The weeks leading into testing season can be overwhelming. Where do you even begin? And how can you possibly cover all the material you need to? We all know that it’s important to understand where our students are academically, so we can support them as individuals, but that can feel like a daunting task. The big challenge here is knowing exactly what to focus on during test prep. Let’s chat about some ways to identify students’ gaps in knowledge, so you can make the most of your time leading up to the test and eliminate overwhelm.
Why You Need to Identify the Gaps
When you look at the entirety of the school year and all of the standards you’ve taught, you might be clueless about where to begin with test review.
By identifying the gaps in knowledge, you can narrow down your content to the most needed skills or standards, plan effectively, and use your time wisely. You also won’t waste your time reviewing skills that students have already mastered.
How to Identify the Gaps
The best way to identify the gaps is to get a holistic look at students’ knowledge. I’ll walk you through how I assess the gaps in my classroom with the 5th Grade Test Prep: Identify the Gaps Assessments.
#1 Select the Assessment
The 5th Grade Math Test Prep resource has four different versions, so you can choose the one that best suits your needs. You’ll find the following formats –
- Aligned with Florida standards
- Reviews all 5th grade skills, but not aligned on any specific state standards
- Aligned with Common Core standards
- Digital Google Form
No matter which version you choose, each test covers all 5th grade standards! The different standard-aligned tests just help you with data tracking, so you can see specifically which standard you need to review.
#2 Prep Students
After you’ve selected your assessment, you want to prepare students for what they’re going to do. You want students to do their best, so you can get an accurate look at the skills they know. But, you also don’t want to induce any test anxiety. I recommend letting students know you won’t be taking the test for a grade, but you will be using it for planning.
Also, be sure to explain the confidence rating system. Each test comes with a column that says “confidence”. This can help you gauge how confident the students are in their answers or the material, which can be another indicator of gaps in knowledge. You can choose to have students rank their confidence with smiley faces, numbers 1-5, or a simple “yes” or “no.” Whichever you choose, explain to students the importance of trying their best and honestly rating their comfort level with each skill.
#3 Take the Assessment
While it’s not an actual graded test, treat it like a test when you administer it. Set your classroom up the way you would during a test and honor all accommodations you have in place for students during testing. This will give you the most accurate picture of where students are.
Also, if students will be taking the standardized test online, it’s probably best to simulate that with the Google Form version. It can also serve as a little practice run for what it’s like testing online.
#4 Track Student Data
Included in the resource is a sheet to use when tracking student data. If students took the test on paper, you can use this sheet to collect all the data. If they completed the assessment on Google, you can look at the data they provide – and you might decide to transfer some of that information to the printable sheet for clarity (or print the data information from the form).
Once you’ve added student data to this sheet, there are a few ways you can code it to see trends. You can color all the “correct” boxes green and all the “incorrect” boxes red, or you can leave the “correct” boxes empty, and color in the “incorrect” boxes. Essentially, you want to identify where most students are struggling.
#5 Make a Plan and Begin Filling the Gaps
Now that you know where students are struggling, it’s time to make a plan to fill in those gaps in knowledge. Implementing review leading up to testing does not have to be complicated! My best advice here is to find something that works within your classroom routine and stick with it. This could be spiral review or some alternatives to spiral review like board games, partner stations, working at the teacher table, or warm-ups.
You can also do a combo of review activities to keep things interesting and review in different ways. Maybe students enter the classroom and participate in an independent warm-up that addresses a specific skill they need to practice. Then, they go into a whole group review to address some of the standards that your data tracking sheet showed were a struggle for lots of kids! Then, you can wrap it up with stations where students rotate between working with partners or small groups and working with you. However you choose to begin filling in the gaps, just make sure to find a plan that will work and that you’ll be able to stick with.
#6 Assess Periodically
Now that you’ve identified gaps in knowledge and have an idea of what to review with students – you’re ready to get rolling! The last thing is to periodically check in with students using informal assessments like exit tickets or quick check-ins. These will allow you to see if the review time is serving students well, or if you need to switch things up. As the test gets closer, have your students complete the 5th Grade Test Prep: Identify the Gaps Assessments again, so you can get a more clear picture of the growth they’ve made.
If you’re ready to get started prepping your students for standardized testing in a way that will be meaningful but also simple, get the ready-to-go 5th Grade Test Prep: Identify the Gaps Assessments resource. Within it, you’ll find all four versions of the assessment I mentioned, which has one question for every single 5th grade math standard. You’ll also find the student data tracking sheet.