Test Prep: Strategies That Worked For Us

what worked what didn't

I know we are now finished with the standardized test season. Everybody is probably ready to move on, and forget about it until next year. I would like to take just one post to reflect on what worked in my classroom, what helped my students be more successful, or at least less frustrated, on the tests.

What Worked:

  • Main Idea and Supporting Details Highlighting: Around February, I tried out a close read strategy for informational texts. I had students underline the main idea/topic sentence in red. They then highlighted the important supporting details in yellow. I saw amazing results in comprehension, ability to summarize and use of supporting evidence in short answer questions. I am definitely going to continue to use this strategy.
  • Schaffer Model: The Schaffer Model is a paragraph writing outline that teaches students how to include supporting information as well as their thinking in any kind of expository or persuasive writing. Use for assignments as short as a constructed response or as long as a senior thesis. Every paragraph begins with a topic sentences and ends with a concluding sentence. The middle of the paragraph should have at least 1 “chunk,” consisting of a concrete detail sentence (fact, statistic, quote, etc.) and at least 2 commentary sentences explaining the meaning and relevance of the concrete detail. Schaffer Model is a school-wide program where I teach, so we increase the number of chunks required by grade level… 6th must have 1 chunk per paragraph, 7th grade requires 2 chucks, and 8th grade uses 3 chunk paragraphs. This outline really helps my student stay on topic, use supporting evidence, and explain their reasoning. Learn more about Schaffer Model here.

What Did Not Work:

  • Grammar Interactive Notebook: This one I know was the result of how I used and taught these activities. I don’t think I was consistent enough, and we had students being pulled for related services during the time that we worked on these notebooks, so students sometimes missed explanations. The foldables and graphics didn’t seem to really help more than daily grammar mini-lessons or Apple Tree activities. I probably won’t use interactive notebooks for grammar next year (though I do intend to use them for social studies).
  • Science and Social Studies Daily Drills: Students were bored and just circled answers without trying to reference notes, books, or other resources to find an answer if they didn’t remember. It was mostly a waste of time. Any better suggestions for keeping science and social studies content fresh in students’ minds?

Have you tried any of these methods?

What were your results? Do you have any more suggestions?