Help your elementary students prepare for those upcoming tests (especially multiple-choice questions) with these 6 testing strategies.
It is an unfortunate world we live in when teaching students how to test has to be part of an elementary learning plan, but here we are.
If you are unfamiliar with my feelings on state-mandated testing, you may find this blog post helpful. I still dream of a day when state-mandated testing is not a thing and teachers can focus on students and learning, but that is not our current reality, so we must prepare.
Although I am not a fan of state-mandated testing, I am good at teaching elementary-aged students to be prepared for tests built around multiple-choice questions.
Teaching students how to test intelligently and with a plan can benefit kids. It can help them feel in charge as they approach those multiple-choice questions and give them the confidence they may not otherwise feel in a testing environment.
We will go over 6 test prep strategies for elementary students, but you can also grab this little testing strategy flipbook to supplement your teaching of this topic. The flipbook will help keep these testing strategies front of mind and easy to reference as you continue to work through sample problems throughout the school year.
6 Elementary Testing Strategies for Multiple Choice Questions
#1 | Be Prepared
This strategy focuses on helping students get prepared physically to take the test.
A child who is too tired or hungry can struggle during testing time.
Help students use their sleep schedule (bedtime to wake up) to determine the ideal amount of sleep they need to feel ‘at their best.’ I tell them that the average sleep recommendation for children ages 7-12 is ten to eleven hours per night, and we use that as a springboard for our conversation.
As you work through this, you’ll want to talk about how students feel in the morning after they’ve had a good night’s sleep and approximately how many hours of sleep they got to feel that way.
Second, we talk about eating a good breakfast. For this part, I like to bring in grocery circulars. Students can work independently or in groups to find ideas for good, healthy breakfast food items. We then paste their ideas onto a chart and hang them in the room as a reminder.
#2 | Jail the Detail
The basic idea of this strategy is to help students identify (and keep in focus) the key details of the question or passage.
Since students frequently answer the wrong question, being able to identify what the question is asking is essential. By placing the keywords or details in ‘jail’ by putting a box around what is being asked or the specific details that are being highlighted in a passage, students can stay focused.
Note: If your state test allows highlighting, you can use highlighters rather than boxes.
#3 | Slash the Trash
This is a process of elimination strategy. Students are taught to get rid of the ‘trashy’ answer options. To practice this strategy, I set a trash can in the middle of the room. I give students multiple-choice questions, and I write four answer choices for each question on four pieces of paper. The students can then crumple up and ‘throw away’ the ‘trashy’ answers.
As students get more confident with this strategy, we start practicing on some actual practice test questions.
#4 | “Bee” Positive
Sometimes the best thing we can do to prepare our students for a test is to build their confidence. As part of this strategy for preparing students for the ‘big’ test, we brainstorm a list of thoughts that show positive thinking.
Questions to Ask:
- What can you say to yourself when you start feeling discouraged during the test?
- What positive words can you say to others who are nervous on testing day?
- When were some times that you accomplished hard things?
- What can you say to remind yourself that you’re prepared for this test?
#5 | Be Slick and Predict
This strategy is all about trying to outsmart the test makers. I show students how to cover up all the answer choices at first. Then they read the question and predict the answer before looking at the options.
I talk about how test makers will purposefully try to distract you with their answer selections, so if you can predict the answer without seeing it, then you most likely have the correct answer.
In the flipbook, we use a snake to represent this strategy.
You can draw many connections between the be slick and predict strategy and snakes. For example, snakes don’t have eyelids, so nothing gets by them, and they see things more clearly without any distractions.
In my classroom, I wear a giant stuffed snake around my shoulders, so when we practice this strategy as a class, I reward the students who correctly predict the answers by letting them wear the snake.
#6 | Twice is Nice
We’ve probably all been guilty of telling our students to check their answers, but for this strategy, that isn’t good enough. Instead, we want students to take the whole test a second time.
We want to see if students would get the same answers the second time. If they find a better answer the second time through, they erase their previous answer and make the change.
Both teachers and students alike usually agree that this strategy takes a lot of effort, but it is worth it when the students find some of their own mistakes!
As you work through the flipbook, consider also making some posters of the images that you can hang up during testing week or on testing days. Review these strategies regularly, so they stay front-of-mind for students when approaching testing-like situations.