For many ESL students, the thought of the TOIC or TOEFL exam is an ever present fear.
The scores they achieve on those tests can make or break their educational goals, as far as they are concerned, and in many cases they are right. Preparing students for these tests is essential, therefore, but it can also be boring. Fortunately, learning what they need to know for the test doesn’t have to put students to sleep. Here are some fun activities that will help your students succeed on standardized tests without sending them to the snooze zone in class.
Enjoy These 6 Fun and Fabulous Test Preparation Activities
How Fast Can You Go
Time is of the essence when taking standardized tests, and this race will give your students a chance to prioritize the questions they will answer on test day. Take a sample exam or write multiple choice questions of your own and write or print each one on its own small piece of paper. You can also print them on index cards so you have what looks like a stack of playing cards. When a student takes his turn at this game, you will give him three minutes to answer as many questions correctly as he possibly can. On go, start your timer and have your student draw one question. He can either pass on the question or answer it by telling you the answer. He then moves on to the next card. His goal is to get as many questions correct in the three minutes as he can. When time is up, count up how many answers he got right. If you like, discuss with him or the entire class the questions he skipped or got wrong. Once everyone in class has had a chance at their own three minutes, the person who answered the most questions correctly in that time wins.
This activity helps prepare your students for the reading portion of the test, and you can do it with your entire class at the same time. Start by giving students comprehension questions on a reading passage with the CORRECT answers marked. Also give them the reading passage. On your go, students must race to locate the information in the reading passage that supplied the answer to each question. Anyone who finds all the information in the time you set for the passage is a winner. If you like, you can award points based on students’ finishing time and keep a running score among the different exercises you do in class.
Can You Rephrase That
Often on standardized English tests, the words in a test question are different from those in a reading passage. Students must therefore be able to recognize synonyms within the questions and reading passage. To challenge students to do this, write several phrases on index cards and tape them to your front board in a grid (so it looks like a jeopardy game). Then for yourself rewrite each phrase using synonyms. For example, you might have pairs of sentences that resemble these: teachers affect students/educators influence learners, the client was thrilled/the customer was excited, the vehicle just pulled up/the car just parked. Divide your class into two teams and have one person from each team come to the front of the board. Read one of your sentences, and students must then race to find the equivalent sentence on the board. When they find it, the pull it off and score one point for their team. Once all the index cards have been taken, the team with the most cards wins the game.
This is a fun group activity that you can also use for a reading comprehension activity. Gather four different reading text and the comprehension questions that follow. Separate the questions from their reading passage and from each other so you have a pile of questions that you can shuffle. For the activity, put your students in groups of four and give each person one of the reading passages. Mix all the questions for those passages in a pile between those students. On your mark, students race to find the questions that go with their passage. Once everyone has found their comprehension questions, students can work either individually or with a partner to answer the questions on their passages.
Since students will often have to identify pictures that represent a spoken sentence, let them practice with this fun and fast paced in-class activity. Divide your class into two or more teams and have one person from each team come to white board. Then read one exam type sentence aloud (e.g. The woman is eating something.) The students at the board then race to draw a picture that represents the sentence. The student with the fastest drawn (recognizable) picture wins a point for their team. Make sure each person on every team gets at least one chance to draw at the board.
A Picture’s Worth…
Most ESL teachers have several pictures at hand in the classroom. (I like to keep a file folder of interesting pictures from magazines. Ads are a great resource for this.) Pull out one or more and show the picture to your class. Have a brainstorm competition of sorts to see which student can write the most sentences describing what is happening in the picture. If you don’t have a file of go to pictures, use an exam picture from a preparation book or a sample test.
While you can’t keep your students from stressing when they take standardized English tests, you can decrease their stress over preparation. These fun-filled classroom activities score big with students while still improving the English skills they will need for their test day. Try them with your students in the days or weeks leading up to the test and you can be sure they will be insuring a strong score when they take it.
There are many ways to prepare for standardized tests in the ESL classroom.
What are your favorite activities?