Hi, I’m Sandra. I’m so honored to be writing about test prep rallies for Minds in Bloom. Test pep or prep rallies are motivational school assemblies that occur right before state testing and focus on raising student confidence and enthusiasm. You might wonder what makes me qualified to tell others about prep rallies. Well…I just may have invented them. I’ve been doing rallies since 1985 and never thought they’d remain as popular with students today as they were 30 years ago. Kids LOVE them! I hope you enjoy my ideas for having a little fun and sneaking in some last-minute review before the stress of standardized testing takes over.
Go Gaga for a Great Show
Cheers and Jokes
Include motivational cheers like the ones performed at sporting events. I enlist the help of Student Council officers as cheerleaders, but some other suggestions are to ask administrators, class representatives, star students, or students from other grade levels not involved in testing. Wear school shirts or coordinated colors and buy some pom-poms to shake, too.
Jokes are helpful for when the emcee needs to delay an act for a few extra minutes while the teachers finish getting ready, or they could also be used in a comedy routine. You can find plenty of school-appropriate jokes for free by searching online.
Songs and Dances
Songs are the most fun and important part of the rally. The best way to use songs is for teachers to get onstage and pretend to sing them, preferably while also dancing. Song lyrics can be rewritten to be motivational or instructional. Choose from multiple music genres, including 50s tunes, Motown hits, disco, rock, country, rap, and pop songs. Students especially adore testing versions of currently popular songs. For example, this year I have rewritten “Watch Me,” “Hello,” “Ex’s and Oh’s,” “What Do You Mean,” and “Bad Blood.” Find that staff member who has a way with words! Before the show, have your principal give a little speech to remind students that the song lyrics have been changed, and they should not sing the original lyrics (as many of them are not G-rated).
My advice would be to use your school choir, or a good singer or two, and pre-record the songs so that teachers can lip sync during the show. Songs can be recorded in a real studio or using a computer program, such as GarageBand. Try doing a song live if you’re feeling really brave. If luck is on your side, a popular artist will release a hit song that is suitable for school without changing any of the words, like “Happy” sung by Pharrell.
I’d like to point out that a huge part of song and dance success involves costuming. Teachers should do their best to look like the singers they’re mimicking. This drives the kids wild! Any rock song calls for ripped jeans and t-shirts, leather jackets, wild wigs, tattoo sleeves, fake nose rings, and electric guitars. Doing a 50s song? Roll up your jeans and wear a white t-shirt. Motown? Get your fancy on with sparkly dresses (women’s group) or suit jackets (men’s group). Disco? Cavort in Village People outfits singing a song titled T-E-S-T. Rap? Wear basketball shorts, a hoodie, fancy sneakers, a cap, and lots of bling. Unsure? Just peruse Google Images.
Kids fall out when they see their teachers dancing…or attempting to dance! Your grand finale should always feature a song with a dance. This year, I’m betting on the “Whip Nae Nae.” One of my most popular routines of all time was “Thriller,” and kids today still love that one because zombies are all the rage. Quality dance instruction can be found on YouTube. Search for topics like “Remedial Thriller” or “Whip Nae Nae Tutorial.” I kid you not! Does your school have a step team, gymnastics team, or a group of students who take dance? They make great prep rally acts, too.
Special guests can also be invited to perform. My prep rallies have had community leaders, parent groups, high school drama team members, and talented children blackmailed by their teacher parents. My daughter has been Fergie, Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, Adele, Gwen Stefani, and probably more that I can’t even remember. She was pretty relieved when I retired.
PowerPoints and Videos
Testing songs can be used in a variety of ways. A tech expert or designated photographer can visit classrooms, take funny (or serious) pictures, and then arrange them in a PowerPoint with a song playing in the background. A PowerPoint could be made with the new testing lyrics and used as an audience sing-a-long during the rally. Or use a PowerPoint to remind students of important test-taking strategies, and make them read or yell each strategy aloud. Record short video clips featuring teachers or students dancing to or acting out each line of a testing song, edit them together, and play the movie during the rally. Sometimes you can find great songs and videos posted on YouTube that other schools upload around testing time. Many of these are suitable for any school to use.
Some teachers who don’t want to sing and dance will jump at the chance to act. Skits offer a wonderful opportunity to remind students about testing strategies. For example, I have one called “Turtle and Rabbit.” Rabbit is the first one to turn in his test, and the results are disastrous. Turtle takes his time, checks his work, and well…you know what happens. I’ve done parodies of Star Wars, Survivor, American Idol, and A Christmas Carol. I’ve used superheroes, army recruits, coaches, and zombies as characters. Teachers and administrators should do the acting if possible, but student-led skits are fine, too.
Other Helpful Hints
At a minimum, you must recruit an emcee to host the show and a stage manager to work the curtains and the screen. You also need to have good microphones and a decent sound system, or no one will be able to hear anything.
Have only the grades involved in testing attend the prep rally. This gives the students something to look forward to and makes them feel important. Grades not involved in testing could be asked to perform, or to do something special for the upper graders like create motivational posters or write encouraging notes.
Keep the length of the program between 30-60 minutes. Have your program as late in the school day as possible. The goal is for students to leave the program, return to their classrooms, pick up their already-packed backpacks, and go home to tell their moms and dads how excited they are about taking their tests!
Recruit some trusted parents to come and sit with classes during the pep rally. Teachers who are performing will need to leave the auditorium to put on costumes, etc.
Have an alternative activity available for any students who do not want to attend the pep rally. There might be some who would not care for the loud music, noise, and excitable atmosphere.
Test Prep Rallies are Fun
A show like this provides a rush of euphoria and incredible stress relief. Plus, you can really rack up some cardio points if you’re dancing. You don’t realize how long 3 minutes lasts until you are onstage trying to lip sync and dance at the same time!
I never once had a student tell me that attending the pep rally made them feel pressured or anxious. I don’t have any quantitative evidence or data proving a show like this improves test results. But I do know that teachers really score with students when they participate in one. And that many, many students came back to tell me after they’d grown up that they still remembered the pep rallies and how much they loved them. I think your students will love them, too.
If you would like a sample agenda, a set of song lyrics, and some cheers and jokes, I offer a Pep Rally Freebie in my TpT store. Thank you so much for reading my post. Have you ever held a test pep and prep rally? I would love to hear about it. What did you do that was successful? What did your students think of the show?
Sandra Riddle is officially retired, but in her teacher life she taught regular and TAG 3rd grade for 22 years, ESL PK-5th for 6 years, and reading and math interventions 3rd-5th for 4 years. You can find more pep and prep rally resources at The Brighter Rewriter, her Teachers Pay Teachers store. Oh, and that’s her in the photo dressed up as Steven Tyler!