It's the end of January in elementary schools all over the state of Texas and for many teachers in grades 3rd-5th, that means the stress level is rising because the reality of STAAR testing is looming. Many teachers turn to test prep and practice to prepare students for high stakes testing, but I beg those teachers to reconsider.
Last week I was able to attend a Lead4Ward PEP Rally in Plano with teachers and administrators across North Texas. From the beginning, the PEP Rally set the expectation that test prep is not the answer and good teaching is! PEP is a great reminder for what we should all be focused on instead of test prep and practice.
P - Prioritize the Standards
E - Engage the Learner
P - Practice w/o Penalty - (A risk-free environment)
I was able to spend the day with fellow administrators discussing review strategies that are focused around PEP! I am on a mission to convince teachers test-prep is not the answer. If we are going to ask teachers to stop the test prep and practice, we must give them ideas and strategies that will take their place. My goal is to share a few of the strategies that were shared with us, to better support teachers all year round and not just during testing season.
After a lesson students come up with the following:
Students write 3 big ideas or facts/details they learned (What did it say?)
Students write 2 examples, applications or inferences about what they learned (What did it mean?)
Students write 1 question or draw 1 conclusion about what they learned (what does it mean?)
Love this review strategy as an exit ticket or a way to wrap up a learning target because it uses varied levels of thinking and incorporates summarizing, inferencing and drawing conclusions.
Pick Up the Slip Up
Students are given 3 sticky notes and write A, B, C on them. Students are then presented with a question and students need to consider which answer would be incorrect.
During their thinking time they "hover" over the answer they think is the slip up and when the teacher is ready, they place "cover" their answer, and then "pick up" their answer. A fun and engaging way to review material that requires thinking about things a different way.
The most important part of integrating any of these strategies into review is the importance of stopping to teach along the way. "CLARIFY & VERIFY" If a student were to pick up the wrong answer, the teacher could stop and have students complete the following question stem...
"I thought it was......because......"
We have to remember that often times students will find the right answer, but do not understand why it is the right answer. If you are familiar with the STAAR test, there are always answer choices you can refer to as "distractor". Utilizing this strategy allows the students to eliminate the distractor factor.
Unlike the previous two strategies, this third one is used to activate prior knowledge. You begin by showing students a "stimulus". This could be a word, an image, a drawing or anything that you may be working with or you know students may be exposed to.
Students are given 30-60 seconds to analyze the stimulus.
Students need to describe 3-5 key terms that come to mind when the see the stimulus.
Students predict what their learning may be about, based on the stimulus and their 3-5 key terms.
As a teacher you can pull the accurate terms and have an understanding of what your students already know as well as have an idea of what key terms may have been left out. Once you discovered what was left out, you know what you need to focus on!
This rounds out my top 4 strategies that I enjoyed learning about. The final strategy is the "triple play". For teachers that do not have classroom management under control, I would think twice about introducing this activity.
This is a great activity for key terms that students have learned or have been learning. Students begin in a group of three and pick a key term. One of the students writes the key term on a piece of paper, the second student describes the key term or gives an example on a piece of paper and the final student sketches the key term.
Once all three students have completed their part, you have a good ol' fashioned snow ball fight. Students are able to throw their paper, pick up another, throw it and repeat two more times. Once they have picked up their final piece of paper, they must work together to create a triple play, matching the key term, with the description and the sketch. Of course, as needed, the teacher will "CLARIFY and VERIFY" to ensure students are demonstrating an understanding.
Those were just my favorites and there are so many more! I hope more teachers begin to realize the power in review opportunities such as this, as opposed to drill and kill and test prep. Learning is supposed to be fun and these are much more engaging than bubbling in circles on an answer document. I hope you will try at least one.
For more review strategies, check out: