My students use these steps to break down and make meaning from every passage they read. I made this video to help them remember the steps.
Standardized tests can cause anxiety for even the most knowledgeable students. Long reading passages can easily overwhelm a student in a stressful testing situation. However, by learning and consistently using test taking and comprehension strategies, your students are preparing themselves with tools to attack any reading passage they encounter. I noticed that when my students looked at passages using the same method every time, they became more comfortable and confident in analyzing difficult passages and constructing meaning from them.
1. Read and circle the title. Look for clues in the title about the main idea of the passage.
2. Number the paragraphs. Since test questions often ask students to go back to specific paragraphs to look for information, labeling the paragraphs prior to reading can assist with these questions later. In addition, beginning with a simple task boosts confidence and allows a moment to calm nerves.
3. Read the questions. If the main purpose of reading the passage is to answer the questions at the end, why not begin with the end in mind? Read the questions, underline the key words, and take note of what information needs to be found. (No need to read the answer choices at this time. That will come later.)
4. Read the passage. Underline all topic sentences and box in key words. Make notes in the margins about big ideas. Be careful to box in only a few words and phrases per paragraph. Using a pencil to underline and box in important information is better than a highlighter for test preparation, as highlighters are not allowed on most standardized tests. It is best to prepare in conditions most similar the test taking situation.
5. Reread the questions. This time, read the answer choices as well. After reading each answer choice, decide if the answer is not correct or maybe correct. If the answer not correct, cross through the letter. If the answer is possibly correct, mark it with an “M” for maybe. If there is more than one “M” (“maybe correct”) answer choice, reread those answer choices, go back to the passage for more information, and select the best choice.
6. If time allows, reread the questions and check the answers.