Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Test Taking Strategies

Another snow day today...

Luckily we didn't get near as much snow as was predicted but I guess that means that we will have school tomorrow.  Bittersweet...

With February just about behind us, my district has about a month and half until our state assessment; MAP.
It's like all of sudden, everyone is getting antsy.

With MSIP5, MAP is even more a factor in accreditation which doesn't help the anxiety.

So yesterday I spent some time printing released items off of the DESE website for my testing grade levels.  This will help them provide their students with sample passages and MAP-like questions.

Preparing for state assessments is absolutely necessary, but I feel very strongly that core instruction shouldn't be put aside, for extended periods of time, for test prep; especially with reading instruction.

I would use some time during my guided groups to prepare my students for test taking strategies.  We focused on comprehension skills but also threw in some test taking tips, as I would call them.

First, we would work on answering constructed response questions.  Somewhere along the way I learned a strategy called SLAMS which is an acronym for writing quality constructed response answers.  When trying to look for the source to give credit, I stumbled upon this Prezi which explains SLAMS.

Here are some other test taking tips:

Make a quick overview of the test (is it fiction or nonfiction, what is the title, what illustrations and/or text features are included, etc)
Read the questions first to help you be prepared for reading.
Read the text once all the way through.
Skim the text for key words or phrases from the questions.
Underline and number (according to the questions) the key words or phrases in the text.
Answer the questions (For constructed response use SLAMS.  For selected response, go through each option and eliminate incorrect choices)

For math, we practice problem solving all year.  We use a strategy that I also learned along the way called MAPS.

Mark all important information in the problem.
Application- What operation(s) do you need to use to solve the problem
Problem-  What is the problem you are trying to solve
Solution-  What is the solution?  Does it make sense?

I always liked to throw in an additional S where I would have my students write their answer in a sentence because it is sometimes hard to tell where the answer actually is.

Hope you find these test taking strategies helpful.
What do you use in your classroom to prepare your students for state assessments?



  1. We've been working hard on our extended response in math this week. After my kiddos show/label their work, I have them make a T-chart of what they did and why for each step they took in solving the problem. Then they write their answer in a sentence at the bottom. I like the SLAMS idea.:)

    iTeach 1:1

  2. What wonderful strategies - we take THE test in April and I'll definitely share some of these with my kiddos before then.

    Thanks for sharing!


  3. That's a great idea Kristin! I love that they have to justify why they did each step. :)

  4. Glad the strategies were helpful to you, Jessica!
    Antoinette :)

  5. Thanks for the resources regarding the MAPS test. We appreciate your willingness to share....we can use all the help we can get!!

  6. Louise- I am so happy you found the information useful. Thanks for the comment! :)

  7. 1. I am thankful to be in 2nd, a non-testing grade, after having taught 3rd for 3 years. STRESS.
    2. I am jealous of your snow days!!!
    3. We use the CUBES math strategy: Circle the numbers, Underline key words, Bracket the question, Eliminate any extra information, & Show your work & solve. Our school teaches it in 2nd-4th grade (5th might as well, not sure). The older grades love the continuity. :)

    Teach On.

  8. Gayla-
    I've heard of that strategy. It sounds like a good one.
    I don't blame you for loving to teach a non-testing grade. It's sad though that there is so much pressure put on 3-5 with THE test.
    I am over the snow so would be more than happy to share with you lol.