Motivational Standardized Test Prep Ideas

Hello again teacher friends!  I am Amber from TGIF, a 3rd Grade teacher, and I so sympathize with you all because UGH - standardized testing is the pits.  Whether we like it or not, we still have to complete it, so why not make it as positive experience as possible, right?  I am going to share a few tricks that helped me set a positive tone in my classroom.

One strategy I recently applied to review some previous skills, was to make it a "Crack the Code" type activity.  Groups earned a letter for each correct answer and when they earned all the letters, they could unscramble the word and earn the treasure. Here is a quick run down of how I pulled it off:
1.  Group students (2-4 per group)
2.  Each group needs dry erase boards, markers and erasers or paper and pencil. (I like everyone to have a board/paper each, but they could also share and take turns writing.)
3.  Teachers need some kind of task cards or problems they have taken from worksheets and hang them up around the classroom.  Hiding them can make an extra challenge.  Make sure the task cards or problems are numbered!
4.  Teachers need letters (that spell a word) for each team.
5.  Groups may travel to any task card/problem and answer it as a team.
6.  After the group agrees, they bring their answer to the teacher.  If the team is correct, they earn a letter.  If it is incorrect they must go back and rework the problem.  If they are incorrect the second time, I take a moment to give them hints or show them where they went wrong.
7.  When the team has all the letters, they must show you the unscrambled word so they can earn a "Crack the Code" prize.  It can be a small piece of candy or five minutes of free time.  You choose!

Where do I get my task cards and math problems?
My TpT Store:  Amber from TGIF
Printable worksheets:  Super Teacher Worksheets
From our math workbooks
20 questions free per day:  IXL Math
(We do have a subscription to IXL, but you can still snag a few problems for free everyday.)

I have found that making test folders for each student helps us all stay organized the week of the big test.  I tape a name tag to each students' folder.  Inside each folder, I add their "testing ticket" for the day.  (This is their username and password information that they must have to log in to the computers.)  I also supply two pre-sharpened pencils with a motivational saying on it and blank scratch paper.  My students also pick out two books they would like to read when they are finished with the test.  This keeps all of the items we need together in one spot, and my students feel like it is "big stuff"!  (P.S. Save yourself some time if possible and get some help with sharpening your pencils.  I had my student helpers do it.)

Seriously, who doesn't like a snack during the day?  I think it adds a positive spin to the week knowing we are going to get to have snacks, which isn't your everyday event in most classrooms.  This year I went with a healthy fruity theme.  I asked parents if they would be willing to donate some easy, no-prep fruits for the week.  At first I thought I would have a different fruit per day, but since students have different tastes, and donations rolled in on different days, I just set all the fruits out and let them pick!  You could have snack before the test (brain food), between tests (if you have more than one per day) or after the test (something to look forward to).

Here are a few suggestions on easy, no-prep fruits:

  • bananas
  • oranges in individual cups
  • sliced apples in individual bags
  • mixed fruit in a cup
  • grapes in snack size bags
  • dried mango, and peaches in a cup.

I made my own test corrals for the classroom over a year ago and they are still going strong.  I bought the tri-fold presentation boards from Dollar Tree and cut them in half.  Who doesn't love the idea of 50 cents per test corral?  Waaaaay cheaper than the test corrals you purchase in the catalogs.  To spice them up, I just printed out a motivational poster and taped it to the test corral.  I use these all year long, but they do come in handy for the big test.  I you take your tests on the computer like we do, I actually just fold the corral up and slide it between the computers.  (This is actually where I store them all year long.  My students just go grab one when we are taking a "regular test" throughout the school year.)

I made these dog themed motivational posters (available here), but there are lots available on the internet.  Just Google it.

Some standardized tests state that you cannot keep your "educational posters" displayed during the test.  You know those reference posters that we encourage our students to use all year long because it is great to use your resources.  (Okay, I could seriously go on for days about how dumb it is that we have to cover these up, but you all probably have the same complaint, so I will just move along.....)  I really didn't want to take some of my posters down that I had to climb onto the tables at the beginning of the year to hang, so I just covered them with a motivational quote instead.  (Some states don't allow any writing at all.  Which again, thumbs down.  Moving on......)  I cut cloud shapes and had my students suggest motivational words to write on them.  Pretty simple.

One of the best ways to start your day off is to get the blood flowing!  Research shows that exercise helps our brains think more clearly.  Do some jumping jacks, jog in place, or better yet, if you use Go Noodle, complete a Fresh Start Fitness.


  1. they are so amazing. I liked it.

  2. Great! This was very much needed. I was also looking for LSAT Sample Questions to practice. It was great read though. I would love to share this post with my friends and cousins as well. And I totally agree with the fact that good food and good workout is very much needed for keeping your brain activated.