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How to Make Test Prep Fun and Stress-Free

I was tired and stressed because it was that time of year again. The pressure of the upcoming state test was overwhelming and I was counting the days until it was over. What if I said you could have FUN during test prep season? That’s what I learned to do and it changed my outlook. Shake off that stress and read on about how to make 3rd-grade test prep fun.

How do we make test prep fun?

Kids love games and they’re perfect for 3rd grade test prep season. Use them in conjunction with reading test practice passages or math practice tests. Some of our favorites are Pie Face, Basketball, Cornhole, and Cannonball. You can use any games you have on hand and follow the same structure for each game.


How are the kids going to test prep if it’s noisy with games?

The first part of playing games doesn’t involve any games.

What?! How is this a post about games but you don’t play any in the beginning?

The kids need to do the work first. Work hard, play hard. That’s what I’m always saying to my class.

Students will first complete the test prep assignment you give them. I like to do this first thing in the morning so that we have time for the game later.

After students complete the test practice assignment, grade their papers but don’t put any marks or grades on them. Keep note of how they do on a separate piece of paper. You’ll see why in a minute.

How do kids earn turns in the test prep game?

Group kids in teams according to how they did. I like to put kids that received similar scores, in the same group.

In their groups, the kids will go over each question and decide what they think the correct answers are. This is why you didn’t mark the papers earlier.

After each question or set of questions, they need to show you the answers they have agreed on as a group. If the assignment has a large number of questions, I like to have them show me their answers in sets of 3 or more.

If their team gets the answer correct, they get a certain number of points and a turn at whichever game you have chosen. For example, they might get 1 point for their correct answer and a turn at playing Pie Face later. After the teacher checks the work the team moves on to the next question or group of questions.

Keep track of each team’s score and how many turns they will get when they play the game later.


Let’s Play a Test Prep Game!

Next it’s game time which is the fun part! Teams will get a chance to have as many turns as they earned when completing their test prep assignment.

Just say team A got 10 correct answers and received 10 points. Now they can earn extra points when playing Pie Face. Since they got 10 correct answers, they get 10 turns as a team. For Pie Face, you could award points to teams that get hit in the face with whip cream.

The classroom will get chaotic but they earned it after doing the hard work of test prep!

How to Play Cannonball for Test Prep

You can apply this same routine to any type of game. I mentioned Cannonball before and you’re probably wondering how to play. It’s a little different than the other games because you won’t be checking their answers until they play the game. The kids however, go over their questions as a team first and discuss what the correct answers are.

Combine teams into two groups and place “cannonballs” on each side of the room. Cannonballs are just wads of black construction paper. Super simple!

For example, Team A and Team B might be in one group on one side of the room and Team C and Team D in another group on the opposite side of the room. Each player on a team is assigned a number 1-5 or letter A-E. (However many you have on a team is the number or letter you’ll go up to.)

Read aloud the first question in the test prep assignment and call out a number. The students that are assigned that number come up to you and show you their answers.

Any student that is correct gets to pick up a “cannonball” for their team. Yell “Fire!” and the kids throw their “cannonballs” to the other team’s side.

Repeat these steps for the rest of the questions. At the end of the game, the team with the least amount of “cannonballs” wins!

Cannonball is such a fun game that can get intense because the kids want to win so badly. Prior to the game, it’s a good idea to discuss sportsmanship and just having fun.


Even Test Prep Strategies Can Be Fun

In addition to playing games for test prep, I like to review reading test strategies with my reading test-taking strategies resource.

Reading an ELA test can be tricky and I want my students prepared with strategies to tackle it. It’s another great way to add fun to 3rd-grade test prep!

Test prep doesn’t have to be boring and monotonous. Have fun during this time and it will be a lot less stressful!

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