How to Prepare Students for the STAAR Test

how to prepare students for the Staar test

These tips are not only useful for Texas’ STAAR test, but really any major test!

It’s that time of year again! Not just time for the holidays, but time to think ahead to the spring. I always choose the Christmas/ Winter break to plan for STAAR review. Even though I will still have the entire Organisms and Environments unit and some of the Earth and Space unit to cover when we get back in January, I begin reviewing content from the entire year at this time.

review stations

Review Stations:

From January through February and March, I work with the students on STAAR review stations every Friday. Each station covers a set of standards from the TEKS covered on the 5th grade STAAR test. Fridays are good days to let students work in groups and re-experience the units of the year. I would encourage you to create a set of stations, or grab the set of 14 5th Grade Science STAAR Review Stations I already created.

Here is the method to my madness:

I put the students in groups of similar abilities. I want the students of each group to work equally when completing each station. This is also how I like them grouped so I can sit with each group and work with them as a small group. I can spend more time explaining concepts to groups who are struggling. And, if you have a group of students who will be using supplemental aides, they can practice using them on these stations. I walk around to observe and assist each group as they work. I can see how they are working through the stations and where they might be struggling.

The stations I use include these items to better review and refresh the students’ memories:

Each station includes:
Instruction Card
Answer Key
3 Knowledge Building Review Activity Card Sets
Matching Vocabulary Card Set

Stations:
1. Science Lab Basics
2. Plants
3. Animals
4. Cells and Photosynthesis
5. Food Chain, Food Web, and Water Cycle
6. Rock Cycle and Landforms
7. Natural Resources
8. Sun, Earth, and Moon
9. Moon Phases
10. States of Matter
11. Forms of Energy
12. Electricity
13. Mixtures and Solutions
14. Light

test structure

Test Structure:

Preparing students for the structure of the test and test questions can be done throughout the year with each unit test. Use unit tests which match the format and rigor of the standardized tests. Work with the students in thinking through each question as you go over the completed and graded tests. Develop a system for your students to work through a test question, so they know how to approach a challenging question. The tests these days are timed, so be mindful of that when developing this system.

For example:

Underline key Science words and write a short definition.

Draw a diagram that can help you answer the question.

Read all of the answers carefully.

Draw an X over the answer choice that you know cannot be correct, and write a short note why it is incorrect.

Circle the answer you know to be correct. Fill in the answer on your answer document, and double check that you filled in the correct one.

Also, use the appropriate standardized test modifications and accommodations for each student with disabilities on every unit test. They will have enough opportunities to get used to the test structure by the time standardized testing comes along.

supplemental aides

Supplemental Aides and Whole class review:

I discovered one year that my students with supplemental materials needed the same practice as the whole class of students. All students need to practice completing science diagrams by memory. I played a drawing game with the class, and I would call out a specific diagram for the students to draw and label by memory. Students who used supplemental materials would have their packet of blank science diagrams to assist them in these drawings. I gave each student a dry erase marker and let them draw each diagram on their desk. After I walked around and checked their work, they could erase their desk and get ready for the next diagram. Each student could easily remember the diagrams by the time the test came along. They could do a quick “diagram dump” when they got their test on the big day and easily draw all the diagrams for quick reference on test questions. The year I started this, was one of the most successful years I had for students with and without disabilities passing the big test.

Game example: I would call out the butterfly life cycle. All students would draw this on their desk. Students with supplemental aides could flip through their packet and find the blank diagram and use it to help them draw a completed one.

Lockins and bootcamps

Lock-ins and Bootcamps: 

Lock-ins and Bootcamps are fun ways to get kids pumped up about what they have learned and how they can show it! These are both valuable tools for preparing your kids for the STAAR test.

Lock-ins:

A couple weeks before testing begins, throw a Science Learning Lock-in for the kiddos. They will love to get together with their friends after school to play games and compete. In the past, I have done this on a Friday night from 7-9PM. You need volunteers (two for each rotation, at least two for the drop off/ pick up table, and leave yourself free to run back and forth to help people), review games and materials to play at each station, pizza and drinks to serve kids as they arrive. Check out this blog post for Learning Lock-in resources.

Bootcamps:

The week before the big test day, use the full day to rotate through bootcamp classes. It works really well if your fellow teachers will agree to take this week and make it Science Bootcamp Week. If not, just make the time you have with them the bootcamp for the week. Here is an idea for planning a bootcamp.

Prior to the bootcamp week, get the kids excited by encouraging everyone to wear camouflage t-shirts. You can even have some made for the week if you are super ambitious.

Break up the four reporting categories into each day. Friday can be a cumulative review games day.

Each day can have four to eight sessions, depending on how you want to cover each of the TEKS.

Have three courses for each session.

1.Read it! Plan a reading review. Something short, simple, and interesting with a graphic organizer or activity to process what they read. This will help refresh their memory of the topic.

2. See it! Plan an experiment or model to experience the sessions learning objective.

3. Test it! Take a short practice test for the learning objectives of that session. This should be about 4 questions in which students will work through independently, then go over as a class.

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