Teaching students to support their answers using color-coding

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Are you all ready for test prep? It’s only January, but we’re already starting to incorporate some  test-taking strategies into our everyday lessons. I’m excited to share one of the most effective test-taking strategies my students use: color-coding evidence from the text to support their answers.
The great thing about this strategy is that it works for all types of Reading questions: true or false, multiple choice, and short answer. The GREATEST thing about this strategy is that my students enjoy it! Once the coloring supplies come out, they are super motivated!
I always stock up on colored pencils at the beginning of the year because they’re the neatest way to underline the text, but crayons work well too. I’m not a fan of highlighters.
Today we read a wonderful passage about Pearl Harbor from the Pearl Harbor Mini Unit by Teaching Momster as part of our cause & effect lesson. The text came with three excellent short response questions, which was perfect to practice our color-coding strategy! I gave students the following colors:
  • Yellow for finding the main idea of each paragraph
  • Red for key details (2-3 short phrases)
  • Green for evidence that supports their answer for question #1
  • Black for evidence that supports their answer for question #2
  • Purple for evidence that supports their answer for question #3

One of the key standards for 5th grade is identifying multiple main ideas and key details, so we practice this as often as possible. The first time we read the text, we looked for main idea and key details with our yellow & red pencils. The second time we read, we looked for clues to help us answer the questions and underlined them in green, black, or purple. The third time we read the text, we filled in a graphic organizer for cause & effect.  Three reads, each with a different purpose… we love reading text closely!

When our students take the state test, they’re always provided colored pencils for their Reading and Writing strategies. When the time comes, my students are going to ROCK THE TEST!
Do you have any test-taking strategies that your students actually enjoy? Share in the comments!

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Written by
April Smith

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