At one point Thursday afternoon, the gymnasium at Loganville-Springfield Elementary School erupted with the shouts of 122 third-graders helping guide classmate Maggie Groh as she tried to "pin the mustache" on a picture of their principal, Scott Carl.

The game was one of the activities included in the hour-long session with the building's third-grade classes to prepare them for the upcoming PSSA tests in math and reading. Testing will begin statewide March 17, but the start has been pushed back to March 24 at the elementary and other schools affected because of a large number of snow days.

Loganville-Springfield Elementary, in the Dallastown Area School District, hosts five sessions in the gym from January until March, Carl said.

MORE PHOTOS - Third grade students Lily Muniz, 8 at left, Alycia Ellis, 9, and Aslinn Bosserman, also 9, right, at Loganville-Springfield Elementary School
MORE PHOTOS - Third grade students Lily Muniz, 8 at left, Alycia Ellis, 9, and Aslinn Bosserman, also 9, right, at Loganville-Springfield Elementary School take part in an event to prepare for upcoming PSSA tests, Thursday February 27, 2014. John A. Pavoncello - jpavoncello@yorkdispatch.com

The students sit in groups of four or five and have an adult helper — a teacher or volunteer — to guide discussion about basic review topics in math and reading.

Last week, the students reviewed prefixes and suffixes, and talked about how to find the main idea in a passage. If Carl chose the student to answer and the student answered a sample question correctly, he or she could compete against a teacher in "pin the mustache" or other games.

Play to learn: Carl said the sessions are meant to be fun, but also review core skills students will need in the future. Above all, Carl said the review sessions are to build confidence for the students leading up to the tests.

"It's to show the kids, 'You can do this,'" he said.

Maggie Groh won her round of "pin the mustache" and said she enjoys the sessions in the gym because it is a unique chance to learn with her classmates.

"We get to learn all together," she said.

And the confidence-building has worked so far for Paige Kubistek, who said she likes learning about different topics and thinks she is ready for the tests later this month.

Though the staff hopes the students take the tests seriously, Carl said they are just one assessment the school uses to track student learning during the year.

"Regardless of the scores on this year's PSSA tests, I am very proud of our third-graders," Carl said.

— Reach Nikelle Snader at nsnader@yorkdispatch.com.