Prepping for state or standardized testing as a teacher can make you feel like a drill sergeant – handing out orders, piling on the extra work and reviews, and so focused on the results that you may forget to have a little fun! Holding a writing boot camp, instead of traditional test prep, to help review and prepare for end-of-the-year testing is a great way to get students excited and engaged.
Why Use a Writing Boot Camp for Test Prep
When you hear the phrase “boot camp” you think of hard work, perseverance, challenges, and a great reward at the end. If you introduce test prep as just that – “test prep”, students may check out or become anxious at the thought of taking a standardized test or assessment. When you introduce your writing practice as a writing challenge, writing boot camp, or other fun name, students relate the hard work they are putting in with the rewards or accolades associated with a challenge or boot camp.
Use Boot Camp to Differentiate
You can also use the boot camp set up to differentiate your end-of-year review. Modify stations or create multiple “squads” to complete boot camp so you can ensure each student is reviewing material that is relevant and important for their success.
How to Set Up a Writing Boot Camp
Setting up a writing boot camp takes a bit of planning if you’re working from scratch. I’ve created a writing boot camp bundle that includes boot camp stations, a writing flipbook resource, plus all the additional signage and decor items you will need to make boot camp as easy as possible!
Create Squads or Teams
Divide the students into groups and have them rotate between stations, or “secret missions”. You can use the dog tag printables included in the bundle to assign students to their squad. Allow students to choose a “captain” who will be in charge of recording answers on the answer sheet.
You can give students a set amount of time to complete each station before rotating or set up an entire boot camp for each squad, so they can move on when they’ve finished.
Set Up Missions or Stations
One of the great benefits of using a boot camp to review writing skills is the ability to cover multiple skills or topics. Rotating through stations, or as I like to call them “secret missions”, allows students to practice and review many skills in a short amount of time.
There are 5 stations in the Writing Boot Camp Bundle:
- Informative vs. Opinion writing
- Figurative language sort
- Correct punctuation
- There, Their, They’re fill in the blank
- Stronger sentence creation
You can easily print the station sign and materials and set up each station around your room, in the hallway, or at student desks.
Take the boot camp theme even further by creating secret words or a code that the students receive after completing each station. They can then use these words or code to solve a puzzle or get a reward at the end of boot camp!
Create Writing Flipbooks
A flipbook is a great resource for students to have not only during review and test prep time but all year long. Having a flipbook on hand helps students build confidence, form good habits and create mental checklists to utilize when they’re writing.
Students can easily assemble the flipbook from the boot camp bundle, add notes, and color or decorate as they’d like. I like to have students create their flipbooks at the very beginning of the year so they have them on hand while learning new skills. You could also pre-print and distribute pages to the flipbook as you cover those topics throughout the year.
Running Your Writing Boot Camp
Now that you have your squads assigned, your secret missions set up, and your students are armed with their flipbooks, it’s time to start camp!
The 5 stations should take students approximately 30-45 minutes to complete, so be sure to block time accordingly! If you don’t have the time to complete the entire boot camp in one day, consider creating a week-long boot camp and having students tackle one station per day.
Using the boot camp stations as early finishers or morning workstations is a great way to sneak in the extra writing practice and review also!
Writing Boot Camp Test Prep Activities for Opinion & Informative Writing Bundle
If you are ready to ship out to boot camp with your students, you can grab the Writing Boot Camp bundle that includes everything you need to easily set up and run a fun, successful boot camp! I’ve included everything you need, but you can always add some additional decorations or rewards if you’d like.
This bundle includes two resources for information and opinion writing – the Writing Boot Camp Test Prep Flipbook and the Writing Boot Camp Test Prep Stations & Activities.
The boot camp activities are detailed above and can be printed and used without any prep.
The writing flipbook that’s included in the bundle is designed to match the boot camp theme. It contains 22 pages of checklists, tips, and study tools to help students review writing skills. There’s also a checklist for completing the 5 secret missions during boot camp.
Here’s everything that’s included in the bundle:
Test Prep Activities
- 5 Secret Missions ( aka Writing Stations )
- Each mission includes student directions, recording sheets, sorting cards and answer keys
- Each mission comes in Camouflage or Black & White option
- Writing Checklists and Reference Cards (Writing Flipbook)
- Bulletin Board decor options
- Writing Station signs
- Blank Camo Labels (great to use as name tags, station labels, group names, etc.)
- Flipbook Cover with Boot Camp theme
- Opinion Writing Checklist
- Informative writing checklist
- Hook Your Reader
- Opinion Words & Phrases
- Informative Words & Phrases
- Transition Words
- Figurative Language
- Sentence Stems for Text Evidence (2 versions)
- Using Quotation Marks
- Editing Checklist
- CUPS (Edit)
- ARMS (Revise)
- Informative Writing
- Opinion Writing (3 versions)
- SWAG (Sentence Editing)
- RACE (Paragraph Writing)
- TREES (Paragraph Writing)
- OREO (Opinion Writing)
This bundle will allow you to review informative and opinion writing with your students, along with other skills such as punctuation, writing prompts, figurative language, grammar, and complex sentences.
The flipbook is a great resource to have all year long, not just at the end of the year. Students will form good habits and create mental checklists while using the flipbook and become more confident in their writing skills.
Check out my tips on teaching writing to upper elementary students for more ways to make writing instruction fun!
Are you holding a writing boot camp for your students? I’d love to hear some of the activities and success that you have using boot camp! Share them in the comments below!