Editor’s note:  This is a post from regular MSTA contributor Pam Clifton’s Teaching & Learning blog. Clifton is a sixth-grade English language arts and reading teacher at West St. Francois County R-4.

April brings more than showers for those May flowers. It also brings Missouri assessment for students from third grade to high school. Whether it is grade-level or end-of-course testing, assessments can be stressful for teachers and students. Here are four tips for teachers to use in their final weeks or days of preparation for the annual state test.

Tip 1 – Practice, practice, practice
From quick review of grade-level concepts to whole-group study sessions, mastering – and practicing – state standards are essential steps to doing well on the test. Many printed and online resources are available to help students review for the upcoming test. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has a link for a MAP grade-level assessment summative practice test for math and English Language Arts and online tools training available here. Students can complete this in class or lab where computers are available. Teachers could also work through the test together with students using an interactive whiteboard.

Tip 2 – Student motivation
Reviewing for assessment should be interactive and, when possible, fun. Students not only enjoy reviewing content more but are also more likely to retain the learned information when they are fully engaged and enjoy the activity. Competitions for individuals and small and large groups add a new level of excitement to the activity. Offering small incentives or free time – after testing, of course – elevate the activity to an even higher level. Progress can be monitored using a class chart, spreadsheet, graph, etc. Students feel successful and proud when they see their results improve.

Tip 3 – Mix it up
Instruction can be accomplished in many different ways. From working with an entire class to partner activities, learning can occur in a variety of different manners. Consider small-group instruction where the teacher focuses on specific needs of the group. Peer tutoring is another option. Use higher-level students to help other students work on improving specific skills or reinforce learning. Programs that are web-based, such as Study Island or IXL, allow students to practice specific skills independently. Teachers can track students’ progress through these programs.

Tip 4 – Parent communication
There is no such thing as too much communication between teachers and parents. With most families busy each night of the week, it is easy for paperwork to get lost in the shuffle. Reminders about testing should be included on the class or school newsletter and any other communication regularly sent home. However, teachers can also send quick emails or even text reminders to parents, such as Remind.com. A calendar of events is also extremely helpful for parents so they can post it in a high-traffic area at home. If parents have a copy of all important dates on the same sheet, they are more likely to prepare for upcoming events as needed (i.e. going to bed early for testing, sending snacks for testing, etc.).

These quick tips are simple yet effective ideas on how to help students prepare for the upcoming state assessment.