inspire confidence in each student so they can do their best!

If you’re interested in knowing what I do the day before Testing to pump my kids up like they’ve never been pumped up before, check out this Blog Post! You don’t want to miss it, especially if you are having a hard time thinking positively about Testing.

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If you ever need me, I’m here for you! Teacher Sparkle always grows when it has other Teacher Sparkle to bounce ideas off of! ❤️


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