Test Prep 180: Comprehension vs. Writing Strategies

It's been a long time since I have written a Test Prep 180 post....but here we are again, back in the "testing" mode.  Today, during my small group, we did something I found useful, so I thought I would share...just in case you could use it in your room too.

We have been looking at the released questions, specifically the questions that ask about writing strategies.  They are different than the comprehension questions, and require different thinking skills, so we created this little chart in our notebooks. 
upper grade blog, 4th grade, test released questions
Sorry for the terrible picture.  I did this on my easel white board.
Basically, the students told me what made comprehension sections different than writing sections, and then told me the different types of questions they may encounter.  This isn't all encompassing, but it is a start and it really helped my students to see that these two sections are, indeed, different.

teachinginroom6.blogspot.com, 5th grade blog, test prep, education, language artsWe then looked at one released passage with three questions.  We literally took 30 minutes to complete these three questions.  I really wanted the students to dissect the question, re-write it, circle key words, and figure out WHY the incorrect answers were wrong.  We also took some time to see where they fit within the realm of the "Writing" section. 

All in all, I think my students are really grasping the evidence stuff.  One of the aides told me the other day that when my students come in to her they are always talking about how they have to "mess up" their papers and show their evidence before they can do anything else!  At least something is rubbing off on them!  ;)

What are you doing for test prep?  Any strategies you can share with us?


  1. Stephanie, I love that you spent 30 minutes on 3 questions! I feel like we rush, rush, rush to get everything done and covered! I bet your students really digested this lesson!
    Head Over Heels For Teaching

    1. Yeah, 30 minutes it was! I just feel like the students need to really understand in depth what it is that I am asking them to do. If we rush to just get the answer, without a lot of think aloud, modeling, and actually doing, the students won't internalize it and make it part of their state test repertoire. Then, come test day, when I am not there to lead them, they won't do it. But if we are always taking this time, showing how important it is, etc...they will do it on their own.

  2. This week I started your test prep rotations. I had 4 stations going and I was calling kids over to go over their own individual Curriculum Associates scores with the specific areas they need to work on where we made goals for this coming week. I noticed that it went so smoothly and they are ready to add me into the mix next week as a station stop. In math we are going over the Curriculum Associates test full class with them checking their papers and dissecting the answers (the ones that they should have gotten right since we've already covered it, and why they may have missed it.)

    1. I love how you went over their own performance and are making goals for the next week!

  3. Thank you for sharing! I think this will really help my students.

  4. You might want to check out my posts about APEC or ACE on my blog at http://teachingisagift.blogspot.ca. Here in Ontario we don't write the standardized tests until June, but I believe that the students must do some groundwork long in advance of the testing dates. I teach my students to ALWAYS provide evidence in their written responses, and I assess them that way as well. Here in Ontario we have a 4 level system. 4 being the highest (A- to A+) and 1 being the lowest (D- to D+). I teach my students that if they want to provide enough evidence in their answer they need to use all 4 of the APEC (Answer, Proof, Explain and Connect) criteria in their responses. For example when I assess a problem solving question in math to gain a level 4 response I must see the answer, proof, explanation and extension or connection. I do the same thing when assessing literature response questions. It seems to be helping... The past several years, my school has ranked #1 or #2 in the province of Ontario on standardized tests.

  5. I love the chart! We are always talking about the questions that cannot be answered by reading or re-reading the text. I am going to have to try this out. Thanks for sharing.

    Teaching to Inspire in 5th

  6. Dissecting questions is a great idea. I also notice that you have student cross out the distractors. Very helpful.

    One thing that has increased my students' test scores: I don't allow students to read when they are done with the tests. That may sound strange - but many of my students like reading so much, they will race through the test to get to their book. If their only choices are check their work or rest their heads on their desks, they tend to check back over their work more.

    Something to consider.
    Janet | expateducator.com

  7. OMG! I've been looking for writing strategies. I teach in Texas, my students took a benchmark test this week and they bombed their revising and editing multiple choice. I am so nervous about how they will do on their state test. Any more ideas or suggestions? By the way this is my first year teaching 4th grade. HELP!!

  8. It's a pleasure that I was able to find out your blog which fully differentiate between these two things about comprehension and writing strategy. I have able, to get some different useful +information that is useful for me to used in my school activities.

    best writing essay sites reviews.

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