Please note that as I share what test prep steps look like, I'm speaking from my experience working with K-2 students. So many feelings come up when even thinking about having to teach these skills, however testing is a non-negotiable for many school districts.

This engaging test prep includes best practices for whenever our students want to put their best foot forward!

What Should Test Prep Include?

Young students benefit from following a series of steps that don't waiver. This means that they can be used in a variety of problem solving situations and the language will stay consistent.

Our goal for test prep is to develop a routine for solving a problem from start to finish.

After consulting with several teachers who all had their own favorite content area (mine is early literacy!), these are the steps that felt the most universal = guide our students to success whether they were tackling math or reading:

Test Prep Steps – Now What?

Now that we have the five steps for problem solving, it's time to put them into action!

Young students learn best from modeling and engagement.

Introduce the five steps using an anchor chart – not a fancy premade chart – but instead use a piece of chart paper with a handful of smelly markers.

Students can provide input as you talk about each step and add it to the chart. Yes, we already know the steps in order, but students will greatly benefit from being part of the discussion.

Ready, Set, Go!

Once the finished chart has a prominent spot in the classroom, let's “test” these steps out!

Introducing a new math application problem?

Use the chart as you model your thinking.

Asking and answering comprehension questions from a read aloud book?

Don't skip a step…


Maybe you SHOULD skip a step – then see what happens. Hopefully you'll have some pretty excited students who are adamant that you missed an important step! Why do they LOVE when they catch our mistakes?

(by the way – if they don't notice – that's a clear sign that they need more practice!)

Digital Test Prep

This is a skill that will need to be revisited often – not just one week, one month, or even one school year. This solid set of test prep skills can follow our students from one grade to the next (as unfortunately testing does, too).

A PowerPoint presentation with the labeled practice steps is a great way to reinforce test taking skills. Display for the whole class, share with a small group in person or online (or hybrid), or even use individually as a center.

Here's an example of test prep designed for Primary Reading (NWEA MAP Assessment):

Notice the exact same language and test prep steps can also be used for early math skills (NWEA MAP Assessment for Primary Math):

These came from my Guided Practice slides – there are 100 reading questions and 100 math questions – each labeled with the five test prep steps. Warm-up your class by going through 2-3 together every day.

You can find the practice sets here:

Key Points

  • Keep the test prep skills consistent (same order, same language)
  • Make the steps visible and accessible – i.e.: on an anchor chart, on PowerPoint slides
  • Model often and refer to each step as you use them (self-narrate)
  • Provide PLENTY of opportunities to practice!

Best of luck with test prep in your classroom!

Hi there.

I'm Jennifer!

I’m Jennifer and I was a special educator in the elementary school setting over the past decade. I entered the classroom every day dedicated to making learning inclusive AND engaging.

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