California Gold Rush test prep? Yes, please. The Gold Rush is such an interesting part of westward expansion. It’s this interest that got me thinking. Why not use engaging historical events that we have to teach anyway as a form of test prep? I’m not talking about those straightforward read and respond type of work. Instead, I am thinking more along the lines of detailed paired passage sets and constructed response opportunities that are VERY similar the material that our 3rd-5th grade students will face on the state test.
Let me explain my thought process here. Paired passages are all the rage on the California state test (and in many other areas as well). With this said, offering paired passage sets with higher-level questions as direct practice for state testing is a smart move. With all this in mind, I tried my hand at creating some test prep. I chose to draft a Gold Rush paired passage set that aligns with questions that are often asked on these tests. You can follow steps similar to those outlined below to create your own paired passage set. Writing your own content is always best, but I know we don’t always have time. You also can rip material off of the Internet for classroom only use. Just make sure that you check the reading level before you present it to your students.
FICTION & NON-FICTION
In an effort to provide valid test prep opportunities, I leveraged the engaging power of the California Gold Rush to generate both fiction and non-fiction texts. Students will face similar passages on the state test. Then, I drafted questions similar to the types you will see pop up during testing. In my Gold Rush paired passages, students will first tackle a multiple choice test prep section. This focuses on higher-level thinking skills and incorporates context-based questions.
Next, students will encounter a short-answer portion. These questions elicit carefully constructed responses that force kids to make “bigger” connections. Finally, the final essay was designed to mirror a performance task. This lengthy essay response presents a detailed question that asks our kids to really read into the texts. I tossed in three essay options – narrative, informational, and opinion. All three pop up as options on the California test.
**Keep in mind that you can run with these steps for just about any history or science concept. State tests can pair two non-fiction or one fiction and one non-fiction. You also may chose to use one passage at a time before you start pairing them. This can be especially helpful with our lower kiddos. I built this option into my set and you can work this angle on your own as well.
To truly target meaningful test prep that mimics what our students will face, a digital option is essential. The ONLINE testing students are being asked to complete absolutely floors me. I know that I struggle reading off a screen. Even though I am old as all get out, students also often struggle when attempting to make the digital jump. With this said, I believe that practice with paired texts, note taking, and response writing should be completed on the computer as much as possible. After all, practice makes perfect!
My Gold Rush paired passage set offers a digital option that can be used with either Google Slides or Google Classroom. **You can create digital experiences too. Simply create or load the desired test prep practice into Google Slides or Google Classroom and assign the work to your students. While good old paper-pencil still has it’s place, picking a handful of practice exercises that provide online exposure is essential.
USE YOUR STATE TEST AS A GUIDE
Once you find or create texts to pair, drafting questions is not always easy. I spent hours trying to come up with questions that are similar to those students have faced on previous tests. The EDAMS and CAASSP sites became my guides (I am California based). Just as our test has practice options, so do most others. Go in and take a peek at your state test. Use release questions and practice tests to help draft some test prep of your own. Below is an example of what our poor students face in California and this is just a section of it. Students get to the passages and by scrolling (insert eye roll). As stated above, children will face multiple choice, short answer, and a lengthy essay response that MUST include text-based evidence.
Despite my opinion of California’s state test, creating smart test prep that helps our students “experience” the test taking process just makes sense. Providing valid test-like situations helps our students show what they really know. I’m not advocating that we teach to the test. Instead, I am urging that we practice this new testing format so our students are not caught off guard when they sit down to take the actual test.
Alright. There you have it. A post dedicated to helping your kids show that state test who’s boss. If you are interested in a ready to roll test prep set, check California Gold Rush paired passages packet. I will have a few more this year and will be working on even more this summer. What can I say? I have persuasive friends in the upper grades 😉
Thanks for taking the time to visit me today. I hope to see you back soon.