In the scheme of necessary evils, the STAAR–or whatever your state’s standardized test is called–tops the list. It’s that thing that teachers and students hate, but legislators love. I do get it. I love having students track their mastery to see where they are with their learning, and a good assessment can be either very validating (for me and my students), or it ca be eye-opening in terms of what needs to be retaught and what is simply not connecting with whom.
I never teach to the test and overall I feel as if my students are prepared because I do teach the standards and objectives. I try to engage my students, to ignite interest in Reading and Writing, and the fringe benefit of my efforts is that the kids know the content by the end of the year.
But that doesn’t mean that I don’t want to give them that review before they actually sit down for the 4 hour state assessment. At the same time, I don’t want to drill & kill them with day after day of boring review worksheets. I looked for something a little more fun, but couldn’t find a thing. What I wanted–a quick review of the major content covered during the year, but in an interesting and somewhat fun way–wasn’t out there.
So…I created my own. It’s what teachers do, right? We find out own resources, and if we can’t find them, we make them. The review I created is visually engaging, and students are asked to present their information differently throughout the process. They can–and should–use their notes from their ISNs (Interactive Student Notebooks). I find that having students do this sort of activity with a partner feeds their social need and facilitates conversation about the content. They’re figuring out what to do, remembering the content we’ve learned all year long, using the Table of Contents and their notes from their ISNs, using the dictionary, tapping into each other as resources, using our word walls, and getting a solid refreshment of the things they’ll need to tap into on the STAAR.
After they’ve completed the activity (usually two 45 minute class periods), we then have a Jeopardy-like standoff. Two teams. Two competitors on stools in the front of the classroom. Everyone, except the current competitors, have their review materials out (the STAAR Review and their ISNs). I fire questions at them, and whoever rings the bell first responds. If they answer incorrectly, the opposing contestant responds. These two contestants do three rounds of questions. After that, you can proceed in two different ways:
- Have two new kids come up to compete.
2. Have the competitor who answered more questions correctly stay in the hot seat, while a new student comes up as the opponent from the opposing team.
Teacher keeps score for both teams.
The kids will have so much fun with this, and they’re once again reviewing all those concepts they need to have fresh in their minds.
Reviews don’t have to be dull and soul-sucking.