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Test Prep Fun with Close Reads

Let’s make test prep fun with Close Reads! Close Reads allow teachers to feel confident that students are prepping for their standardized tests while engaging students in topics that interest them!

When many of us think back to the time when we decided to become teachers, we often reminisce about wanting to spend time with kids or being role models for students who are growing up in a similar situation to ourselves. Maybe we became teachers because we were excited to teach kids new skills that we, ourselves, love, like playing basketball, drawing, reading, or writing stories.

We all have our reasons for wanting to work in the classroom, but I’m guessing there aren’t many…if any…reading this who decided to become a teacher because they couldn’t wait to focus on test prep.

Love ‘em or hate ‘em standardized tests are still a major part of most school systems; however, over the years, regular ol’ test prep has mostly gone by the wayside, and that is a good thing. 

Teachers are now starting to realize that test prep doesn’t have to be rigid or formalized. We can develop test prep activities and games that allow students to practice test-like experiences and focus on the skills that happen to show up on tests without study guides, boring passages, and/or bubble sheets. In fact, one of our favorite resources for helping with reading comprehension-based tests is our Close Reads with Mystery Pictures.

Test Prep Fun with Close Reads

The design of our Close Reads is very purposeful. If you have some of our Fun in 5th Grade Close Read with Mystery Pictures resources, then you already know they come with differentiated passages that allow teachers to assign multiple levels of reading passages that meet students where they are.

However, in addition to the built-in, done-for-you differentiation, our Close Reads also ask students to perform different tasks based on each reading passage. 

Why are Close Reads Great for Test Prep?

Close Reads are great for test prep because of the many skills students practice and/or demonstrate simply as a part of completing the activity, but also because students can use test prep strategies and methods while working their way through the Close Reads.

Vocabulary Skills

Our questions often cover roots, affixes, synonyms, and antonyms, using context clues, and multiple-meaning words. Although all of these will not be covered in each set, when doing close reads over time, these different vocabulary-based standards will be covered. In an effort to provide ongoing practice, we have created a variety of different Close Read sets. Check out this blog post that breaks down our Close Reads with Mystery Pictures into the ones that would be best to use each month!

Reading Skills

With three different passages of varying types in each set, we are able to give students a chance to practice a variety of reading skills, including but not limited to…

  • Author’s Purpose
  • Fact/Opinion
  • Text Structure
  • Figurative Language
  • Point of View
  • Cause and Effect
  • Compare and Contrast
Test Prep Fun with Close Reads Pinterest Image with Close Read question handout and plants in the image

Writing Skills

Many are surprised to find out that our Close Reads with Mystery Pictures don’t only work on reading. Writing is also a major focus.

Our writing prompts are text-dependent, and practice writing using a variety of topics. Teachers can use these writing prompts to either do the activity as assigned or to practice specific writing skills.

For example, if a teacher wants to do some test prep using details to support answers, then the teacher can modify the question to include that expectation.

Test Prep Strategies and Methods

In addition to learning the skills and covering assessed standards, teachers can also use the Close Reads to practice test-prep strategies. In fact, since the Close Reads include three different passages, students could practice several methods and choose the one that works best for them based on how the tests in your area are conducted.

Method #1: Read First, then Answer

In the first passage, the students may be asked to read the text first before ever seeing the questions. They can use basic Close Read mark-up strategies, but they will not be exposed to the questions.

Method #2: Questions First, then Read

In the second passage, the students will be asked to read through the questions first and then read through the passage.

Method #3: Question First, the Skim/Select

In the third passage, the students will be asked to read the questions and then skim the passage to find the answer.

After completing the exercise and trying all three methods, students can discuss or write about which method they like best and why. You can also look at their results to see in which situation students were most successful in answering the questions correctly.


Depending on if your tests are timed or not, you may choose to practice one of these methods over another using some of the other passages and questions available in other Close Read sets.

In addition to different reading test methods, students can also practice a variety of other test-prep strategies, such as looking back in the text and highlighting as well as eliminating answers and using context clues. Sometimes testing is simply about knowing the best strategies for helping to eliminate confusion and overwhelm.

This leads us to our final reason that Close Reads are great for Test Prep…

Test Prep Fun with Close Reads Facebook image with emoji Close read in photo

They’re Fun!

In addition to working on the standards, reading skills, and writing skills, as well as providing opportunities to practice different testing methods and strategies, Close Reads with Mystery Pictures are also fun.

Using the Mystery Pictures gives students a reason to WANT to find the correct answers in the text so they can color their pictures correctly.

The coloring makes the close reads seem less like a test and more like a creative activity. 

St. Paddy’s Day

The passages are also themed and, therefore, timely so as not to feel forced. For example, a Close Read about Valentine’s Day worked on in the month of February is not going to feel like test prep, even though the types of questions asked about the passages are designed to be just that.

All in all, you can make test prep fun with Close Reads because they ask students to think deeply and encourage the use of research-backed strategies and methods for testing while also being fun and not at all ‘test-like.’ With over 40 different Close Reads with Mystery Pictures in our store, you’ll be able to find topics and passages for almost any interest, holiday, or month. Spend some time looking at all of our Close Read sets in the store, but after you’ve made your selection, make sure to also check out this blog post to read more about our Close Reads with Mystery Pictures and how to use them with your classes!

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