Sunday, January 16, 2022

Test Prep Tournaments That Work!

It always makes my day when I am able to reconnect with my former students.  During the holiday season, I saw my past students at McDonald’s, the UPS Store, and was emailed by a student who found me using my Teachers Pay Teachers email address at on the Internet.  

It was heartwarming to find out that she is now attending Harvard and wrote, “Upon reflection, I would not be here today without your phenomenal 3rd grade class and the Accelerated Reader program.”  We were able to “see” each other in a Google Meet meeting last week.  We caught up on her life in high school and how she finally chose Harvard from all of her college choices.  I am happy to find out that she is holding her own amongst her fellow Harvard peers, many of who were fortunate to attend pricey private schools compared to her education in an inner-city public school in Los Angeles.  

We reminisced about memories in Room 6.  She mentioned how she liked how I prepared them for upcoming tests.  I laughed when I told her how I came up with my idea for reviewing for tests.  In my high school math class, I would study really hard before the tests, but never quite get the grade that I wanted.  However, this teacher would always do a review of the test after we received our grades, and magically everything would come together once I saw the entire concept.  I always wondered why teachers would wait until after the test to go over the chapter instead of helping students see the connections before the test.  

Once I became a teacher, my test prep tournaments were born.  Right before each chapter test, district-mandated test, and the high-stakes state test, I would divide my class into teams and bombard them with review questions to get them ready for their upcoming tests.  My first test prep tournament had students competing in Tic Tac Toe, but then I added a baseball and football version to review concepts.  So that my students would not get bored, I created other test prep tournaments like Math Field DayThree Teams at the Chalkboard, and Point and Raise Your Hand.

All of these tournaments had pretty much the same process.  I would quickly divide the class into two, four, or six teams using my Team Cards.  Depending on the number of students present that day, I would figure out how many students needed to be on each team and shuffle that many Team Cards in a pile.  For example, for a class of twenty-two students, I would have six Team 1 cards, six Team 2 cards, five Team 3 cards, and five Team 4 cards.  All of my students would line up on the side of the classroom.  One student would cut the deck and I would give a Team Card to each student.  My students would then walk to the correct table that had their Table Card number.  

My students would “play” the various tournaments, each a little different though constantly reviewing all of the little steps needed to solve the math problems.  My students had fun reviewing for their tests and trying to earn the most points to win the tournament.  The test prep tournaments could be used to review concepts in language arts, math, science, social studies, and just about any subject.  

Most importantly, the test prep tournaments worked!  My students consistently had amazing test scores at the end of the year.  Although I enjoyed seeing how many of my students scored in the advanced levels, I was particularly gratified when my students who were deemed far below the proficiency levels in the previous grade would jump two and three levels in my class.

To be honest, my former student, who will soon be graduating with a Harvard degree, would have done well no matter what teacher she had in 3rd grade.  However, I take pride in knowing that she learned her mathematical foundations in my class.  By the way, her major at Harvard is in economics…

Interested in getting your students ready for your district and state tests?  Check out my TpT product, Test Prep Tournaments & Centers For Any Grade & Any Subject at  You will receive the materials and step-by-step directions for 15 tournaments and 8 centers. 


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