Making test prep fun is my jam. I love using games like Jeopardy, scavenger hunts, board games (especially ones that students make themselves), art projects, matching games, review stations, task cards, and all of the great, interactive activities that make test prep engaging and truly help students remember and retain material. In my ideal world, this is what I would be doing, but I’m not living in my ideal world right now.
How It Started
Ideally, these photos show how my students work together to prepare for SOL testing. You normally see collaboration most of the time. Hands-on…check! Engagement…check! High level thinking…check!
How It’s Going
Typically a “how it started; how it’s going” post is about an improvement over time. It would be hard to show an improvement in how I engage my students in test prep. My hope is to inspire you to use some strategies and activities that will engage your students in new and different ways. Even if you’re teaching in person or concurrently (full disclosure, I’m 100% virtual), your students will not be able to huddle up safely like my former students did in the gallery above, so I hope my ideas will be useful to you!
If you’re a Virginia teacher (if you’re not, you can skip this paragraph), you probably already know that SOL Pass is a fantastic resource for online games and activities. For years, I thought SOL Pass was only for science and social studies, but this year I have discovered what a treasure trove it is for language arts and math, as well. If you teach in Virginia and you don’t know about SOL Pass, you might want to talk to your administration about getting access.
If anything good has come from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s that there are more online platforms for learning and reviewing material than ever. Check out my favorites in this blog post and how I engage students during math workshop in this blog post.
So what’s new since those previous posts? Choice boards to the rescue! I am using choice boards more than ever for review and practice. I create boards with 6 to 8 options and tell my students when I assign them that they MUST complete 2 assignments and they MAY complete more.
I’m also using flexible small groups. Because I am teaching virtually, I can create breakout rooms for students who have a range of needs. At the end of every day, I create choice rooms. If a child needs one-on-one instruction or reteaching, that child can work in a quiet room and receive that support. When I have students who want to play games, they can go to a loud room and play dice games or jeopardy or other games and make noise without disturbing the students who need quiet time to focus.
In addition, it’s still possible to use scavenger hunts and gallery walks – they’re just virtual. I have a new scavenger hunt for elapsed time that is available in my TpT store. It’s great fun! It’s available in print and digital (Google form) versions.
How does a virtual gallery walk work? Well, I have one for poetry that has been one of my best sellers from the start. In person, I hang posters around the classroom and in the hallway, distribute the packets, and send my students on their way to read poetry and take note of the elements. Read more about it in this blog post. Virtually, students have links to public domain poetry and Google slides to complete. The walking-through-a-gallery vibe is missing, but students can still work at their own pace and in their preferred order to complete the assignment.
In conclusion, it’s still possible to engage your students in fun test review! I’m doing it. State testing is a reality for many (maybe most) of us this year. I’m hoping that I can inspire you to make some lemonade from lemons and be successful. Take care!