Cross-Curricular Connections: Using Nonfiction Texts Before, During, and After Field Trips

All students get excited when they hear the words ‘field trip’.  Here are some ideas for using this excitement to connect field trips to nonfiction literacy before, during, and after the big day!
Invite students to choose nonfiction texts to read that are related to the field trip.  Help younger students focus by providing bins of books that connect in some way to topics or themes that relate to the field trip.  Encourage older students to make predictions about what they might experience on the field trip and have them self-select nonfiction texts based upon these predictions.  Students can create text sets based upon their reading choices and present these to the class prior to the field trip.

Encourage students to take a notebook and camera (or paper for sketching) to document exciting or new information or experiences while on the field trip.  Groups of students can share a camera and be giving specific things to capture while on the field trip.  Nonfiction texts such as field guides (for field trips related to science) or historical journals (for field trips related to social studies) can be shared with students prior to the field trip to model information-gathering processes and products.

Upon returning to school, have students write thank-you notes to the field trip location/staff, highlighting specific field trip experiences and making connections between these experiences and one or more nonfiction texts.  Encourage students to synthesize learning from both their text sets and their field trip notes.  Have students create a written field guide based field trip experiences.  Model for students how to integrate factual information into observations using mentor texts.  Students can create a final product using drawings or photos and written or typed text depending on student preference.  Additional options include creating a multimedia field guide in PowerPoint, Prezi, or iMovie.  Encourage students to share their final projects with the class or invite parents in for a whole-class field trip debriefing.  Students can create Exhibit Guides for the location they visited by working alone or in groups.  These exhibit guides can be shared with the field trip site and with future students to build anticipation for the field trip.

Helping Students Beat SOL Testing Anxiety

As winter draws to an end and spring approaches, state standardized testing is on the minds of educators. In helping students prepare for the content of these high-stakes tests, it is important that we advise them on test-taking strategies, as well. Further, as educators, we can incorporate motivational tactics into classrooms to increase students’ self-efficacy and confidence upon beginning the test. Below are several strategies that teachers, administrators, counselors, and all educators can use to enhance state testing experiences of all students, young and old.

1) Let them move Often times students have trouble sitting still for long periods of time because they haven’t been given the opportunity to get up and move around. During standardized testing, teachers can utilize break times to help students get rid of their jitters. Teaching a few yoga moves or turning on dance music are two ways to encourage students to make the most of their break.

2) Concoct a Peppermint Brain Potion While going over practice tests with students in the weeks leading up to the tests, allow students to suck on a peppermint candy. Peppermint has been found to help memory and alertness, so the smell and taste can help them with test preparation. Then, on the day of the test, give each student a drop of peppermint-scented hand lotion (which can be labeled as “Peppermint Brain Lotion”). Having associated the smell of peppermint with the practice tests can increase their performance and sense of calmness while taking the state test. Of course check for allergies first!
*From Amy Williams, SURN Graduate Assistant

3) Book a Classroom Guidance Lesson Sometimes the most difficult part of standardized testing is style and formatting of the test. Similarly, some students worry because of all of the pressure that comes with passing these high-stakes tests. School counselors can work with classroom teachers to inform them about what the test will be like and teach them valuable test-taking skills. In addition, counselors can meet with students individually to ease their worries and fears about standardized testing.

4) Create a Test-Taking Tips Bulletin Board Hearing about older students’ experiences with testing can be extremely valuable to current students. Previous students can provide insight on lessons they learned while taking the test, what they wish they would have done differently to prepare, and other helpful testing techniques. To help current students, educators can compile a number of these test-taking tips into one list to share with students as they prepare for the test. One way to display these tips is by making a bulletin board to put on display in school hallway. For examples and more information, visit:

5) Facilitate Fourth Graders Sharing with Third Graders As another option or an extension of suggestion 4 is to have fourth graders write letters to third graders in their school that can be delivered. Consider having a panel of fourth graders come to the class to answer questions from the third graders.
*From Dr. Jennifer Hindman, SURN Program Coordinator

6) Invite a Message from Parents Encouragement from parents can be extremely helpful to students as they enter standardized tests. Educators can employ students’ parents to provide motivation and encouragement to their students. To do so, schools can send home a letter to parents asking them to write supportive messages to their child that teachers can give to students immediately before beginning the test. This idea was found on the following blog:

7) Motivate, Motivate, Motivate Motivational tactics on the school’s end can be used on the day of standardized testing. One suggestion is using chalk to write motivational phrases on school sidewalks and walkways for students to see as they walk into the school. Another thing teachers can do is provide students with “survival kits” for the day of the test, which might include things such as candy and other goodies. Visit for more ideas and information.

8) Organize an SOL Pep Rally To boost students’ moods about standardized testing, have an SOL pep rally at school a few days prior to testing. Students often respond well to sporting events, so making this connection can lift their spirits about upcoming tests. Including the school’s cheerleaders and band to create a mantra or cheer to encourage SOL success is another idea that can be incorporated into this motivational tactic.
*From Dr. Kim Evans, Assistant Superintendent, Hopewell City Public Schools