Most teachers about this time of year start thinking about whether their students are ready for the “big test”. Did I do enough? Did they understand the concepts? Did we spend enough time on multiplication, measurement, or fractions? What about review? Will it help?
I have always made time for test prep because I believe that its really just spiral review for my students and many of them need to revisit math concepts that they didn’t fully get the first time. Teachers know kids don’t learn at the same pace – even if district curriculum maps seem to see it that way. Test prep is the perfect opportunity to use spiral review to get your students ready. The question is: how can you make it engaging and effective?
In order to make it truly engaging for your students, it needs to be fun! Get into the spirit of it – use a theme if you want – but most importantly – be excited about it! I try to drop hints the week before – build the anticipation – but never give it away! Here’s three important things to keep in mind and do to make your test prep successful:
Make it a game – but rigorous and challenging!
These games will get your students up and moving.
Scoot – is a whole-class educational game that your students will love. Place a question card on each desk in your classroom. To play, students move around the room, from desk to desk, answering questions or solving math problems.
Kagan Inside Outside Circle– give each student a task card. Students form two concentric circles and take turns on rotation to face new partners to solve the math problems.
Kagan Quiz, Quiz, Trade – Each student will get a task card and they will randomly pair up and take turns solving each math problem. Students will then trade cards and find a new partner.
Kagan Numbered Heads Together – Students are placed in groups. Teacher poses a question. Groups work together to solve. Teacher randomly calls on individual students to share the team’s answer.
Make it competitive – but equitable!
Group your students into teams of mixed ability, but structure it so that all students will be valuable to their team. Let them pick a team name and tell them they will compete against the other teams by solving math questions correctly. I like to post a scoreboard and give them points or tallies as they complete the tasks or games. Seeing the scores of other teams can be a huge motivator!
Go to the dollar store and buy tickets to give out. They come in a big roll and they are really cheap. Give out tickets for correct answers and effort.
Give Prizes! – but don’t go overboard or break the bank to do it!
Who doesn’t like to win prizes? Especially if they are wrapped in bright packaging and displayedahead of time! If my test prep is for 5 days, I give out 5 prizes based on the number of points or tickets earned. If I use points, I give out team prizes – if I use tickets, I give out individual prizes. Either way, the dollar store is my go-to. There are plenty of options in the party favors aisle, school supplies, or even the candy aisle.
Bubbles, gum, pencils, erasers, notepads, candy bars, comic books, etc. I like to vary it by day, so that they never know what it will be. The one thing I do every day is put the prize in a colorful gift bag and display it all day long. It really builds anticipation!
So, what about math content?
What do you need? You probably already have math task cards in your classroom, which will work perfectly for the games I listed above. But if you want to really increase the rigor and challenge for your students – try these Error Analysis Task Cards available in my TpTstore. Students love to find the errors and prove their thinking! I have them for many of the critical math skills tested for third graders and it’s great review for fourth grade too!
No matter what content you choose – remember, if each one of your students gets one or two “aha” moments during test prep – it will be worth it!
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