Test Prep Games & Strategies that Prepare Your 3rd Graders for Success

Looking for test prep games to transition your 3rd, 4th, and even 5th grade students in testing-mode for those dreaded standardized tests?

For many educators, standardized tests are an anxiety-inducing pain in the butt.

Like it or not though, they’re a mainstay in public education.

And as a result, we’ve got to prepare students well so that they tackle them head on.

The Best Test Prep Games & Activities

There are numerous test prep review games and activities online.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have the best of them in one place?

That’s what I’ve done for you.

You’re short on time as it is, so why not have the best test review games and activities at your fingertips?

I chose the following activities based on this criteria…

  • Potential of high student engagement,
  • Conducive to higher-order thinking and not simply recall,
  • Relatively easy prep,
  • Provides an element of fun!

Test prep review time doesn’t have to be a bore nor a chore for kids!

Related: Just in case you’re looking for more, check out these other test-prep ideas and strategies for 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders.

1. Dunk It!

This is my all-time favorite test prep game, and kids LOVE it because they get to throw paper!  

Here’s how Dunk It! plays.

First, divide students into two or three teams.

Each of the teams stand in two separate parallel lines, with all students facing the same direction.

About 10 to 15 feet in front of the first student in each line, place a basket. The basket represents a hoop.

Gather 4 to 5 crumpled pieces of paper. These are your “balls”. (Discarded 8.5 x 11 inch pieces of paper balled up works well.)

The first person in line on each team takes a “ball”.

Now you ask a review question from any subject that you’d like to review for test prep.  

The first students in each line compete to answer.

Note which student is the quickest to answer with the appropriate answer.

Each child who answered will throw the “ball” once, but the one who answered the quickest (and also correctly) will receive two chances to dunk the “ball” into the basket.

What makes Dunk It! fun plus engaging is that even the kids who didn’t answer the fastest have an opportunity to throw!

Points accumulate based on how many “balls” actually make it into each team’s basket. I usually make each “dunk” 10 or 15 points.

Quick tip: Have kids practice mental math by having them keep track of their respective team’s points without writing anything down.

2.  Stinky Feet

Looking for a high energy, engaging test prep game with minimal preparation?

Then look no further than Stinky Feet.

The game is pretty simple to play, and students have the chance to work in groups.

What I like most about this game is that “winning” can be the team with the most or the least amount of points. You decide and set up the game to go either way.

Get all the playing details for this test prep game over at Teaching in the Fast Lane.

And for a free, digital version, go here.

3.  Jeopardy

Jeopardy is a classic and an all-time favorite test prep review game. Additionally, it’s quite easy to set up if you use the online Jeopardy templates.

Simply choose categories based on topics within a subject area that you want to review with students.

I set the higher-numbered Jeopardy items as more challenging.

And for those items that aren’t recall type questions, I require teams to show their work in a readers’ or math notebook.

Jeopardy as a test prep game never gets old.

test prep games for elementary students to prepare for standardized tests

4.  Beach Ball Comprehension

For this test prep game, purchase or create a reading comprehension beach ball with open-ended comprehension questions or sentence stems written on it.

As a class, read a grade-appropriate (yet somewhat challenging) short or medium-length reading text.

Afterwards, throw the ball to a student.

The student answers the question stem from the beach ball on which her right thumb landed. She bases her answer from the text just read.

After responding, that student throws the ball to another student who then answers another question/sentence stem from the beach ball.

The game continues as such.

To make this test prep activity more fun, students love playing while sitting atop their desks.

5.  Personal White Boards

Small rectangular white boards are great for reviewing a variety of concepts, and kids really get a kick out of writing on them.

Add to that, mini whiteboards easily accommodate differentiating student tasks.

That’s an all-around win.

When test prep review becomes monotonous, simply adding a white board to the mix does wonders for kids’ engagement.

Here’s how I usually use white boards…

I put students in small teams.  

Then I ask a question that requires them to explain their thinking and/or show their work using the whiteboard.

Learners collaborate to answer the question, and all teams with the correct answer receives a point.

The group with the most points at the end of the activity gets bragging rights (in a nice way, of course). Using a point-system is optional however.

Another way to use mini whiteboards is to display a question on the document camera or projector.

Give students time to respond on their individual whiteboards.

On the count of three (or any other signal), students turn their boards over to face you, showing their answers.

Be sure to make a rule about no writing after boards are shown.

Students erase their work, and you present the next question. The test prep activity continues as such.

See mini white boards in action!

Mini whiteboards engage learners.

6.  Reciprocal teaching

The reciprocal teaching strategy sounds kind of boring, but it’s super effective and engaging if done well.

Reciprocal teaching is an instructional strategy where the students take on the role of teacher.

Kids adore this instructional technique because well, what kid doesn’t love “playing school” while being the teacher?

Reciprocal teaching is based on the four strategies of summarizing, questioning, clarifying, and predicting.

Use this instructional technique to have students teach their peers a skill or strategy. They love it!

By the time standardized testing season comes around, students will have had ample opportunities to watch you, the teacher, throughout the school year modeling a variety of different strategies.

When using reciprocal teaching as a test prep game, put students in groups of 3 or 4.

Assign each student in the group a skill or strategy. When it is a student’s turn, each teaches her skill or strategy to the group using a mini whiteboard.

After about 10 to 15 minutes, the students rotate.

The activity continues as such until everyone has had the opportunity to be the teacher.

7.  Anchor Charts

Want to give reciprocal teaching a little twist?

Have each “teacher” create an anchor chart with his peers based on the skill/strategy you provided.

Throughout the school year, you’ve probably created tons of anchor charts with your students.

So they already know what they are and how to create them.

Utilizing anchor charts as a test prep game is really fun for kids.

All you need is to provide each student with a piece of chart paper and markers.

8.  Task Cards (with a Twist)

Task cards turn a boring worksheet into an interactive activity, but using them as a test prep game could potentially sending students moaning.

They’ve seen task cards all year… in learning centers, as early finishers work, as small group activities, etc.

So spice things up a bit!

Over at Minds in Bloom, task cards are turned into a test prep game using Quiz Quiz Trade.

9.  Gallery Walk

Gallery Walk is another great test prep “game” that gets kids moving, collaborating, and thinking critically.

The website Teaching to Inspire explains all the details about the effectiveness of Gallery Walk for test prep.

Also see an overview of the instructional technique in the video below.

10.  Inside-Outside Circles

Inside Outside Circles, also known as Concentric Circles, have kids moving and talking a lot. It’s very appropriate as a test prep review game.

Here’s how Inside Outside Circles work for test prep…

First, give each individual student a concept to address. Maybe it’s sequencing, context clues, steps to math problem solving, etc.

Each child should have a unique topic.

Now, assign every child a number, either 1 or 2. Ideally, there should be an equal number of each.

All the 1s form a group, and all the 2s form a group.

Each group forms a circle, with the 1s circle inside of the 2s circle. The inner circle faces outward, and the outer circle faces inward.

Every kid should face another student, directly in front of each other.

At your signal, the inner kids discuss their topic to the child in front of them while the other child listens.

After a minute, signal for the outer circle partner to speak while the other listens.

Now you’ll signal again for the inner or outer circle to rotate to the right (only one circle needs to rotate).

With the new partner, students repeat the process.

NOTE: To make this strategy more effective for kids, have the listening partner provide feedback to the one speaking. Was the child’s description or example of her topic accurate? How could she have explained more clearly or added to the topic?

Doing this allows students to reflect on their conversations, with responses ideally becoming more detailed and in-depth based on the feedback received from each previous partner.

This test prep strategy works extremely well with upper elementary students.

14. Prove It!

Prove It is one of those test prep games that never gets old. It just works, and kids love it!

Read all the details about the Prove It test prep strategy.

13. Graffiti

The Graffiti test prep game promotes critical thinking, builds movement, and has students summarize their learning.

Here’s how Graffiti works for test prep…

Take 4 to 5 pieces of large chart paper.

The number of charts you need coincide with the number of table groups you’ll have. It works best to have no more than 4 learners per group.

Attach one word problem or short reading passage at the very top of each chart.

Leave plenty of space below for students to show work.

To start, assign each group to a chart paper.

Each team answers the question or problem presented on the chart. The may use words, visuals, graphs, etc.- whatever they need – to explain their thinking process.

After about a two to three minutes, the teacher says, “Rotate”.

The charts move from table to table until all groups have completed each task on the chart paper.

14. Headbands

A teacher friend shared this fun test prep game with me!

Here’s my version of Headbands…

Put students into groups of 3 or 4.

One student will gently place a sticky note with an important concept written on it on his forehead.

This particular student shouldn’t see the word written on the post-it.

The other members of his group then give the student clues so that he can figure out the word.

For example, if the word is “context clues”, some of the clues the other kids could say include…

  • hints to help you figure out new vocabulary
  • can be pictures
  • synonyms or antonyms
  • surrounds a word

After the student with the sticky-note on his head guesses correctly, it’s another child’s turn.

Continue until everyone has had a chance to be the recipient.

15. Multiple-Choice Movements

Add movement to multiple-choice type review questions with this simple, yet fun test prep game.

After you ask a review question or give a statement to complete, students respond by completing an action.

For example…

For answer choice…

A = Position hands above your head in pyramid formation.

B = Put one hand on your forehand.

C = Lift arms to make a “V” position.

D = Place hands behind back.

Choose whichever movements work best for you and your students.

This is one of those test prep games that require few to no materials…yes!

Wrapping Up – Test Prep Games for State Testing Review

You might agree…test prep begins at the beginning of the school year and continues throughout with good daily instruction along with strategic planning.

But when you’ve got a week or two before the big day, switch your lesson plans up a bit by adding a few of these engaging and fun test prep games.

A little boost is exactly what some kids need to stay motivated.

All the best during testing season.