Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Getting Ready for Reading Tests!

This post is a compilation of my reading test minilessons from last year. I'm starting this next week and wanted to share...for some reason people keep purchasing this set of materials from my teacherspayteachers store ;) Tis the season!

I have created a "Test-Prep" Minilessons Bulletin Board that I use to review strategies for reading comprehension that I have taught students all year long, but with a "this is what it looks like on the test" spin. This board allows me to move from what students KNOW about reading in general to how that applies to reading for a reading test.

This method considers “test prep passages” as another reading genre that students develop an understanding of how the test/passages are designed. (I’m sure you have done this all year with poetry, nonfiction, realistic fiction, science fiction, fantasy, opinion-based articles, etc.) Together, you and your students discover how a test is put together AND how what you have taught them to do all year as intelligent readers still applies in the setting of “test reading.”

My version of Question-Answer-Relationship is based off of the types of questions on our Reading EOG. All questions can be classified as "Right There"/"There and There," "Inferencing," "Overalls," and "Apply Prior Knowledge." Once studnets realize what question type they are working with, they can then go about the appropriate steps to figure out the right answer. I love these four types because it helps me remind my students that there are questions that ARE NOT directly answered by the text. The test will require them to THINK (at least a little) for themselves and use the knowledge they have learned.
I use a 4 step method to help students when they are finally answering questions. (WE do ALOT of work before we ever touch the questions!) I guide them through learning how to reword the questions (when necessary), mark out the obviously wrong answer (or 2), collect clues for the other answer choices, then make an educated decision (not a guess!) based on the information they have collected. Students are also required to write evidence (for or against) for each of the 4 answer choices. By the time they do this, they have typically figured out the right answer. You may decide to only use one of these questioning strategies (as I have in the past).

We are still in the beginning stages of our test prep because I know what my kiddos were capable of last year. We are still reading our independent books and I am conferring with students during our independent time. I'm sure we will dabble in reading and answering some of the passages this week, but I didn't want to get them started to soon (as 5th graders) and then have them burn out closer and closer to the test. Our first few lessons this week will be analyzing the types of questions they will be asked and talking about how we should think to answer those types of questions. I have typed up all of the Reading EOG questions from 3rd-8th grades for a student sorting lesson. This is included in the test prep download, but I have also uploaded it as a freebie (since I didn't write the questions myself, but made the sort so that we could use the questions in a different way). You may want to check out the grade levels before and after you as you work with students. I was uber surprised that 5th grade had no text-based features types of questions (we have NO NO NO graphics in our released set at all), but looking at 3rd or 4th (can't remember), they did have some text-feature based questions. Of course, I don't want my kiddos to be surprised by anything.

Although I am preparing my students for testing, I have lived by this ALL (of-my-teaching-career) YEAR!

Reading Tests: Questioning Lessons

What’s the purpose of having students sort questions independent of reading the text?

Allowing students to closely analyze questions helps them to make generalizations about the types of questions they can predict will be on the test and that they can expect for specific genres. Yes, you can do the sort for them and hand them a list of questions, but allowing them to come up with generalizations about the test questions takes your “test prep” from teacher-centered to student centered and considers testing a “genre” or “type of text” rather than an unpredictable “test.”

Today I wanted to share how our questioning lessons are going.

Day 1: I had students work in partners to sort the questions into categories that made sense to them. It was interesting (and telling) to see what kind of categories students came up with on their own. I went around from group to group listening to their ideas and pushing them to reconsider some of the questions they had placed in different categories. (We completed this sort prior to the kids reading the text--based on my experience, you can decide what kind of question MOST of them are without reading the text yet.)

Day 2: I gave students a copy of my Question-Answer-Relationship handout. I went through each type of question (which was review from last year) and then had them meet with their partner again to sort the questions into these four categories. Now, not having read the text, there are a few questions that fall between two of the types of questions.

Day 3: During minilesson, I gave each student two of the question cards and decided to start the lesson with the ones I had leftover. (Totally random, no strategic planning here). I called out one of my questions and we discussed where we would place it~"Right There/There and There," "Inferencing," "Overalls," or "Apply Prior Knowledge." Then, I asked students to raise their hands and share if they had a question like the one we had just categorized. Students read their questions one-by-one and we decided as a class if it fit the category. We continued until we had grouped and classified all questions. You can see our findings in the picture below. Each of these categories helps students tap into what skills and strategies they should use to answer the questions given. For example, if I have an overall question, I am going to pull from the beginning, middle, and end of the text (or a specific paragraph).

Here's how our questions fell into the categories:

"Right There/There and There"

* Literal Questions-We can go right back to the text and put our fingers on these.

Example: "Based on the selection, how did Roberto get to see the game?"

* Compare/Contrast Questions (need us to use information in two different places in the text)

Example: "How are butterflies and mosquitoes different?"; "Which statement shows a way some insects are similar to spiders?"


* Interpreting Figurative Language questions, using context clues for unknown words, and comprehension questions that go beyond the literal

Examples: "In paragraph 19, what is meant by 'Roberto's heart was in his stomach"?; "In the selection, what can be inferred about how the people viewed the old man?"; "What does the word shabbily mean as it is used in the text?"


* Main idea, summary, theme, generalizing, author's point of view, etc.

Examples: "Which statement summarizes the theme of the selection?"; "What main ideas are supported by the selection?"

"Apply Prior Knowledge"


***We talked about how none of the questions on our test would be true "prior knowledge" questions and that all of the questions were text-dependent. Now, when we take our SCIENCE EOG, ALLLLLLLLLLLL of the questions will fall under "prior knowledge." Interesting findings!

What are some ways I can use the questions for sorting?

• I think all sorts should be completed with partners or in small groups to encourage students to discuss what they are noticing and negotiate the categories.

• Allow students to sort the questions into any categories they see and then discuss as a group. (This would work well before you have introduced any of your Question-Answer-Relationship lessons and your “how to answer questions” lessons)

•After teaching your QAR lesson, have students re-sort the questions into the 4 categories (“Right There/There and There,” “Inferencing,” “Overall,” and “Apply Prior Knowledge.”) Within the 4 categories for QAR, see if you can come up with different types of each category. For example, “overall” questions include main idea, summarizing, theme, etc. while “inferencing” questions also include context clue questions because you use the text and your mind to infer word meaning.

My full Thinking Through Reading Questions Bulletin Board/Minilesson/Questioning Strategy Materials can be found here!


  1. Great lessons! The time is fast approaching...
    Creating Lifelong Learners

  2. Thank you so much for posting this! I am a 3rd grade teacher in NC and this is just in time for test prep! You are awesome!

  3. Hi, I thought that this new teacher-seller website might interest you. They are based in Canada and offer features that are not found on similar sites. They also have a lot of new features coming. Here is a link: Created by Teachers, Exclusively for Teachers

  4. Thank you so much for this wonderful post - so much information! I was looking for some fun and exciting literacy activities to give to my children and you have literally given me all the information I needed to know!!! I will certainly be visiting your blog regularly!



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