The Vernal Equinox has just passed, the baseball season is beginning, it's staying lighter later and starting (slowly) to get warmer! That can mean only one thing - it's time to turn our calendars to Testober. I have recently started calling April "Testober" because it seems like my students are taking one standardized test or another two or three times a week for the entire month! Talk about student burnout. So, how can we keep our students engaged and excited to learn throughout another wonderful testing season?
I like to integrate as many games or competitions into my lessons as possible throughout the month, especially when I sense that students are getting stressed out by testing. Here are three great games you can easily integrate into your lessons very little prep:
1) Variations of Silent Ball. We play games like "Review Ball" or "Vocab Ball" or "Map Ball" that use the same rules as silent ball (no talking, pass a ball around), except that every so often I say "Review!" or "Vocab!" or "Map!" and ask the ball holder a question. If they get it correct, they stay in. If they get it wrong, they sit down.
2) Map Races. I either have two students come to the board and race to find a map location first (winner stays in, loser gets replaced), or I point to a location and in groups, students write the name of the location or physical feature on small white boards.
3) Vocabo or other games using vocabulary cards (click here for free games that use vocabulary cards). I usually use these games as part of a scheduled "vocabulary day", but during the testing season, I have packets of our old cards ready to get out and play with. It re-enforces vocabulary in a fun way that gets the students more focused on the games than the fact that they are actually reviewing.
I try to infuse vocabulary into almost everything we do. When we take interactive notes, there are specific vocabulary words that are highlighted and discussed. I also ask vocab questions during transition times (see this blog post for more info) and while we are waiting for slower writers to finish writing.
But what I wanted to share with you today is what I do in the hallway. I have a deck of their vocab words that I add to each unit so that by the end of the year, I have a card with a definition on it for every vocabulary term we have for the entire year. During passing periods, I work my way through the deck asking random students for either the definition of a term or the term for a definition for any of the terms we have had throughout the year.
It is very effective. Sometimes students flock to me saying, "Give me a word!" or, "Watch this," to a friend before defining a tough one. I even have a group of students I had last year who come by almost every morning to do it - and they aren't even in my grade anymore!
Oh, and a quick organizing tip! I color the edge of the cards with a different color to keep track of which words go with which unit.
I'm a 14 year veteran teacher that loves teaching, coaching, writing, and my family.