Carnival Test Prep and Room Transformation

Sunday, April 16, 2017 / Leave a Comment
Hi, it’s Jessi from Cooties and Cuties, and I am so excited to share favorite test prep ideas with you! 


Test prep season is a dreaded time filled with stress and anxiety, and if I could avoid it altogether, I would.  This year, I knew I wanted to do something different, something that actually got my students excited about the insanely boring work we were about to do.  If I’m being completely honest, I created this experience as much for myself as for my students.  Test prep is never anyone’s idea of fun, but with a little effort, it can become one of your students’ favorite memories of third grade!

Logistics:
A few weeks before the carnival, I started creating games during my planning period.  Almost everything I created was free and made with resources I found within the school butcher paper, cardboard and tape.  The only things I purchased were 2 rolls of wrapping paper from the dollar store (so I could use the cardboard roll inside), streamers, a few bags of Hershey Kisses for the Kissing Booth and a roll of tickets. 

My kids had no idea I was planning a huge room transformation until I handed out carnival invitations on Friday afternoon.  These little invitations built so much for the upcoming week and many parents emailed me to tell me how excited their kids were to come to school on Monday teacher win!

The carnival ran for 8 days.  Each day, we reviewed a different math topic in a mini lesson, i.e., multiplication and division one day, area and perimeter the next.  Some days we reviewed only one topic, and some days we combined two topics.  I tried to organize the reviews based on the amount of questions we anticipated on the state test.

After reviewing the topic, students worked in teams on the matching review packet. The questions were TOUGH.  Instead of stressing my students out before the test, I paired them with a partner and emphasized teamwork and synergy.  Partners could earn a total of 5 tickets each day for accuracy, perseverance, synergy, showing work and using their test-taking strategies.  I assumed each team would earn 5 tickets and then deducted tickets as needed.

While students worked, I roamed the room doing mini conferences with students to re-teach tricky concepts.  This was such a valuable time to be able to meet the needs of all students, and I highly recommend it!

The carnival was centered around math test prep, but I incorporated literacy, too.  I printed PARCC practice tests, and gave students opportunities to earn extra tickets for the carnival.  I am not kidding when I say I’ve never seen such a focused, engaged week of test prep in my life.  Some of my students even begged to take their packets to recess or finish them at home!

I kept track of the amount of tickets teams earned using the old horse race carnival game. Each team was assigned a horse and they loved watching their progress as their horses inched forward each day.  The finish line represented a perfect score for the entire carnival run, 5 tickets each day.  Only one team actually made it to the finish line, and it was a HUGE accomplishment.  This team was on their A game the entire time and earned a special “catered” lunch with me in the classroom.




At the end of the math period, we shared strategies and cleared up any remaining questions about the topic, and then I chose two teams to sit at the World’s Strongest Students (VIP) table.  The WSS table was a last-minute idea and one of the most valuable pieces of the carnival.  Students got to sit in a special table under the “carnival tent” in the middle of the room. I made the announcement a huge production, and the kids reacted like they won the lottery when their names were announced!




One of the privileges of being the World’s Strongest Students was running the ticket booth.  I love giving my students opportunities to lead, and they took this job very seriously.  




Carnival Games:
The carnival games were only open for the last 30 minutes of every other day, so 4 days total.  This doesn’t seem like much, but it gave students an opportunity to earn more tickets between carnival visits and pushed them to work so incredibly hard in between carnival days.  2 hours of carnival games over the course of 8 days garnered 12 hours of the most intensely focused test prep I’ve ever seen and made all of the time I spent preparing so completely worth it.




And finally, the last piece of the test prep carnival puzzle is Feats of strength.  Feats of strength are mini contests, kind of like Minute to Win It, and we used them as brain breaks. Once or twice per day, I announced the contest and the whole class participated.  It could be a feat of mental strength (how long can you hold tree pose) or physical strength (arm wrestling contest), and it became one of the highlights of the carnival.  Students begged for the next feat of strength and took them so seriously because they wanted their picture to be featured on our poster.  If they were eliminated, they became cheerleaders for the remaining students, and it was a really fun way to bond the students together as a whole. 


 
WHEW…that’s it.  After 8 days of carnival-ing, my students were pumped up and ready to conquer the big bad state test.   And, best of all, they didn’t even realize that I tricked them into completing some of the toughest packets they’d ever seen because they were having so much fun!

Thanks so much for letting me crash the blog today!  You can find my Carnival Test Prep and much more on my TPT page.

Celebrating the End of Testing!

Monday, April 10, 2017 / Leave a Comment
Hello again! It's Anna from Hanging with Mrs. Hulsey! It probably seemed as though the days after testing would never come-- or perhaps it came far too quickly? But I thought I'd share some fun ways to celebrate with your students after state testing!
Raffle Ticket Rewards
One thing I love doing to motivate my students during test prep and testing is to hand out raffle tickets. I try to give students tickets for various reasons: correct answers, positive attitude, effort, showing their work on scratch paper (you get the idea). This is a really simple reward system! Students write their names on the ticket and put it into a bucket. At the end of each day I draw out 3-4 student names and they get a small reward.
I have used various items for rewards-- try to keep it cheap or free-- so items like reward scratchers, reward coupons, pieces of candy, jar of bubbles, play-doh containers, and seasonal pencils or erasers. Students won't care how much money you spend-- they will just be stoked to win!

Ice-Cream Reward Party
I know not everyone will be huge on this one-- it will depend on your school's food policies. But, I love to hang up these ice-cream reward coloring pages (1 per student)-- and every day of testing students have the opportunity to earn pieces of an ice-cream sundae.
So one day they may earn the spoon and bowl, and the next day they earn the ice-cream, then the toppings. I base this solely on effort since it takes awhile for our scores to arrive. Students always try their hardest for this simple reward! You can ask for donations from local businesses, PTA, or even parents if you don't want to spend all the money yourself.
I like to hang these coloring pages on a bulletin board and make a display!

Give out Brag Tags and Super Notes! 
After testing is over I love to give my students a brag tag-- it will help them remember how they worked so hard and finished their test! This one says "I survived testing!" (the link to these are at the end of the post)
I also love to send home "super notes"! Simply focus on something you felt the student did well and send this note home on a piece of bright paper! Click HERE or on the picture below for a FREE copy of these notes!
http://bit.ly/studenttestingnotes

What Should I Teach Now???
The last thing you may be asking yourself is... what now? Perhaps you still have topics to cover-- or perhaps your students are ready to move on to some basic 4th grade materials! Here are a few more ideas:

  • Have a STEM day! 
  • Do some "Mystery Science"
  • Focus on unfinished science or social studies standards
  • Have a "Fun in the Sun" day! (some may call this a field day)
  • Do some whole class reward coupons and put them in balloons or a punch board!
  • Complete an "Escape the Classroom"
  • Set up a themed classroom! (Think: Camp Read-a-Lot, Harry Potter, Etc.)
  • Have a "book tasting" and sample different types of literature
What are some things you like to do with your class after testing is over? Please share in the comments! 

If you are interested in my complete testing reward packet you can find it HERE in my Teachers Pay Teachers store!

Thank you for reading! Hope you gleaned some amazing ideas for your own room! 

All About That Tech: Online State Testing Practice

Saturday, April 8, 2017 / Leave a Comment

Hello darlings!  Amy here from That Teaching Spark!  These past few weeks my fellow bloggers have been giving you as many ideas and resources we could think of to get you ready for your State Test.  Check back through these previous posts for more ideas!

This post is ALL ABOUT THAT TECH!  What ONLINE resources do you use to prepare your students for testing?  Let me know in the comments!

Because most of us are required to do testing online, I decided to share the resources I use to prepare my students for the Missouri MAP Test.  We use the SBAC but it is very similar to PARCC.  I hope you can take away something NEW from this post!!


MODEL, MODEL, MODEL 

I DO NOT send my students off to computers and make them take these test and then say to myself, "Oh yay!  We practiced!"  That is silly!  One HUGE component of this testing "thing"  is teaching them the tools and HOW to take it.

I do a TON of modeling and I follow "I do, We do, You do," with them.  That means, I have these programs projected and we work through a lot of it together.  Then I beg borrow and steal (if necessary LOL) computers and students practice in partners, AND FINALLY they try it out for themselves.  Since I don't have enough computers for them each to try at the same time, I set up Test Prep rotations.

Where do I get my resources?
Here ya go, you amazing teacher you!


1. PARCC Practice Tests in ELA and Math from Pearson
If you use PARCC, I'm sure you already use this to prep! For all of us nonPARCCers, this is really well done and very similar to the questions found in SBAC.  There are three different tests for each.


2.  Prodigy Play Math Prep
OMG!  I am in LOVE with Prodigy even more because they have added TEST PREP for math!  (Dear Prodigy, could you make an ELA version? Sincerely, Amy)  If you haven't heard of Prodigy, your students are missing out! Watch this video to see how to use the TEST PREP!



This is what students see. They create little avatar wizards and then battle through lands that they unlock.  They even earn pets that can have powers!  They unlock and earn power ups by answering question correctly.  You can assign the skills or have the game do it for you!




You can assign test prep for YOUR STATE!



View the problems they got correct and incorrect!
 Create small groups based on the types of questions they got wrong.

This is the site we use to practice with in Missouri.  You can log on using the username and password they provide.  It contains math and ELA. Just click on the right hand side for summative and then choose Grade 3.  You can then choose the subject.  This will allow you to answer questions using the crazy methods they are expecting students to answer with, ie highlighting, clicking and dragging, selecting words in a paragraph, ordering sentences, and the crazy way they have to click to get to the next page of text. 




4. Edcite.com ELA and Math online Practice

Edcite is a tech site that teachers can create their own online tests and quizzes.  The tests and quizzes are then uploaded to an assignment library and all teachers can use them!  Thank you to those teachers, because I have been using this in my rotations like crazy!  There are video tutorials of how to set up your class and assign "assignments."

If the answers are multiple choice, it will grade it for you.  Some have mixed in constructed response.  If that is the case, I have students raise their hand when they are ready for me to grade it and I go read it right then.





5. Frontrowed.com Math and ELA practice

Frontrowed is awesome and can be used free when you complete one assignment at a time.  If you want to have more assignments or view the data, you have to pay.  I still use this for practice just like I would a skill sheet that I'm not collecting.  It is the best FREE thing I have found for ELA that is motivating for students because they can earn coins.




Want to see how I motivate my students for testing?  Want lessons ideas, anchor charts, and activities to get ready for testing?  Check out this blog post on my blog!



I hope you were able to take away at least ONE idea from this post!  Good luck with your state testing and remember YOU are more than your students' scores!

Happy testing!

















Motivational Standardized Test Prep Ideas

Tuesday, April 4, 2017 / Leave a Comment
Hello again teacher friends!  I am Amber from TGIF, a 3rd Grade teacher, and I so sympathize with you all because UGH - standardized testing is the pits.  Whether we like it or not, we still have to complete it, so why not make it as positive experience as possible, right?  I am going to share a few tricks that helped me set a positive tone in my classroom.


One strategy I recently applied to review some previous skills, was to make it a "Crack the Code" type activity.  Groups earned a letter for each correct answer and when they earned all the letters, they could unscramble the word and earn the treasure. Here is a quick run down of how I pulled it off:
1.  Group students (2-4 per group)
2.  Each group needs dry erase boards, markers and erasers or paper and pencil. (I like everyone to have a board/paper each, but they could also share and take turns writing.)
3.  Teachers need some kind of task cards or problems they have taken from worksheets and hang them up around the classroom.  Hiding them can make an extra challenge.  Make sure the task cards or problems are numbered!
4.  Teachers need letters (that spell a word) for each team.
5.  Groups may travel to any task card/problem and answer it as a team.
6.  After the group agrees, they bring their answer to the teacher.  If the team is correct, they earn a letter.  If it is incorrect they must go back and rework the problem.  If they are incorrect the second time, I take a moment to give them hints or show them where they went wrong.
7.  When the team has all the letters, they must show you the unscrambled word so they can earn a "Crack the Code" prize.  It can be a small piece of candy or five minutes of free time.  You choose!

Where do I get my task cards and math problems?
My TpT Store:  Amber from TGIF
Printable worksheets:  Super Teacher Worksheets
From our math workbooks
20 questions free per day:  IXL Math
(We do have a subscription to IXL, but you can still snag a few problems for free everyday.)



I have found that making test folders for each student helps us all stay organized the week of the big test.  I tape a name tag to each students' folder.  Inside each folder, I add their "testing ticket" for the day.  (This is their username and password information that they must have to log in to the computers.)  I also supply two pre-sharpened pencils with a motivational saying on it and blank scratch paper.  My students also pick out two books they would like to read when they are finished with the test.  This keeps all of the items we need together in one spot, and my students feel like it is "big stuff"!  (P.S. Save yourself some time if possible and get some help with sharpening your pencils.  I had my student helpers do it.)



Seriously, who doesn't like a snack during the day?  I think it adds a positive spin to the week knowing we are going to get to have snacks, which isn't your everyday event in most classrooms.  This year I went with a healthy fruity theme.  I asked parents if they would be willing to donate some easy, no-prep fruits for the week.  At first I thought I would have a different fruit per day, but since students have different tastes, and donations rolled in on different days, I just set all the fruits out and let them pick!  You could have snack before the test (brain food), between tests (if you have more than one per day) or after the test (something to look forward to).

Here are a few suggestions on easy, no-prep fruits:

  • bananas
  • oranges in individual cups
  • sliced apples in individual bags
  • mixed fruit in a cup
  • grapes in snack size bags
  • dried mango, and peaches in a cup.




I made my own test corrals for the classroom over a year ago and they are still going strong.  I bought the tri-fold presentation boards from Dollar Tree and cut them in half.  Who doesn't love the idea of 50 cents per test corral?  Waaaaay cheaper than the test corrals you purchase in the catalogs.  To spice them up, I just printed out a motivational poster and taped it to the test corral.  I use these all year long, but they do come in handy for the big test.  I you take your tests on the computer like we do, I actually just fold the corral up and slide it between the computers.  (This is actually where I store them all year long.  My students just go grab one when we are taking a "regular test" throughout the school year.)

I made these dog themed motivational posters (available here), but there are lots available on the internet.  Just Google it.


Some standardized tests state that you cannot keep your "educational posters" displayed during the test.  You know those reference posters that we encourage our students to use all year long because it is great to use your resources.  (Okay, I could seriously go on for days about how dumb it is that we have to cover these up, but you all probably have the same complaint, so I will just move along.....)  I really didn't want to take some of my posters down that I had to climb onto the tables at the beginning of the year to hang, so I just covered them with a motivational quote instead.  (Some states don't allow any writing at all.  Which again, thumbs down.  Moving on......)  I cut cloud shapes and had my students suggest motivational words to write on them.  Pretty simple.


One of the best ways to start your day off is to get the blood flowing!  Research shows that exercise helps our brains think more clearly.  Do some jumping jacks, jog in place, or better yet, if you use Go Noodle, complete a Fresh Start Fitness.

Test Prep Ideas & Freebies!

Monday, March 20, 2017 / Leave a Comment
Like it or not, it's that time of year again for many of us- time for the dreaded test prep.  If you're like me, I was always looking for new ideas for review to incorporate along with my tried and true strategies and activities.  This is a compilation of some great posts and freebies that might be useful to you this year (or something you can plan on using next year)!

Test prep posts, resources and freebies!

Motivational notes are one thing that I used every year!  Each day of our testing my kiddos would get a cute themed note with a matching snack or little prize.  It would be on their desk in the morning when they walked it.  Our testing is usually around Easter time so those bunny peeps were in good supply, so I used these cute notes along with a bunny peep or two on their desks.  Grab this freebie in my store and then get some peeps!

Grab some bunny peeps and get this testing motivational note FREEBIE!

Need some more motivational ideas?

  • More Time 2 Teach has a FANTASTIC motivational notes idea that includes parent involvement!  
  • Hanging With Mrs. Hulsey has some great motivational ways to prep for testing in this post.
  • Teaching in Stripes has some super cute ideas for testing treats for students and teachers.

Are you looking for some ideas or resources for Reading test prep?

  • Stress Free Teaching has a great post about using the R.A.C.E.S strategy for writing responses to questions in reading.  I wish I would have known about this earlier! Putting it on my "future ideas" list for sure.  
  • Use these great Reading Test Prep Task Cards from The Brighter Rewriter.  You could use these as a fun Scoot game review!
  • You can get your students thinking and generalizing the design of reading test questions using this Answering Reading Test Questions Sort from Tarheelstate Teacher.

Looking for a fun overview of test taking strategies?

  • This cute iStrategies activity from Rock & Teach will help you review all of the test taking strategies.  It can be personalized for the strategies you teach in class!

Want to incorporate technology into your test prep?

  • Check out this awesome post from The Techie Teacher all about free Technology Enhanced Items (TEI) practice sites.  Perfect if you are in a state or grade level that requires students to take their standardized tests on the computer!
  • Dirt Road Teacher has some free DIGITAL math test prep task cards for 3rd grade that look great!

Teaching a higher grade level or needing some more secondary resources?

  • This is a great post from Secondary English Coffee Shop with tons of tips for preparing students for standardized tests.  She includes strategies for reading, writing, listening and academic vocabulary that students should know!
  • Check out this free Poetry Analysis Worksheet from The Owl Spot that you can use with any poem to analyze and gain a deeper understanding of the author's use of poetry to communicate his/her ideas.





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