Fun Test Prep- 5 Easy Ideas

Fun test prep that is rigorous can sometimes be difficult to find. Is this the way your students look at you when you start your test prep?

OH NO! This is not what you want to deal with for the next several weeks of reviewing for the state test. I want to share with you FIVE FUN  test prep ideas that have worked well with my students. Hopefully you won’t see this look again.

1.  Scavenger Hunt with Task Cards

Task cards are one of the easiest ways to review for a test. Buy some task cards that are rigorous enough for your state test. In Texas we take the STAAR test. I have bought these awesome task cards from Watson Works ! They are perfect for reviewing all the TEKS we have learned this year. Click on the picture below to check them out.


With your task cards you can hide them around the classroom or school and have the students go look for each card. My students love doing this! They take a clipboard and work with a buddy going around working out each task card together.

2.  Egg Hunt

You can also use those same task cards and fold them up and put in a plastic egg. If they are too large you can shrink them on the copier. Another idea is to take a reading passage and cut out the questions. You can take the questions and put them in an egg. The students can read the passage and then answer the questions they find in the egg. I like doing this activity outside because it gets the kids outside and moving. I let them work together with a buddy to make it more fun. This was a math test prep scavenger hunt. This was definitely one of my FAVORITE days! We got to go outside, everybody was working, and there wasn’t any fighting. They thought I was a rock star! LOL

3.  Buddy Passages

Another fun test prep idea is done during my small group time. The other students are doing a buddy passages with a partner. They are given markers, an enlarged passage, and enlarged questions already cut out. The kids read each question and show their strategies on the question with one color of marker and then go to the passage and underline with the same color where they found that answer in the passage. They then put the question next to where they found the answer in the passage.

Even with inferencing questions (which we call brain questions) there is usually somewhere in the text that gave them a clue to that answer. With the questions that they can not go back to the text to find the answer, such as author’s purpose, they put the question above the passage. Even though they are still doing a passage, they have fun because they are working with a buddy, they get to use markers, and the paper is huge!

4.  Jenga Review

Using the game Jenga is another way to make the boring test questions fun. I have used this with math review. First I number the Jenga pieces and have a math assessment with that many questions. Next the students are put in teams and 2 students come up at a time to pick a number. Whatever number they pick, I then give them that test question. If they get it right, their team gets a point. If they tower falls, then the game is over and the team with the most points win. There are many ways to use Jenga for test review. Check out Pinterest for more ideas.


5.  Jeopardy Review Game

The last fun test prep we do is a Jeopardy style review game. I split the kids into teams of two again and they play against each other answering questions. I have one for reading, math, and writing. They enjoy playing the game and sometimes get very competitive.

If you are interested in these games just click on the pictures below.






I hope some of these ideas help in making your test prep a little more fun for your kids and bearable for you!


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Camp Write Along

It’s that time of the year! Writing test time. Ugh! In Texas the 4th graders have to take the Writing STAAR test. So now it is time to start reviewing for the test. One of the traditions at our school is Camp Write Along. The kids that have been at our school for a while always look forward to it. It really is helpful and you can definitely see a huge growth in the student’s writing.

camp write alongThis is what my room looked like after it was transformed into a campground. There was a tent, cave, campfire, dining area, and teacher table. The kids would rotate through the different areas of the classroom in groups of 4-5 kids.

Camp Write Along lasted 4 days. The kids spend 2 days writing an expository and 2 days working on revising and editing. I’m going to walk you through each day to explain what our camp looked like.

Camp Write Along Day 1- Expository Writing

On the first day of camp all the students meet in the cafeteria to listen to the Camp Coach. He describes the rules of the camp and lets the campers know what they can and cannot due while camping. NO shoes, NO jackets, NO food, and NO restrooms allowed at camp! We sing songs and the students have mail call. Each day they get letters from other students in the school and family members telling them good luck at camp. The Camp Coach then tells the students their prompt for the day- Write about how you are going to survive camp.

After we get back to the classroom  campground the students leave their shoes outside the door and get to writing. I have them divided up into groups and have them rotate through the different areas of camp. If not, they all would want to stay in the tent. They stay at the site for 20 minutes and then rotate to the next site. Each group also comes to the back table to work with me on their writing.

camp write along

Camp Write Along Day 2 & 3- Editing and Revising

Each day we meet in the cafeteria for roll call. We sing songs and listen to the Camp Counselors explain to us the importance of surviving camp. The kids get their mail and then we go back to our campground. On these days they have STAAR test prep pages to practice editing and revising. I continue to meet with them in groups to discuss their answers. We turn off the lights and they work with flashlights. We have trail mix each day. It’s a very laid back atmosphere and the kids LOVE it. The Camp Coach comes around regularly to make sure everyone is following the rules. They have to hide their snacks when he comes in.

writing at camp

Camp Write Along Day 4- Expository Writing

The last day of camp is always the best for the kids. During the morning meeting they learn about how to survive a BEAR ATTACK. They are given the rules and told what they should do if they see a bear while camping. Well of course, wouldn’t you know a bear shows up! He reeks havoc on the place. Furniture gets thrown, confetti eggs get tossed on kids, and shoes get thrown all over the cafeteria. He even throws a bucket of water on one of the kids. It’s definitely and adventure. The kids then learn they will have to write about how to survive if you run into a bear while camping.

camp write along bear

Camp Write Along is always the kid’s favorite memory from 4th grade. I know I was really stressed about the kid’s writing abilities. After the week of camp, the kids really seemed to grow. It was like everything I had taught them finally clicked. It was a lot of work but, I definitely enjoyed it. It was a fun way to prepare the 4th graders for the STAAR writing test.

Also, can I just say I REALLY miss my kids from last year! They were the most amazing class. I taught them for 2 years and we were definitely a family.


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Test Prep Giveaway

test prep giveaway

It’s that time of the year! TESTING SEASON. I don’t know about you, but I need all the help I can get preparing my kids for the STAAR test.

I have teamed up with some great TEXAS teachers to bring you a giveaway for WRITING, SCIENCE, MATH and READING!  We’re also giving away a TPT GIFT CARD!

To get started, just find the subject area below that you are interested in and enter the giveaway. Don’t forget to enter for the TPT GIFT CARD at the bottom. Enter as many subject areas as you would like. The winner will be announced Wednesday, March 1st.

Reading Tools:

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Writing Tools:

writing giveaway
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Math Tools:

math giveaway
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Science Tools:

science giveaway
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test prep giveaway
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Good luck!


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DIY Classroom Decor

I’m always looking for some easy DIY classroom decor. Quill has come up with easy ways to “Jazz Up” your classroom. Below you will learn how to make almost anything in your class a chalkboard with chalkboard paint. Maybe you want some easy ideas for storing classroom supplies, scroll down to see what you can do. There are also some directions on how to create crate benches below. Finally make sure to read all the way to the bottom to see how to make some cool tissue paper flowers to spruce up your classroom.

Jazz Up Your Classroom Décor on the Cheap

I hope you found some fun DIY crafts that you can make in your classroom.


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Plan a Christmas Vacation- Math Project

It’s Christmas time and you still need to teach the math standards but your students aren’t focused on learning. All they can think about are the presents they want for the holidays.  What can you do to keep your students engaged with math? Let them plan their Christmas Vacation!


This is a fun math activity to do with a group of students. I had groups of 3 to 4 kids work together to plan a Christmas vacation for a friend and themselves. They had a budget of $2500 and had to pick a flight, rent a car, book a hotel, plan activities and meals for their vacation. They had to work together to decide what choices they would have to make to enjoy their vacation. Maybe they would get a nice car but stay in a cheaper hotel. They had to decide if they were going to eat an expensive dinner or choose fast food. They fill out a budget sheet to calculate their choices.


My students had so much fun doing addition, subtraction, multiplication, and working with money. It is a great lesson on teaching students how to value money and what is important to them. It is also great to see all the students working together.

I would love for you try out this activity for free. Click on the picture below and let your kids plan a Christmas trip to Orlando.


If you would like the other 4 cities you can use for planning a Christmas vacation you can buy the product by clicking on the picture below to go to my TPT store.  A teacher that bought this product said, “A great way to keep my students engaged and practicing current skills just days before Winter Break.” Another teacher wrote, “My Students LOVED this!!”


Download the freebie and let me know what your students thought in the comments below. Merry Christmas!


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5 Creative Ways to Use Task Cards in the Classroom

Task Cards are a great way to review concepts in your classroom. There are so many ways you can use task cards other than putting them in a work stations.  I want to share with you 5 creative ways you can use task cards in your room that your students are going to love.

#1. Use them as a scavenger hunt

This is one of my favorite way to use task cards. You can put them up in the halls or in your classroom and have students walk around looking for each number. I let them use a clipboard to write their answers. They always love using a clipboard. I usually have them work with buddies also. They are learning and having fun at the same time. To see how I’ve used them in the past check out this post.

5 creative ways to use task cards in the classroom. Are you looking for creative ideas on how to use task cards in your class? I have listed 5 ways teachers can use task cards in the classroom with your students that is fun for everyone.

#2. Use them in  a game of Scoot

Scoot is a fun game where you move around the room from task card to task card. Kids typically move from desk to desk going in order. There is a time limit that the student gets for each card then the teacher says “Scoot” and all the kids move to the next card. You just need to make sure you have enough task cards for each child in your class to “scoot” to a new card.

#3. Use them as a class review game 

I’m always trying to come up with fun ways to review for assessments. I show a task card on my board and the students answer it. If they get the right answer they get to do the game. It may be throwing a ball into a basket or throwing a velcro ball onto a board with numbers. Using Jenga is one of my students’ favorite games. If the kids get the answer right they got to pull a Jenga piece. There are numbers on the piece and those numbers represent how many points their team will get.

5 creative ways to use task cards in the classroom. Are you looking for creative ideas on how to use task cards in your class? I have listed 5 ways teachers can use task cards in the classroom with your students that is fun for everyone.

#4. Use them with a board game

Another way to use task cards is to use them with a game board. This can be played with 2-4 kids. If the students answer the question correctly they get to roll the dice and move their game piece that many moves. You can just use any generic game board that pieces can move around a board. My students really enjoyed using task cards this way.

#5. Use them with an egg hunt

 This is always the favorite way to use task cards with my students. Fold up the task card and put it in an egg. Put the eggs outside and let the kids have fun hunting. This does not only have to be done at Easter time. It can be done during all times of the year.

5 creative ways to use task cards in the classroom. Are you looking for creative ideas on how to use task cards in your class? I have listed 5 ways teachers can use task cards in the classroom with your students that is fun for everyone.

If your students are bored using task cards, try using them in a different way. Let me know in the comments below which one you like the best.


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Back to School Tips

It’s back to school time! There’s  so much going on that sometimes I don’t even know where to start. It feels like I’m being pulled in all directions. Well I need to remind myself that I’m not Superwoman and I need to stop and take a deep breath. I will do what I can and let the rest go. I’ve been doing this long enough to know that some things can be let go. So here are some back to school tips when you come back to a room that looks like this…

empty classroom

Tip #1. Breath: I know that sounds easy but it is really stressful when you walk into a completely empty room. You know you only have a short amount of time to get it ready for your kids. So just breath and look at the positive. The floors are really shiny!

Tip #2. Take one section at a time: Decide what you want to do first and stick to it until you finish. Maybe you want to go ahead and do all your bulletin boards while everything is out of the way. That’s what I do. Maybe you want to set up your desk first so you can have your computer ready to go. I work on this second. Whatever you do, taking one section at a time will help you keep your sanity and keep your classroom uncluttered.

Tip #3. Organize as you go: You definitely don’t want to just throw things in your desk because you will be upset with yourself all year long. Take the time to put everything where you can find it. Make sure you leave some extra room in a drawer for new things you will get throughout the year. Definitely use containers to keep paperclips and little things contained in one spot.

organized desk

Tip #4. Make an emergency kit: I finally did this last year and it was a lifesaver. I put all the necessities I thought I would need in case of an emergency. You never know when you are going to have to stay at work late or need to freshen up during the day. Jessica from Time Out with Mom, has an awesome blog post on creating a teacher emergency kit. Make sure to check it out by clicking on the picture.


Tip #5: Make a sub tub: You definitely need an emergency sub tub. You never know when you are going to be out and won’t be able to get up to the school to get your plans ready. You can just have another teacher get your sub tub out and you are ready to go. If you would like my free sub plans to get you started click here.

I also have some sub plans that you can use with a favorite read aloud. Click on the picture below if you would like to check them out.

sub plans





Let me know in the comments below which tip you are going to try out.



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Classroom Cleaning Hacks

I really like my classroom to look nice and clean. We all know that after about 2 weeks into the school year, things start to look dingy. The white boards are no longer white, they are kind of grayish, yellowish color. I’m really not sure what color that is. They definitely don’t have that color in a box of crayons.

I’m always looking for better ways to clean my classroom and help it stay looking new throughout the year. Here are some great hacks and tips to help keep you and your classroom clean all year long! I especially like the marker stain tip. I always seem to get marker on my clothes all the time!

Scrub Down and Wipe Clean: Indispensable Classroom Cleaning Hacks

Brought to you by Quill

Which one of these tips will use in your classroom? Let me know in the comments below.



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Five Things to do in the summer before school starts

It’s summertime! We made it through another school year. So now what should we do? Do you picture yourself sitting on the beach sipping a yummy drink? Let’s be honest, most of us don’t really do that. The beach is fun but, you usually leave burnt and sand in places you really don’t want to talk about. So let’s be realistic, what are you really going to do?

It's summer time and you are on vacation. There are some things that you can do to get prepared for the beginning of the school year.
I’m going to tell you five things you should do this summer before school starts.
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Relax- It’s important to do something not school related. Everybody’s idea relax is different. For some people it might be sitting in front of the TV binge watching shows on Netflix. For other’s it might be going to the gym. You need to get some kind of hobby. Maybe you and some friends should take a painting class. Maybe you should take your kids to park and let them play while you read a book. Find something that you enjoy and do it!

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Connect with other teachers It’s always fun to see what other teachers are doing around the world. There are so many Facebook groups that you can join to get some great ideas from other amazing teachers. If you teach 3rd grade there are many Facebook groups just for you. There are also groups for teachers in your state. There are several groups that I belong to for Texas teachers. Just search under groups and ask to join. Instagram is another great place to meet other teachers. Follow some of your favorites and see what they are doing over the summer.

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Professional development– It is so hard to do professional development during the school year so summer is the perfect time. If your district offers professional development make sure to sign up for some workshops that will help you with your teaching. I took a Guided Reading workshop and an RTI workshop this summer. I have a couple of other technology workshops planned for this summer. There are also some great books you can read. My favorites are Debbie Diller’s books. You can never go wrong with any of hers. Practice with Purpose is great.

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Design your classroom– This is a good time to design what you want your classroom to look like. Do you want to keep the same theme as last year? Maybe your bored with your theme but don’t want to spend a lot of money. I totally understand. Look on Pinterest to find some great ideas that you can incorporate in your room that won’t cost a lot. Summer is a great time to do some DIY decor for your classroom. Last year I changed up my classroom decor to the Texans and I love it. I had to make almost all of it myself because there isn’t  a lot of Texans decor for the classroom. It was fun to work on over the summer. Here are some of the items I made for my classroom. You can read more about it on my blog post here.

Texans classroom decor

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Reflect– This is a great time to think about what worked well last year and what bombed. I did a great job working with my lower students and teaching them comprehension strategies. I bombed at doing book clubs with my kids. I tried to really work on it but I just ran out of time meeting with them. I having been looking at other teacher’s blogs to see what they are doing and deciding what I need to change to make it work better next year. That’s what I like most about summer. It’s a time to reflect to see how you can grow as a teacher.

I hope you are able to do these 5 ideas. I really believe if you do these you will be better prepared for the new school year. Which idea will be easiest for you to do? Let me know in the comments below.



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Guided Reading- What do I do with fluent readers?

Guided reading has been around for over 15 years. One of my graduate classes was on Fountas and Pinnell Guided Reading. It worked great in the younger grades for teaching small group. The older grades complained that it wasn’t helpful for them. There wasn’t a lot of literature for using guided reading with older grades back then. About 10 years ago one of my favorite author’s, Debbie Diller, came out with Making the Most of Small Groups.

I love her books! She is amazing. I have been to many of her workshops. She has so much knowledge on guided reading.

Finally more people began to write more guided reading books and more school districts began to provide professional development. I have been very lucky that I am in a wonderful school district that has excellent professional development. I have been going to guided reading trainings for over 10 years now and have read many books. Of course with all that knowledge comes lots of different ideas. Trying to filter through all of the ideas is tiresome. I have tried many ideas that did not work too well.

Some ideas worked great in 2nd grade but when I moved to 3rd grade I struggled. Many of those awesome lessons I did with my lower level reading students didn’t work with my fluent readers. My fluent readers didn’t need help with decoding or fix up strategies. Now what? I really needed to focus on comprehension. They could retell the story but when they took assessments they did not always do well. What was going on? They can read well and they could tell me what the passage was about. The problem was with the academic vocabulary. The rigor of my small reading groups was not where it needed to be. I had to get the kids to dig deeper.

I wasn’t the only one having problems. Many teachers at our school and in our district were having the same troubles. Our district started doing more professional development on how to teach guided reading groups with the fluent readers. Some of the ideas I liked a lot and some I didn’t really agree with. One of the main points that struck me was I had to get my questioning more rigorous. I did a book study with some other teachers at my school with the book The Next Step in Guided Reading by Jan Richardson.

I finally had that aha moment! This is what I need to be doing. I need to be preparing my students before they start reading. I need to be asking rigorous questions during their reading. I also need them to be doing a reader’s response after they read the passage. The reader’s response needs to be rigorous enough and cover the standards that we are  currently working on and spiral the other standards. I along with many of my colleagues have been doing our reading groups like this for several years now. I have had administrators, curriculum specialists, and other teachers come observe me and my students with our guided reading groups. I finally feel like I have a good grasp on my reading groups. My students are doing a better job at comprehending what they are reading. They also do well on the state test.

I have made a guided reading lesson plan and template for you to use in your classroom. I have made it editable so you can make it your own or tweak it for your classroom. I have included a sample of what one of my reader’s responses looks like. Just click on the picture to download it for free from my TPT store.

This Guided Reading lesson plan is for fluent readers (levels O-Z).The lesson will tell what to do with your reading group before reading, during reading, and after reading. There is a editable lesson plan template with step by step directions what to do for your fluent readers.

I hope you find this helpful! Let me know what you do with your fluent readers in the comment section below.




(c) Can Stock Photo

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