Whether I am reviewing material for a unit test or the state exam, I try to incorporate as many team-building activities as possible. My class ranges from English Language Learners to Gifted and Talented students, and with all the varying skill levels, focusing on activities that encourage a sense of community raises the students’ confidence and helps them master specific material.
The trick is to be creative and engaging while still focusing on the standards students are required to know. My main recommendation: engage students in demonstrating their learning in an environment where they feel encouraged to participate. The following are activities that I use to create a comfortable but academically challenging setting.
Students enjoy demonstrating their knowledge through team games. This allows the students to learn from each other and not feel pressured to be responsible for representing the team. Since the team works together, they must agree on an answer before sharing it. Students don’t know which person from the team will be called upon to answer this question. This forces the groups to work as a team to ensure each person knows the answer.
Specific types of games you can use include:
- Game Shows
There are several PowerPoint games I play with the students that encompass all subject areas. From Jeopardy to Hollywood Squares, I transform the classroom into a game show. I download the theme music for each show and use the microphone to announce each question. You can control the complexity of the questions or you can have students submit questions for review.
- Spin the Wheel
I purchased a spinner that comes with several laminated wheels that allow me to target specific areas of review. Students enjoy spinning the wheel to reveal their question or topic. I also designate how many points each round will be by having students spin the wheel.
Students are divided into teams of six, with one student representing each team for each round. I use this unique Eggspert buzzer. Each student has a buzzer; the student who knows the answer squeezes the buzzer. Students become quite competitive and cheer on their teammates. Since there are six students competing at one time, they don’t feel as discouraged if they are not the first competitors to hit the buzzer.
I have purchased a variety of Bingo games across all subject areas that range in complexity. I also distribute blank Bingo cards for students to fill in with vocabulary words or concepts we are studying. As a class we will record a list of words or concepts on the board and then students will randomly fill them in on their card. After completion of a unit, students will cut their cards up into squares to play memory with another student during rainy day schedules.
Throughout the year, I make the most of every moment by using quick and portable activities that can integrate content from any subject area.
I play a couple of rounds during morning meeting and also use it as a quick review at the end of the school day. This requires almost no preparation because I create the questions as the game progresses according to whatever subject we are studying. Each group has an opportunity to discuss the question and place an X or an O on the board. This game goes rather quickly and students are able to play several quick rounds.
- Key Ring
As we discuss a particular concept, I will record it on an index card, punch a hole, and add it to my concept ring. As students are dismissed to lunch or recess, I will grab the ring and randomly flip to a concept card. I will ask a question and call on students raising their hands to dismiss them. This way, individual students aren’t put on the spot when asked a question. I vary the complexity of the questions to ensure all students are able to answer the review questions. Anyone who knows the answer may have an opportunity to answer the question. I have concept rings for every subject, including math, language arts, science, and social studies.
To prepare students for the testing conditions, I have them use their test cubbies throughout the year. I tape two folders together and students use them for quizzes, tests, or when they would like some privacy. Prior to taking the state tests, we will do some kind of relaxation exercises, such as stretching or yoga. During the state test, I allow students to take off their shoes and chew gum. Allowing students to be as relaxed as possible provides a comfortable environment for test taking.
One of the reasons I think these strategies have been successful is because they are integrated into activities every day. I also try to alleviate the pressure of “test prep” by making reviews fun and exciting ways to share what has been learned.