Test Prep and Growth Mindset

Test Taking

It’s that time of year when many of us are charged with helping our students navigate the world of standardized test taking.  We all acknowledge that testing is a double-edged sword–but if we as the “grown ups” can keep things in perspective, we can lessen stress for the students and US as well!  We have the power to make a HUGE difference in how our students (and their parents) perceive this process! Testing isn’t inherently bad. We can make it better.

Growth mindset and test prep ideas

True Story

About ten years ago, my principal called me into her office to ask me very bluntly what I was doing for test prep.  I was confused…and asked what she meant.  She said something to the effect of “Your kids consistently do ridiculously well.  We want to know why.”

I was honest with her.

I said I teach them to read.  We read a TON.  We write.  I challenge them in math and help them believe they can solve anything.  We read amazing read alouds and discuss them.  We look at graphs and charts when they apply to what I’m teaching.  I pull small groups when kids don’t understand something.  I send the message that you should NEVER settle for less than your best.  Additionally, I told her I do a bit of test prep to make sure they know how to answer multiple choice questions and so they feel comfortable testing.  Finally, I explained that the culture in my class made it so my students would do just about anything to make me proud–and to make themselves proud.

“That’s it?” she asked.

“That’s it.”

Remember, we DO need to teach test taking.  We do NOT need to let it get in the way of “real” teaching.  A little test prep goes a long way.  Good teaching goes a REALLY long way.  Students who can read and think and write and problem solve will do JUST. FINE. ON. TESTS.  We do not need to spend weeks doing practice activities.  What DOES make a difference?  Read on.

Test Prep Hints

  • TELL your students why we test–that these tests can help schools and districts make decisions about where they need to do more teaching or look at their curriculum.  Explain that although it is good for teachers and parents to know how individuals do, there is more to the story as well.  In fact, telling the students that they will be HELPING is a really great idea.
  • Remind students that there are MANY ways to measure achievement and growth.  Standardized testing is just one.
  • Make sure students realize that tests don’t measure kindness, creativity, compassion, humor, and more is essential!
  • Remind students that they have been preparing for this their whole lives–and they are ready!
  • Make sure students know that YOU will teach them the few strategies needed to navigate the test.  Learning how to use any online tools, navigate multiple choice questions and see different question types will help students feel so much better.  No surprises.  No stress.

Growth mindset ideas

One way we can help prepare students for this monumental event is to work on growth mindset ALL. YEAR.  LONG.

Haven’t done much with this?  It’s not too late!  Check out these suggestions:

    • Give students the language of mindset.  Understanding words like “grit” and “perseverance” is really important–and not just for testing!  Knowing the types of things people say when having a “fixed mindset” versus a “growth mindset” is invaluable.
    • Provide ways for them to recognize growth mindset in the real world.  Read books with characters that show grit.  Read articles and biographies of people who have amazing mindsets.  Showcase examples of growth mindset in the classroom when you see it!
    • Practice doing challenging tasks where students need to persevere.  Help them realize that finishing easy tasks is FAR less satisfying than tackling something challenging and getting through it!  I love my open ended challenges for this!  These perseverance problems are great too!
    • Practice goal setting!
    • Post motivational quotes and sayings–and talk about them often!

Test prep and growth mindset
Teaching growth mindset
Growth mindset posters

Want more help?

I have a few more blog posts you might be interested in!

Check out THIS ONE about mindset and information about Carol Dweck and her work.

Check out THIS POST with some more insight about mindset and its importance in the classroom.

Also, if you want to see the activities I have used with MY students to help build this mentality–just CLICK HERE to see my toolbox of mindset lessons and activities. Look back at each bullet point above–this toolkit can help with all of them!

Growth mindset lessons and activities

Remember, testing doesn’t have to be horrible.  It’s an opportunity!



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