Reading Test Prep Minilessons
Last year, I wrote a blog series about how to prepare students for standardized reading tests. In NC, we take the North Carolina End of Grade tests (EOG as we say), usually in late May. One thing that I KNEW I wanted to include in my "Thinking Through Reading Tests" resource were some outlined minilessons that would help teachers with preparing students and teaching standardized test taking strategies. Unfortunately, I could not get those minilessons written last year, but they are here now and I'm so excited to tell you about them!
The goal of the “Thinking Through Reading Tests” unit is to help students move from what they already KNOW about reading in general to HOW THAT APPLIES to reading for a reading test. (NOTE: If you purchased this unit last year, go re-download it from tpt to get your new goodies!)
This method of preparing for standardized reading tests considers “test prep passages” to be another genre of reading that students need to develop an understanding of.
Together, you and your students examine and discover how your benchmark and/or state tests are put together AND how what you have taught them to do all year as intelligent readers still applies in the setting of “test reading.”
I encourage you to make your reading test-prep unit as inquiry-based and constructivist as you can, like a "regular" readers workshop often is!
How I Set Up My Test Prep to Be “Inquiry Based”
Prior to launching my test prep unit, I print all of the reading tests and questions that my state has released as a “sample” test. I put these together in a booklet for students and have students refer to them often to spark ideas and discussions during our “reading test” lessons.
I often prompt students to think about a specific aspect of how the test is put together, ask them to jot down some notes independently, then have students discuss their findings in partners or small groups. For example, a question I may use to launch my work with test passages is, “What do you notice about how the test is put together?” Students can merely flip through the passage booklet to come up with a number of great ideas.
To hold together my teaching and review of strategies and skills that will be beneficial for students on the standardized reading test, I use a framework that I have developed to structure my reading test prep minilessons. This framework helps me connect what students already know how to do from our regular reading lessons to why that strategy or way of thinking will be important on the state end of grade reading test.
How Do I Do this for regular reading?
Why Should I do this with a book I want to read?
Why should I do this with a passage I have to read?
How might I do this differently on a test passage?
The “Thinking Through Reading Tests" notes that I have added to the resource are meant to be a guide to support teachers as they lead students to think about and respond to four main questions stems. As we move through those 4 key questions, I take notes on a large white board that I have blocked off just for my test prep lessons. (Anchor charts also work!)
I also order the sequence of my test prep lessons with a B-D-A focus--before, during, and after reading--because that just makes good sense for how I want students to engage with any text (or test prep passage) they are reading.
I added the minilesson notes to the "Thinking Through Reading Tests" resource to give teachers an idea of the direction they are going with their test prep bulletin board responses. For the most part, I don't intend for the notes to be recited to students, but to help teachers guide their discussions.
So, let's take a look at what you will find in the minilesson notes.
One of the first skills I review when I launch my test prep unit is the importance of previewing a text before we start to read. (I can't tell you how many "struggling readers" I've turned around by ensuring that they understand the benefits of previewing the text, what that really entails (not just reading the title and looking at the cover!), and applying that step to all of their reading choices).
So, first, we discuss what it means to preview a book.
1) HOW DO I “PREVIEW A TEXT (BOOK)”?
To preview, we should:
• Read the title
• Read any extra info (like the back of the book, any taglines or comments on the cover)
• Think: Fiction: What are some of the problems I may read in the story? Nonfiction: What is the main topic? What might I learn about?
• Preview the table of contents if included
• Look at how the book is designed—Does it have a prologue or epilogue? Is it organized by chapters? Does it contain subheadings to break up the text?
Then, we move on to discuss why we should preview books we want to read.
2) WHY SHOULD I DO THIS WITH A BOOK I WANT TO READ?
"Readers should get an idea of what the book is about before beginning to read. This helps us set expectations for what we will read in the text. Understanding how text is put together helps us make a plan for how we will read it."
We follow with why we should preview a testing passage that we have to read.
3) WHY SHOULD I DO THIS WITH A PASSAGE THAT I HAVE TO READ?
"Previewing the text prepares us for what we are about to read. It can make us more comfortable as we begin to read a test passage."
Then, we discuss how our preview may be different for a test passage versus a real book or text.
4) HOW MIGHT I DO THIS DIFFERENTLY ON A TEST PASSAGE?
"On a reading passage, we will not have as much information to preview.
With a test passage, we should:
• Read the title
• Examine any extra information that is included
• Figure out how the passage is designed (subheadings? paragraphs? chapters? stanzas?)
• Examine any pictures, illustrations, diagrams, or photographs that have been included"
After this discussion, which may take 1-2 days, I have students apply the test prep skill or strategy with an expected action. This action then becomes something they are expected to do any time we are doing test prep with our reading passages. I move around the room and monitor students as they work to see who follows through with the expectations.
5) STUDENT ACTION STEP FOR "PREVIEWING" DURING STANDARDIZED TEST PRACTICE SESSIONS:
→ Write out previewing notes and ideas on a sticky note (or at the top of practice test passages).
Now, for me, a big part of previewing the text is picking up clues that help you identify the genre. Since this is such an important part of previewing (because it really helps you know what to expect from the text AND can help you predict many of the topics of the test questions you will see), I pull this "skill" out as it's own separate test-prep topic and lead that lesson discussion the day after we go through the 4 questions for previewing a text and practice that skill with our reading passages.
To be honest, many students WILL identify the genre of the text when they do their preview work. However, I like to make the importance of this step very explicit for students. Their action step becomes writing whether the text is fiction, nonfiction, or poetry at the top of the passage. (Students can get more specific than this--fable, how-to, fantasy, etc. but I find if they can just tap into their expectations for fiction, nonfiction, or poetry, it triggers their memory on how they should engage with that type of text.)
What other reading test-prep notes and minilessons are included?
NOTES ABOUT TEST-PREP
↗ Why I do not recommend teaching students to read all questions before starting to read a passage
"WHILE READING" MINILESSONS
↗ Jot Down Thoughts/Track My Thinking
↗ Underline (or highlight) as I Read (I teach my students to "highlight effectively" earlier in the year)
↗ Use CONTEXT CLUES strategies for Unknown/Unfamiliar Words
"AFTER READING" MINILESSONS
↗ Use labels to break the text into chunks
↗ Think about the main ideas/what the text is mostly about
↗ Read the question and decide if it requires Literal comprehension, Interpretation, or Thinking Beyond the Text (I teach this thinking method with a Question-Answer Relationship strategy with lots of modeling!)
↗ Go back to the text to COLLECT EVIDENCE to answer the question
↗ Show EVIDENCE for or against EACH answer choice
↗ Mark out OBVIOUSLY WRONG choices
↗ Make AN EDUCATED DECISION about the answer (based on proof from the text)
In the "Thinking Through Reading Tests" resource, I've included more than these minilessons. Though this unit is focused on preparing students for the End of Grade standardized reading test, I teach it through readers workshop-style minilessons, which allows me to
> > > honor my teaching style,
> > > maintain the integrity of my classroom environment,
> > > and maintain student engagement while also ensuring that students are prepared for testing day.
Want to go ahead and check out all that's included in the full resource?
♥ Test Prep Minilesson Notes (14 pages)
♥ Test-Prep Minilesson Bulletin Board Materials (a “Before, During, After Reading” structure for Test Taking Mini-lessons)
♥ Thinking about Question Types (to understand how to think through and answer the question): a Question-Answer-Relationship Method
♥ Q-A-R Posters, Student Handout, and Bookmarks
♥ a 4 Step Method for Thinking through and Answering Questions--Reword, Obviously Wrong, Collect Clues, Educated Decision (includes one model minilesson for this question/answer procedure)
♥ 4 Steps Posters and handout for students
♥ Reading Test Question Types Sorts for 3rd-8th grades
Missed the blog post series last year? For more details about each step of my “Thinking Through Reading Tests” Unit, see these blog posts:
→ A Framework for Preparing for Standardized Reading Tests that Honors Your Teaching Style
→ How and Why to Have Students Sort Reading Questions (to launch your reading test questions unit)
Want to hang on to the ideas in this post? Pin it for later!