The Power of Active Reading as a Test Prep Strategy


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If you are a teacher and you hear the words “test prep” you may visualize cramming in material you have not yet taught, reviewing previously taught concepts, and sharpening all the pencils! For me, I think of one thing: a clean, fresh new piece of paper! Yes, a plain piece of paper is my best kept secret for helping students succeed during testing season.

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A plain piece of paper is the perfect way to encourage students to use all the active reading strategies that you have taught them all year long! Active reading simply means that students are actively engaging with the text to help grasp a deeper understanding of what is being read. That may include highlighting, color coding, note taking in margins, completing a graphic organizer, or any other way you have encourage your readers to read with their minds awake! 

Here is how to take a plain piece of "scrap" paper students are given during testing periods to help them actively read during long testing blocks.

  1. Pass out plain white paper and teach students how to use a pencil to turn the plain paper into a graphic organizer to help them actively read. Paper can also be folded to create different "parts of the organizer."
  2. Remind students to use the organizer that they created during testing periods to help them focus and actively read the texts on the test to understand and comprehend what they are reading.
  3. Encourage students can use the notes that they took on the organizer to help them answer questions related to the text.
  4. DISCLAIMER: Students should be recreating graphic organizers that they have used all year to help them read actively during independent reading. This is not the time to teach students a new form of note taking!

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I have found the best organizers to have students use during testing blocks depends on the type of text that they are reading. Review graphic organizers that you have taught your students and help them decide what type of organizer would fit the structure of the passage that they are reading. If they are reading a fiction story, they may create an inference chart to help them understand character feelings. If they are reading an informational passage that compares two animals, they should create a venn diagram. Help your students gain the power to decide how they want to actively read. 

Teacher Tip: To really make this strategy effective, teach this concept earlier in the year. Students can use their own “homemade” graphic organizers during independent reading, at home reading, or anytime they are reading! By practicing this all year long, it becomes a wonderful reading strategy that students will instinctively! Grab the FREE simple organizers from above, plus a reading strategy poster at the bottom of the post to help you try out this strategy!

I love teaching students how to use a piece of paper to help them succeed during testing. It promotes organization, use of strategies taught throughout the year, and independence. Students can use this active reading tip anytime they are reading and are without a "formal" organizer. See another active reading tip HERE. Soon after you start using this tip, you will see hand made organizers popping up in their reader notebooks, too!

Good luck during testing season!


What is your best test taking strategy? Share below!

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You might be interested in this nonfiction strategy organizer and bulletin board pack:




Need more test taking tips and tricks? Check out other tips here:




Sorting Reading Test Question Stems // Tarheelstate Teacher

Test Prep Boot Camp // Tried and True Teaching Tools


Preparing Students for Testing // The Owl Teacher

Test Prep Twist for Struggling Readers // Reading by Heart




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