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It's that time of year...

It's much anticipated, highly prepared for, and it's here: test taking season! All over the country kids are starting to take their yearly high stakes tests. My fifth graders are no exception- they just took their Reading Comprehension test last week. Of course, we've been working hard on our reading skills all year long, but I was still worried about how my kids would perform. I've noticed that they have had difficulty answering the questions given to them on practice tests because they just don't understand the question. I decided to do a week long mini unit on testing, and consider it to be a "genre" in order to help them understand the specific vocabulary. I called it "Testing as a Genre: Understanding the Language of Testing."

It makes sense if you think of it. The kids are being asked to use some very specific skills in isolation. It's not every day you are asked to bubble in a circle to answer a specific reading comprehension question! Not only that, but often times the questions we ask in guided reading are different than the ones you may encounter on the test. To start my mini-unit, I visited one of my favorite teaching tool websites: Flocabulary

Have you heard of this company? They create hip-hop songs (and accompanying music videos) for kids. They are educationally rich, and the songs are actually really catchy! My kids LOVE them. Lucky for me, they have a Test-Taking Vocabulary rap.

This particular rap is about a kid who has been charged with vandalism, and his lawyer defending him. During the song, they give the word that you  need to understand, define it, and then give an example. For instance:
You accuse my client of stealing your car,
Please describe everything you saw.
Get specific with the details, don't be vague,
"I saw Rod in my yard right around 8."
And how did you identify or recognize Rod?
Explain or tell me why, 'cause that seems odd.
"Yeah, I could see his shirt, and I could see his hat,"
What color was his hat? "I think it was black."
So you took an educated guess, inferred
That Rod was the person you observed?

The test taking terms are also clickable links, which give you the definition and another example.

If this weren't enough, it also comes with printable lyrics, a fill in the blank lyric sheet, and an activity for students to do in which they use all the vocabulary words (for example, "Look at the person sitting next to you. Describe their outfit." 

My kids LOVED the flocab video and work! Usually, you have to pay to access their content, but the test taking vocabulary video and activities are free. It's a great way to try out their service and see if it's a fit with your kids. It definitely worked for me!

After this, we played a game made by one of my favorite bloggers- Mandy Neal from Teaching with Simplicity. Her Test Prep Vocabulary kit is fantastic AND it is free on TpT! It includes an "I Have, Who Has" game and question/answer flashcards. 

After we played the "I Have, Who Has" game, I had about 30 minutes left until recess. Like the rest of the country, we have had a LONG winter, and my kids have been pretty antsy. They were having a hard time holding down the chatter, so I decided to use the question/answer card set in a more interactive way. I randomly gave every student one question card and one answer card, and then made a "contest" to see who could find the people who had their matching cards the fastest. They were a little loud, no doubt, but they were engaged and on task. I was so impressed as I heard two students talking about the differences between describing and analyzing! 

Overall, I think they prepared well and had a good time. We all know test taking can be pretty monotonous, but these activities really help to make preparing more engaging for kids. So, I've got to know- what works for you?


  1. My students LOVE flocabulary, and I LOVE your blog. I have nominated you for the Sunshine Blogger Award. Come check it out! :D


  2. I had never heard of flocabulary, but I will definitely be using it!! I am new to blogging, and checking out your blog is quite inspiring! Thanks for these great ideas! Smack Dab in the Middle

  3. I've nominated you for the sunshine blogger award! Check out my blog for details: http://tinyurl.com/mtl4fna


  4. pretty nice blog, following :)

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