Exam preparation, though important, can be extremely boring for your students.
Here are some tips you can use when preparing for standardized tests that make activities fun for you and your students while still being effective.
Top 9 Tips for Making Preparation Fun
Make It a Competition
Everything is more fun when it’s a competition. Put your students into two teams and let them choose a team name and create a team flag. Then award points for their performance on different preparation tasks (either tasks that involve the whole team at once or tasks that individuals perform). At the end of your preparations, add up all the points and reward the winning team with a free homework pass, a pizza party, extra points on the next assignment, or whatever your students like best.
Have Students Write the Questions
When students write review questions, they reap several benefits. Not only do they gain experience answering the questions, they also have to think about providing wrong answers. This will make them more aware on test day of the tricks designed to trip them up. So have students choose different topics or grammar skills from a hat and have each person write three to five question on that topic. Check their questions and answers, and then compile them for the class. Have students work individually or with a partner to complete the questions their classmates wrote.
Make It a Game
I love to use games in my ESL classroom, and getting ready for big tests is the perfect time to make a game of it. Have students race against the clock or each other to complete a task. Put questions in the context of a game board or card game (memory style, where the questions have to be matched with the correct answer). There are tons of ways to turn everyday activities into games in your classroom. It just takes a bit of creativity.
Get Your Students Moving
Movement will do wonders for your students during exam preparations. You can make it simple by having students go to different areas in the classroom to do different activities. Or you can involve movement in individual questions by having students run to different areas of the classroom. You can even take your class outside for some fresh air as they prepare for their tests. The movement will keep your students awake, get their whole bodies involved, and as a result help them remember the information better. As a bonus, it will be a great experience for the kinesthetic learners in your class.
Get Crafty with Your Students
You may not teach art in your ESL class, but it’s fun to get crafty every once in a while. You might have students cut out information in reading material and paste it next to the questions it answers. You can have student illustrate their answers to questions rather than vocalizing them. You can have students sculpt scenes or definitions from play-dough. You can have cut up vocabulary lists and paste the words into a picture that illustrates their definition. Students can write questions and create their own scratch off answer sheets. Basically, anything that gets students cutting, pasting, drawing, painting, collaging, or sculpting will make your test preparation activities more interesting and memorable for your students.
Make a Puzzle out of It
Puzzles can be physical or mental. Either way, a puzzle will make exam preparations more fun for your students. Try cutting up paragraphs from several reading comprehension passages and mixing them together. Then challenge groups of students to sort them into the right passages before answering the questions on each passage. You could use different preparation questions as clues on a scavenger hunt. Students must answer the question correctly before you give them the next clue in the series. You can cut a worksheet into abstract shapes and have students put the puzzle together before they can answer the questions. Any way you can get the logic section of their brain working will make your activity more interesting and engaging for your students.
Make It Real Life
Too often, the activities we do to prepare for exams have little to no grounding in the real world. If you can, make your exam prep efforts based in materials and situations your students will face once they are free of the classroom. Use texts from magazines or websites and use videos from YouTube to help your students prepare. Though they won’t have these same materials during their exams, they will reap double benefits when you use realia in your classroom preparation activities.
Put Your Students in Charge
Though it may go against your instincts as a teacher, let your students control listening material as they do practice exercises. Let them tell you when to stop or when to rewind. Not only will this help them get the right answers as you prepare, it will also increase their confidence when it comes to listening on exam day.
Bring Culture into Play
If you can, bring American culture into your test preparations. Do this by using song lyrics for grammar examples or American films for listening selections. You can use clips from entertainment shows or celebrity info from fan magazines. Anything that is interesting and engaging for your students will make your exam preparation more fun.
Most ESL students will go on to take standardized English tests, and most ESL teachers will use part or all of their class time to get students ready. But these preparation activities don’t have to be boring. By being a bit creative and getting choosey about the materials you use in class, you can engage your students and make getting ready for the exam some of the best time in your class.