8 Picture Books To Read Aloud During Testing Season Upper Elementary

childrens books about testing days

No matter how old students get, they still love to gather in the reading corner and get lost in a good book listening to the soothing sound of their teacher's voice reading. Navigating testing season in the classroom can be tricky. Some schools that I have taught in get knee-deep in test prep, while others treat it as a regular school day.

Whichever way your district and school approach it, we can agree that the testing season is stressful! Even with the most laid back approach, students know the schedule is different, the atmosphere is tense, and the long hours of testing is exhausting!

These books are perfect to share anytime before, during and after testing season. Add these to your social-emotional lessons, too, as the content in each book provides discussion starters that will engage your students in meaningful discourse to help them understand their feelings. Most importantly, the characters in these books allow students to make connections, share their own thoughts, fears and feelings. They help students to learn that they are not alone in having mixed-up feelings about standardized testing.

Below are my favorite tried and true testing season read-aloud picture books. Read on to find out more about each book and grab the coordinating FREE student activities at the bottom of this post.

A Little Spot of Anxiety written by Diane Alber

This book is an engaging book that talks about everything that comes with the feeling of anxiety. With specific examples of events that may cause anxiety and strategies to help children calm down, this is one to definitely read before the testing season begins. I especially love that this book sheds light on the fact that when feelings of anxiety are not addressed, they grow. Have your students try out the strategies included in this book to practice calming down and reducing their anxiety. Grab an activity to do with this book for free at the bottom of this post.

a little spot of anxiety book about testing days for children

Be You! written by Peter Reynolds

I cannot love this book anymore! All of Peter Reynolds books are colorful and uplifting, and this one is no different. This book encourages students to have self-love and reminds them to stay true to who they are. It celebrates individuality and persistence and is the perfect read to motivate and inspire students during the testing season. Have students draw a heart on construction paper and fill it up with everything that they love about themselves. This uplifting activity will have them go into the testing season feeling good about who they are! Grab an activity to do with this book for free at the bottom of this post.

be you! peter reynolds uplifting book for kids

Everybody Needs a Rock written by Byrd Baylor

This is my favorite book to share before testing begins. I cannot take credit for tieing this book into the testing season, as it was a tradition handed down to me by my grade level partners at my school. Before testing begins, each teacher in my grade level reads this book aloud to students and discusses how a rock can be a friend to them when needed. To do this all students need to do is rub their rock between their fingers. After reading this book, I invite students to select their own rock from a bucket of polished rocks that I present to them. We discuss how they can keep the rock while taking tests and hold and rub it when they are feeling stressed. My students love this and often come back years later to say how much the rock has meant to them. It is a tradition that I have loved being a part of.

everybody needs a rock picture book for testing days for children

Last to Finish (A Story About the Smartest Boy in Math Class) written by Barbara Esham

If you read this book at the beginning of the school year, revisit it during the testing season. If you haven't read it this year at all, now is the time! The story is focused around a student who panics and "freezes" during timed testing sessions, like his timed math fact quizzes. I love this book for its realness. It helps children understand how different everyone's brains work. After reading this book, take a class poll to see if students like or dislike timed settings and then discuss the results. Students love and connect with this book so easily.

last to finish picture book about testing days for children

Testing Miss Malarkey written by Judy Finchler

I love the Miss Malarkey series! This fun story follows Miss Malarkey, her students, and the entire school community as they prep for and take standardized testing. It's light nature and humor make it a fun read right before the testing begins. Teachers will especially love the humor and the illustrations on the last page! Grab an activity to do with this book for free at the bottom of this post.

8 Picture Books To Share During Testing Season

The Anti-Test Anxiety Society written by Julia Cook

I love how this book fully illustrates what anxiety looks like, feels like, and sounds like. The main character experiences much anxiety over upcoming tests, much like our students do, to the point where she literally feels sick. Her teacher helps her through it by helping her see the positive in testing situations, as well as sharing 12 tips to help her deal with her anxiety. These are great tips that students can put into action right away! Grab an activity to do with this book for free at the bottom of this post.

the anti test society childrens book about testing days

The Big Test written by Julie Danneberg

This is another one of my favorite series! I just love the teacher, Mrs. Hartwell. If you have read First Day Jitters and Last Day Blues, you know what a great classroom community Mrs. Hartwell has created in her classroom. This book teaches students the best lesson to learn when prepping for standardized testing is to relax. Grab an activity to do with this book for free at the bottom of this post.

the big test picture book about testing days for children

The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes written by Mark Pett and Gary Rubinstein

This book is another popular back to school read-aloud that should be revisited around testing time. This book tells the story about a girl who loves to be perfect and is afraid of making mistakes. She learns that not everything is in her control and that mistakes happen. She learned to embrace making mistakes and gave up trying to be perfect. This is such a valuable message during any testing season! Grab an activity to do with this book for free at the bottom of this post.

8 Picture Books To Share During Testing Season

When it comes to creating a calm and relaxing environment for students before, during and after testing sessions, don't overlook the power of a great read-aloud. Be sure to leave these books displayed in the classroom so students can take them, reread them, and try out all the strategies as they need them. What is your favorite book to share during the testing season? Share your favorite below in the comments section.

                        Looking for test prep motivation? Click the picture below!

ideas to motivate and create calm testing classroom environment

                                   Need reading test prep activities? Try these!

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picture books to help children during stressful testing days

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3 Easy to Implement Tips to Teach Procedural Writing

how to writing lessons

Having my students write procedural pieces is one of my favorite units to teach! The kids are always excited to share how to do something that they are good at, that they enjoy, or something that they just learned. Writing a piece about How to Catch a Leprechaun is always one of their favorites!

I love practicing how to writing with seasonal procedural writing projects like March-themed writing about How to Catch a Leprechaun which are fun, creative, and always high engagement for students. But before we practice with seasonal topics, I stick to formal writing workshop time to teach lessons that are designed to help students truly grasp the concept of how-to writing.

Here is how I break down this genre of writing for my upper elementary students in focused lessons to help them understand the nuances specific to this writing genre. These tips are perfect for any procedural writing lesson throughout the year.

3 Easy to Implement Tips to Teach Procedural Writing
Students are expected to write to narrative, expository, and opinion prompts. So when students find out that procedural writing is a form of expository writing, they can instantly connect to this genre and use what they know about expository writing to write procedural writing pieces.

Although procedural writing is a form of expository writing, students must understand that the purpose of procedural or “how-to” writing is to help someone succeed at doing something by following specific instructions. Students must teach the reader through their writing.

I love using picture books and modeled writing to help students see procedural writing in action! 

how to writing upper elementary

My favorite picture books to read as mentor texts for this unit include:

Another great way to show examples of procedural writing is to use modeled writing. By annotating modeled procedural writing together, students can see the elements of this writing genre in action and understand how to include these elements in their own writing pieces. 

3 Easy to Implement Tips to Teach Procedural Writing
All writing forms have patterns and structures specific to their genre. By explicitly teaching students the structure of procedural writing they will understand the key components. When introducing this form of writing, these are the three components I expect from students:
  • Introduction: Hook your reader, introduce the topic, and state what materials are needed to complete the task 
  • Support Ideas: Include detailed and sequential steps, strong action words, and illustrations to support the topic
  • Conclusion: Restate what you taught the readers to do.
Once I have gone over the structure of procedural writing, we revisit the picture books that were read to kick off the unit and identify these three components. As we gather them, we record them in graphic organizers. This helps students to see the evidence from the books but also teaches them how to use the graphic organizer when they head out to write their pieces. 

Students love using keywords to help move their writing pieces along. “How-To” pieces use temporal words (first, next, then, last) and strong verbs to explain how to do something. This is why we brainstorm a big list so that students have a word bank to select from when they are writing. Then we revisit the picture books to collect even more procedural writing keywords.

Grab the free procedural writing student guide right here!

how to writing activities
What makes procedural writing so engaging for students is that it gives them the opportunity to shine through writing pieces that highlight what they are good at, truly celebrating themselves! I have found that students love to pick topics that they know a lot about, like playing a game or sport or how to make their favorite snack. Be sure to also provide students with opportunities to write to topics that you select to challenge their writing skills even further.

Who doesn’t love a good tip when writing? I know my students love to hear me share writing tips that they can implement in their own writing. My favorite tips to share with students for procedural writing include:

    how to writing anchor chart grade 3, 4, 5
  • Know your audience.
  • Be clear! Clearly state the goal and materials needed for the task that you are teaching.
  • Include specific step by step directions with strong verbs.
  • Use sequence words.
  • Take it further by including illustrations and diagrams to help your readers succeed!

Now that students know how to write procedural pieces, get them to work! Don't forget to grab materials to have them "test out" each other's procedural writing pieces. 

Procedural writing is a highly engaging form of writing for all upper elementary students, including reluctant and struggling writers. By introducing procedural writing lessons with a topic that students are already interested in, like holidays or allowing choice, students become invested in writing their best pieces. 

I love to introduce procedural writing at the beginning of the year so that we can practice it throughout the fall,  winter, springand all year long. Follow the tips from this post and watch your students succeed!

Looking for more meaningful procedural writing activities for your students? Try these!

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Check out more writing tips:

It’s All About Revision // Tried & True Teaching Tools

Writing Prompts that Inspire // Feel-Good Teaching

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