How to Prepare Your Kid for a Chapter Test When There's No Study Guide

Parent and child studying
Parent and child studying. Getty Images | Roberto Westbrook

It's the moment you dread: Your child comes home from school on a Tuesday and tells you that there's a test three days from now over chapter seven. But, since she lost the review guide (for the third time this year), the teacher is making her figure out the content to study without it. You don't want to send her off to her room to study blindly from the textbook; She'll fail! But, you also don't want to do all the work for her.

So, what do you do?

Never fear. There's a method that will get your child prepped for that chapter test despite the little misplacement habit she's grown fond of, and even better, she may learn more than she did had she actually used the review guide.

Let's dig in to the process.

Ensure She Learns The Chapter Content

Before you study with your kid for the test, you'll need to know that she's learned the content of the chapter. Sometimes, kids do not pay attention during class because they know the teacher will be passing out a review guide before the test. Teachers, however, want your kid to actually learn something; they typically put the bare bones of the test content on the review sheets offering a glimpse of the facts she'll need to know. Not every test question will be on there!

So, you'll need to make sure your child has actually grasped the ins and outs of the chapter if she wants to ace the test.

An effective way to do it is with a reading and study strategy like SQ3R.

The SQ3R Strategy

Chances are good that you've heard of the SQ3R Strategy. The method was introduced by Francis Pleasant Robinson in his 1961 book, Effective Study, and remains popular because it enhances reading comprehension and study skills.

Kids in third or fourth grade through adults in college can use the strategy solo to grasp and retain complex material from a textbook. Kids younger than that can use the strategy with an adult guiding them through the process. SQ3R utilizes pre-, during and post-reading strategies, and since it builds metacognition, your child's ability to monitor her own learning, it's a highly effective tool for every subject in every grade she'll encounter.

If you happen to be unfamiliar with the method, "SQ3R" is an acronym that stands for these five active steps your child will take while reading a chapter: "Survey, Question, Read, Recite and Review."

  • Survey: Your child will browse through the chapter, reading titles, bold-faced words, introduction paragraphs, vocabulary words, subheadings, pictures, and graphics to grasp, in general, the content of the chapter.
  • Question: Your child will turn each one of the chapter subheadings into a question on a sheet of paper. When she reads, "The Arctic Tundra," she'll write, "What is the Artic Tundra?", leaving space underneath for an answer.
  • Read: Your child will read the chapter to answer the questions she's just created. She should write her answers in her own words in the space provided.
  • Recite: Your child will cover her answers and attempt to answer the questions without referring to the text or her notes.
  • Review: Your child will reread portions of the chapter about which she isn't clear. Here, she can also read the questions at the end of the chapter in order to test her knowledge of the content.

In order for the SQ3R method to be effective, you'll need to teach it to your child. So the first time the review guide goes missing, sit down and go through the process, surveying the chapter with her, helping her form questions, etc. Model it before she dives in so she knows what to do.

Ensure She Retains The Chapter Content

So, after applying the reading strategy, you're fairly confident that she understands what she's read, and can answer the questions you've created together.

She has a solid knowledge base.

But there are still three days before the test! Won't she forget what's she's learned? Do you have to drill those same questions over and over to make sure she remembers?

Not a chance. It's a great idea to have her learn the answers to the questions prior to the test, but in reality, drilling will force those specific questions, but nothing else, into your kid's head. (And your kid will be sick of it all, too.) Besides, what if the teacher asks different questions than the ones you've learned together? Your child will learn more in the long run by getting a learning combo meal with knowledge as the main course and some higher order thinking as a tasty side.

Venn Diagrams

Venn diagrams are perfect tools for kids in that they allow your child to process information and analyze it quickly and easily. If you're not aware of the term, a Venn diagram is a figure made of two interlocking circles. Comparisons are made in the space where the circles overlap; contrasts are defined in the space where the circles do not.

A couple of days prior to the exam, hand your child a Venn Diagram and write one of the topics from the chapter on top of the left circle, and a correlative topic from your child's life on the other. For instance, if the chapter test is about biomes, write "Tundra" above one of the circles and the biome in which you live above the other. Or, if she's learning about "Life on Plymouth Plantation," she could compare and contrast that with "Life in the Smith Household."

With this diagram, she's attaching new ideas to parts of her life with which she's already familiar, which helps her build meaning. A cold page filled with facts doesn't seem real, but when compared to something she knows, the new data suddenly crystallizes into something tangible. So, when she steps outside into the brilliant sunshine of a warm day, she may consider how cold a person might feel in the Arctic Tundra. Or the next time she uses a microwave to make popcorn, she may think about the difficulty of food acquisition on the Plymouth Plantation.

Vocabulary Writing Prompts

Another creative way to help your child gain a complete understanding of the textbook chapter for that big test coming up, is with synthesis – creating something new from obtained knowledge. This higher order thinking skill can certainly help cement information from the textbook directly into your child's brain better than straight memorization can. An enjoyable, effortless way to have your child synthesize info is with a snazzy writing prompt. Here's how to set it up:

As your child surveyed the chapter, she should've noticed the bold-faced vocabulary words scattered throughout. Let's say the chapter was about the Plains Native Americans, and she found vocabulary words such as expedition, ceremony, raid, maize, and shaman. Instead of having her memorize a definition she'll have trouble remembering, instruct her to use the vocabulary words appropriately in a prompt like one of these:

  • Using at least five of the vocabulary words from the chapter, compose a letter to the shaman from a warrior who is away on a raid.
  • You're visiting a Plains Native American tribe. Write a 1-2 paragraph description of the things you see, smell and hear using at least five of the vocabulary words from the chapter.
  • You are a Plains Native American child. Using at least five of the vocabulary words from the chapter, convince an outsider that your tribe is the best place to grow up.

By giving her a situation that may not have been described in the book, like a child's perspective, you're allowing your child to mesh knowledge she already has in her head with knowledge from the chapter she's just learned. This fusion creates a map for her to get to the new information on test day just by remembering her story. Brilliant!

* * * * *

All is not lost when your child comes home sobbing because she mislaid her review guide for the umpteenth time. Sure, she needs to get an organizational system in place to help her keep track of her stuff, but in the meantime, you have a system in place to help her keep track of her test grades. Using the SQ3R Strategy to learn the test content and tools like Venn diagrams and vocabulary stories to reinforce it ensures that your child will ace her chapter test and totally redeem herself on exam day. 

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Roell, Kelly. "How to Prepare Your Kid for a Chapter Test When There's No Study Guide." ThoughtCo, Dec. 5, 2016, thoughtco.com/prepare-your-kid-for-a-chapter-test-3211281. Roell, Kelly. (2016, December 5). How to Prepare Your Kid for a Chapter Test When There's No Study Guide. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/prepare-your-kid-for-a-chapter-test-3211281 Roell, Kelly. "How to Prepare Your Kid for a Chapter Test When There's No Study Guide." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/prepare-your-kid-for-a-chapter-test-3211281 (accessed November 23, 2017).