State Testing Tools

Webinar – February 2022

Watch our live webinar from February 2022 and learn more about how to use the tools already available through your existing Publisher Platforms like VHL, McGraw Hill, ALEKS, and Cengage as well as other helpful tips.

Resources included:

Downloadable PDF Bonus:

Read the transcript below:

State Testing Tools


Hello, everyone. Thank you for joining us today. My name is Lacey Woolfrey. And I’m joined by our teachers’ partner team Angel and Agustina. Today we’re going to be talking about state testing preparation. So some of the things that we’ll go over today are how to use some of the tools that are already available through your existing publisher platforms like VJL, McGraw-Hill, ALEKS, and Cengage. We’ll also be talking about some other helpful tips to use both in the classroom and your students to use to study at home. As a special bonus, you’ll also receive the downloadable pacing guide along with the recording of this webinar.

And throughout this webinar, please use the chat feature if you do have any questions. We’ll go ahead and kick it off with a poll for you today. All right.

Our first question is:

Are you currently using any state testing tools either on the publisher platform or anywhere else options? Are yes, no, or I didn’t even know any tools were available.

So, we’ll give you just a moment to select an answer there. And if the answer is no, hopefully after today’s webinar, that answer will be different.

All right. At this time, Agustina, I’ll go ahead and send it over to you.


Thank you. So I will talk about a couple of platforms and how you can find resources on there to prepare your students for testing, specifically state testing.

VHL Central

The first platform I’ll talk about is VHL Central. So as soon as you get into that platform, you have to click on the textbook. And then as soon as you click on the textbook, it will show up on the right hand side of the screen. You’ll see a menu with course, content, calendar, grades, communication. The one we’ll focus on today is the content tab.

So in the content tab, you have a couple of different things.

Vocabulary Flashcards

First, I’ll focus on the my vocabulary tab. Once you click on that one, you can either see a full list of the vocabulary from every single lesson or you can click on flashcards and that will pull up the actual flashcards for the vocabulary for every lesson. The good thing about these flashcards is that the students can just access them from any device and they have the audio with them. So if you click on the audio icon that’s to the right of whatever term is, it will say the term for you or the definition or whatever it may be. So the students, if it’s a course for a different language especially, they’ll be able to hear that again and practice that.

Activities Practice

The next thing on the content tab that I’ll go over is the activities resource. And that is really, really good for practice for your students. So as soon as you click on activities, it will show you presentations, tutorials, and practice. So if you go to the practice section, you can either have your students be assigned work or selection or a dropdown, an audio activity, or whatever you want them to practice.

So here you’ll see an example of just a selection activity, where the students listen to the audio and then they select from the dropdown the answer to every single one of the questions. And they’re pretty short activities. Then your students have those saved in their assignments.


The final tab that I’ll go over is the resources tab. So the good thing about the resources tab is that it has essential questions all as one document. So if you click on resources, you go to the left hand side and click on as essential questions. And then you click on the essential questions word document. You can go ahead and print out all the essential questions or assign them to your students or whatever it may be. And it has them for every single lesson, so your students can then turn that around and use it as a study guide for every single one of their state tests or classroom tests that they have.

ConnectED – McGraw-Hill

The next platform I’ll talk about is ConnectED through McGraw-Hill. So McGraw-Hill has the Open Learning and the Connected platforms. So the first one will be Open Learning that you’ll see here for Inspire Chemistry.

Guided Notes

My favorite thing about this part of the platform is that in the additional resources that you see there, it has a notebook and it has a guided notebook. So for this one, it’s a science notebook. The students can take notes while they’re reading the text or while they’re in the platform. And it shows all the vocabulary that they have for review, all the new vocabulary that they’ll have during that lesson. And it will help them take notes because it will ask them questions that they can take notes on so that they’re not just blindly taking notes on what they’re reading. It really is a guided notebook.


Then on the ConnectED section of the website, you have your glossary, which will show you all the definitions in English and in Spanish. And you have all of the terms that are in the textbook that your students may need to know.

My Notes

In that same section where you see the messages, my notes, glossary, and atlas, you have the my notes. When you click on the my notes, it’ll take you to that guided notes page like you see with that science notebook in open learning. So again, it has one for every single chapter, every single lesson, and it asks questions that the students can take notes on and then saves it in that my notes section so that the students always can go back to it. You also have the reading essentials underneath that my notes tab highlighted in pink, and those are all the essential questions that your students can then turn around and use as study guides.



ALEKS is designed for grades 3-12, and it is actually standard-based content, so it is aligned to the standards in all 50 states. The course content is automatically aligned to the common core, so it helps students to work on the exact skills that they need to effectively prepare for standardized testing and become college-ready. We did a deep dive into ALEKS during our January webinar. So go ahead and refer back to that as well for some more information.

And as you see, we show you, that you can use the reports section under the instructor to go to state-based reports. That will show you an easy-to-read graph on your classroom and what standards they are currently up to par or mastered in, and which ones there are learning gaps with. So that will assist you in assisting your students to focus on what they need to study and when they need to study it.


Next, we’ll go over Cengage with Mindtap & Big Ideas Math. All of the Mindtap materials are also aligned to state standards. So they have an interactive digital textbook that allows you to you pull activities and resources with their assessments. You can search by the state standard or skill, so that will give you content that addresses specific curriculum goals.

If you already determined that there’s a learning gap, then you can go back to that specific standard or focus on that more in the weeks prior to state testing. In middle school and high school, there are vocabulary flashcards that are available as PDFs. For K-5, however, you can find that under the resources tab, both at the book level or chapter level for each specific chapter.

There are editable pacing guides that are available by searching the resources at the book level. So you can assist the students with setting up their own pacing guides for that subject. And it’s also in the front of the teacher editions as well.

The use of graphic organizers are huge. And there are editable graphic organizers that are available that you can either use as a PDF or Word Doc. They are also in the Big Ideas Math tools, which can be found in the dashboard.


Additional Resources

So I’ll talk about some tech resources now that you can use, even if you’re not in those platforms.
Then how some of them still are available within that platform so that it has the same features that you’ll see with the platforms that you’re using in your classroom.

StoryboardThat – Bell Ringers

So the one that I always use is Bell Ringers. If I didn’t want to rely on the general PowerPoint slide at the beginning of the class kind of thing, which I did often, I would use StoryboardThat. If you go to and then look up Bell Ringers, it’ll give you worksheet templates. You can either project those or print those out. But it gives you the template that you can then fill in with whatever material you need. I always liked using those essential questions from the platforms or vocabulary that the students needed to know.

Then you have for reading, no matter what class you teach, your students need to read in that classroom. So they need to have that stamina to be able to read during the state test. And the state test has a lot of reading. So they need to be able to sit there for a while and just read and be able to comprehend what they read. So these two websites are the ones that I used the most.


Newsela is the one I used for non-fiction. It has free resources that you can assign to students or you can just have the students log into Newsela. It has different articles that are differentiated reading, it has answer keys and answer sets or question sets that are there for every single article. And the different articles, so they just had one about the Super Bowl, they have one about the Olympic, they have them about science and history. So whatever subject you teach, Newsela has an article for it.


Then for fiction, I always liked using COMMONLIT, which is free to use. It has different genres, different grade levels, the differentiated reading. Same thing as Newsela, it has the question sets and all of that stuff. That’s similar to what you see inside of the platform. So just like your platform text has the highlighting, the annotation, the ShelfIt reader has the highlighting and annotations that you can also use. These websites have those same resources. So your students, if they’re accustomed to using that in the platform, then they’ll have a very easy time using these resources as well.


I always liked doing review games in my classroom. I always made Friday like review game Friday. So I used Kahoot if my classroom was really technology heavy one year, and I had a bunch of students that had cell phones or tablets, computers, whatever it may be, I would always use Kahoot.

So you can use, again, those essential questions or the vocabulary terms, any text annotations. And you can use those as the question prompts and then the four different answers. Or if you want less answers, you can choose to do that. But then your students get to decide on their screen what the answer is when you project the question. Then it’ll show you all of the different answers the students got. You can make it more competitive for the classrooms that like that different element.


For classrooms that aren’t as technology heavy, I used Plickers. So Plickers is like Kahoot, where you can project the question, but your students don’t need a device to answer a question. What you do is download a bunch of QR codes that you can print out and then hand to your students. Each different QR code is tied to a different student’s name on the website that you can assign. The students then hold up the QR code a different way so that the answer on their top of the QR code correlates to the answer that they want to show up on their screen.

So it really, really helps. And it’s super easy to scan all the QR codes at once, so you don’t have to sit there and wait. Then you don’t have a bunch of students fidgeting with technology, which is really nice.

Flashcard Websites: Quizlet, Cram, and Brainscape

The last one I always liked using in my classroom is Flashcards. Flashcards are just that, they’re just great with ways to study, they’re a great memory tool to use. So the three that I always liked using are is Quizlet, Cram, and Brainscape. So you can create flashcards in those different platforms or in those different websites or have your students create the flashcards from the vocabulary or terms or essential questions or whatever it may be. The different platforms also have the flashcard option. And our Shelfit reader also allows you to create flashcards from the content that you’re reading and the annotations that you take, which is really, really helpful.


Setting Priorities

Speaking of “cram,” we all know that we don’t want our students to try to cram in all that studying at the last minute. So we would want to help our students with study prep probably about starting six to eight weeks prior to your state testing. So you are going to assist your students with setting their priorities. We don’t want them to get too overwhelmed trying to study everything. They should be spending about 10 to 20 minutes per subject per day, and narrowing their focus to one concept per week per subject.

Goal Setting

So on the right, I’ve got just an example of a goal sheet (measuring process poster) that you can assist your students with making or print out for them. There are five different levels. So that first week you can help them to identify what their goals are going to be. Large goals can go on the right, each weekly goal on the left, each weekly goal on the right. And then as they are accomplishing those goals at the end of each week, they’ll fill in their little temperature gauge on the right so that they know that has been done.

Areas of Focus

You’ll want to use the reports within your online resource to help your students to find what areas they need to focus on the most. So you can use your resources to identify gaps and assist them with setting those goals.

Each week, once they track their progress, then they can show that to you. And positive reinforcement is fantastic for students. So you can give them a small gift or candy or whatever it should be, whether you have a treasure chest in your classroom and they can pick something or erasers. I know that those little shape erasers are huge, they’re not very great for erasing though. But students love that kind of stuff. So if we are making it fun for them, then they’re going to try to make those goals.

Classroom Environment

Calm Classroom

Then probably the week of, you’ll want to start talking more about calming classrooms and ways that you can use your classroom and modify it to assist those students in releasing their anxiety. Test anxiety is a real thing. And if we’re teaching our students coping skills and ways to manage that anxiety, then that’s going to help them to be more successful. So there are deep breathing exercises, the one that always comes to my head is just using your hand and they can place their hand on their desk. And as they are tracing their hand, they’ll breathe in as they’re going away from their wrists and breathe out as they’re coming back towards it. And if they do that for their entire hand, that’ll give them five good deep breaths. That should help them to just reset, calm down.

Another thing is positive self-talk. So if we are using that in the classroom, we can do it as a class before we even start. We can choose a mantra, everybody says it together. Each individual can choose something that they can say in their heads right before they start. So if they hear I’m going to do amazing at this test, even if they don’t believe it in their heart, their mind will believe it a little bit as they say it. So that’s another tool that’s really good for the students to use.

Seat-based Stretching

We all know testing can take a while. So as we’re sitting there tension is building, it’s been a couple of hours, encourage your students to use seat-based stretching throughout their test. So it’s okay to take a moment, just sit back, maybe stretch their neck a little bit to each side, their wrists, or just over their head. And that’ll help to get rid of some of that tension in their shoulders and just reset the body because we don’t always get breaks to get up as often as we actually need to.

Sensory Tips

Another good tip is to allow either mint or gum on test days. So there are studies that show that if you are using gum or mint during your study time, if you are using that again, then that helps when you’re testing to bring those memories to the surface, a little bit of olfactory senses there.

You can reduce lighting or use warm undertone lighting. So I had a classroom that had two light switches and we would have half on days. So I would only turn one light switch on for those days and it would create a calming atmosphere. I have seen teachers that actually would use assorted lamps throughout the room instead for the warm undertone lighting and just not even use the overheads depending on the availability of outlets and whether or not the lighting they had available was also bright enough to be able to see as well.

Low volume music. So I would often play instrumental pop music throughout my classroom at a low volume. And if I noticed that it was getting a little disruptive, I just turn it down a little bit more. So if they had to be quiet to listen to it, then that helped them to focus on something as well.

Familiarity with Keyboard/Typing

And make sure they’re familiar with the testing method and have practiced that method. A lot of times with the math testing, those answers have to be typed in exactly the way that the system will recognize it. So they need to know how to put in fractions and they need to know how to use brackets and parentheses and all of the different things that are available.

Another school that I was involved with, actually every year during the spring, had a keyboard challenge and they used an app that all of the students would log in, and based on your grade, you had to complete so many minutes a week. And as you did it, they were reinforced with that positive reinforcement. It assisted them in state testing when they were… For ELA, a lot of times they’ll have to type an essay. So, if they’re not familiar with keyboarding, they’re not going to be as successful as they would be if it were handwritten or if they had practiced already with the keyboard.

Calming Strips

Down on the right (on the slide on the screen), those are calm strips. And they are sticky on the back and you can put them on the desk and they feel like Velcro on them. So it’s something that you can attach to a student’s desk that just needs a little bit of sensory relief. They can either pick at the corner or they can just rub their finger along it or whatever it is that they need to do. Some will actually even just color it in with their pencil, which, no harm. So that’s another thing for just the necessary brain break for those kiddos is they’re trying to get through those state tests.


Study Schedule

This is something that I always used with my students, and you will actually get a copy of this that you can download. So it’s a study schedule that for a normal student, they should be going to sleep by 10:00 PM. So that’s what I cut it off as. I put every day of the week so that they could really plan everything out. Most of the days for most of the time they’ll be at school. So this will really help you. If you want to print one of these out for all of your students and then fill it in as a classroom, it really should only take five, 10 minutes. And then your students can see how long they’re actually in school. If they have jobs, extracurricular activities, if they help out with family, whatever it may be, they’ll see exactly how much time they have leftover for studying.

This will also help you as a teacher. So, when I was a teacher, I didn’t like going home and then still having work to do, that was take-home work. Students are the same way, and I understand that homework is really important and reviewing has shown through studies that it works. But it really helped me to see all of their schedules just filled up with so many different things, how much time they actually had to study. So it helped me tell them if one student needed more help in math, you spend 20 minutes a day on math and 10 minutes a day on whichever other subject that they already really, really excelled in. So that it’s not that 20 minutes every single day for every single subject you have, because that really adds up. It also helped them give themselves a little bit of a break.

If they saw that their entire schedule was already colored in with activities, they would, “Okay, on Sundays, I’m just going to study for a couple of hours and then I’m good.” So it really helps them hold themselves accountable.

We also use that notes section at the bottom either as inspirational quotes or as Angela said you can choose one central focus for every subject. So they could say, okay, in chemistry, we are learning so and so, in Math we are learning so, and have that written in the notes section. You can print it out every single week or they can just copy it every single week. You can laminate it, they can fill it in with a whiteboard marker, whatever you know will work best with your students. They can fill in with whatever notes they need so that they can be successful and that everything is actually realistic to the classroom and to their schedules.


All right. Thank you, Angel and Agustina. Hopefully everyone has learned something. We’re going to re-ask the question that we asked at the beginning, are you using some of these state testing tools that are available? So if the answer was not yes at the beginning, hopefully you’ve taken something from this.

How likely are you to use some of these tools going forward? Most likely we will, still probably won’t, or unsure.

And we’ve got some answers coming in. I’ll wait just another moment to let you answer.

So again, thank you for joining us today. We really appreciate your time. We know your time is valuable and any time that you’ve spent with us, we try to make sure that it’s going to be worth your while. So this is a monthly webinar that we do for EdTech Solutions.

We can be contacted through our website, If you are a school that works with us and you have questions you want to schedule a consultation or crystal analysis, we’d be happy to provide that for you. But just let us know if there are any other topics. And visit our previously recorded webinars, lots of helpful information there. Again, thank you for joining us today. We hope to see you again next month.

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