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.

Preparation for any test can be stressful, but the annual state assessment seems to be the most stressful of all. Teachers frantically try to squeeze in last-minute review before the big day and hope students absorb these final items before the arrival of testing. But how much do the students really take in? Studies have shown that students absorb far more information when it is presented in a hands-on, interactive and fun approach.

So the question is … how can teachers make test review fun? Here are several possibilities that can be applied to students of all grades and subjects.

Testing Treats
There are endless possibilities of coming up with creative ways to give students treats before, during or after testing. Search “motivational testing treats” online to find a huge selection of great ideas. From using gum and mints to fruit or soda, someone has created a cute saying to match with a food or drink. Personalized treats make items even more meaningful. Try adding motivational labels to water bottles or encouragements on flags wrapped around new pencils.

Test Review Games
Reviewing for any test can be boring for students. However, there are plenty of ways to make rest review exciting, engaging and even meaningful. Here are some great ideas to try in any subject or grade:

  • Review stations – This great idea from ISpeakMath.org offers practice for students of all abilities. Teachers need a series of questions on any subject. Divide the questions into stations. Start with basic or review questions at the first station. End with a few challenging questions for the last station. Provide several copies of questions for each station at each spot. Students cannot continue to the next level if they haven’t correctly completed the questions at their current level. Students can be divided based on ability. Offer a small incentive for completing all the stations. Students might also carry a note card with them to each station to take notes on and to use as a study card later.
  • Sack attack – Brown paper sacks can be used for crafts, creative projects and even test review. Teachers can set up sacks with labels (matching definitions and examples with vocab sacks, test-taking strategies with good and bad examples, etc.).
  • Answer sticks – Use craft sticks to glue color-coordinated small printed signs for students to use as answer tools during test review. Questions that require simple answers such as yes, no, true, false, agree, disagree and more are great options for this activity. The teacher asks questions and students respond by holding up their answer sticks. This review can be completed as a whole group, small groups or partner work.
  • Trasketball – Students love to shoot wads of paper into the trashcan. This action can easily become a game of trasketball – were students get a chance to earn points for their team by making a basket with crumpled paper (completed assignments, scrap paper, etc.). The winners could get a small prize, free time after testing, extended free reading time and more.
  • Four corner fun – Make four posters to designate separate areas for A, B, C and D answers. Using a class set of index cards, write “player” on most of the cards. Write “fibber” on a few of the cards. When doing any kind of review, instead of answering aloud, students go to their appropriate answer choice corner. The fibbers get to choose which corner to which to go to throw other students off. Once students have all picked their corners, reveal the answer to see who is correct. After a few rounds, cards can be shuffled so new players and fibbers are selected.

Students Take Ownership
Ask students to create a list of test-taking tips. Write these on a whiteboard, interactive board, poster paper, etc. Once this class activity is completed, then turn the boring tips into an exciting class display. Here are a few options:

  • Make fun polka dot garland by writing a strategy on each dot and then stringing them together.
  • Buy a colorful umbrella, hang it from the ceiling, and then add the strategies as raindrops and flowers for the “April showers bring May flowers” theme.
  • Turn a plain list of test-taking tips into an exciting game of bingo. Offer small incentives as prizes (Smarties candies with “Smartie Pants: I know you’ll do great” or newly sharpened pencils with “You are one sharp student”).

Regardless of the activity or game, teachers can make test review for any subject something that students will actually and also encourage cooperation and teamwork at the same time.

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