There are so many different types of texts. Each type or genre require specific skills to understand the text. Assessments are no different. Matter of fact, they can be even trickier because they are very different than the nonfiction and fiction books that 4th graders read the most. Therefore, I teach a short unit on the genre of assessments.
This lesson focuses on just exposing students to the layout of a reading assessment and identifying the important elements of an assessment.
Students should be area of the differences in the layout and text in a reading assessment compared to articles or books that they read regularly.
I model how to do this by displaying an example of a state reading assessment. I flip throughout and think out loud about what I notice and what I think those things mean or why they are important. For example, I notice that there are directions for a few pages before a question is asked. I explain that I think this might be important because it tells me what or how I should take this test.
After I've modeled it with one thing I noticed, I show another element and asked the class to share what they think is important with a partner. I showed a stop sign that says "STOP" at the corner of the page. Students first share with their partner and then I chose a student to share with the class. They share that this means that they can't go on and they are done with that section or the test.
Finally, I give partners a small packet of copied pages from a draft test to share and discuss about. Students are asked to identify as many elements that they can and decide with their partner what those things mean. They can write right on the paper when they have an idea.
Once most student feel like they have found as many as possible, they get a chance to share with the class what makes an assessment different than other texts and how to use that information in help them during the test.
Students share things such as important symbols, direction, bold headings, place for their name, multiple choice questions and fill in the blanks, line numbers in the text, pictures that support the text, etc.
For each example (about 10) I confirm or correct the theories on how to use that information to help with the test.