Monday, May 30, 2011

Take a Break from Testing with these Fun Ideas!

            State testing days are perfect opportunities for showcasing students’ creativity!  Not only are students emotionally and physically drained, but so are teachers; therefore, try some of the easy, fun breaks from your routine that are listed below.
            For starters, try a memory-making activity so students can reflect upon their school year.  Use the free handout, “What I Like About You,"  to have students record their school year memories.  Punch holes in the sides of the handouts and separate according to names.  Afterward, book jackets are designed for the pages.  Use colored string to bind the right edges.  Have students sign their “What I Like About You” personal pages for lasting memories.
            Another creative activity uses pipe cleaners.  Hand one pipe cleaner to each student and instruct them to  make pictures or shape(s).  Then, glue the pipe cleaner design onto a sheet of plain paper.  Next, write a poem, song, or story to compliment the picture.  For example, a pink pipe cleaner becomes a piglet with a curly tail, and a poem about a pig completes the scene.  Model the activity in advance.  Then, be sure to display the creations!
            Comic book writing is another fun break from the norm for students, and can be used with any subject matter. Free comics can be obtained from your local comic book store and the federal government to use as examples with students. Two websites make the task easier, so sign up for some lab time and have students visit Bit Strips or Make Beliefs Comix. Of course, you can go about it the old fashioned way as well. You can download and copy templates in various sizes to make the task easier. You might even have students demonstrate the literary idea of comic relief by making the state testing the subject of their comics!
Don’t forget to have plenty of interactive books such as I Spy, Where’s Waldo? and How to Draw…  If you will be teaching upcoming thematic units after testing days, turn your classroom into a topical library.  Load up on books about the theme so students can build prior knowledge. Remember to include a variety of books to accommodate different students' interests and strengths, such as fiction, nonfiction, picture books, and longer works. Books such as Testing Miss Malarkey, True or False? Tests Stink!, First Grade Takes a Test, 'Twas the Night Before Testing, Hooray for Diffendoofer Day!, and Scaredy Squirrel also provide some comic (and stress) relief for students.
Plain paper and coloring items can provide lots of fun!  Many students enjoy abstract, geometric pattern pages to color such as the ones found at the Printable Coloring Pages blog. These are great for early finishers during testing, and can provide a writing prompt when testing is over. Free, personalized word searches, crosswords, and puzzles can be designed at Puzzlemaker.  Also, incorporate students’ interests into puzzles by having them create personalized items in advance of testing days.  Instead of labeling the puzzles, such as Amy’s Music Crossword or Lance’s Skateboarding Word Search, let students guess their classmates’ identities based on the content of the puzzle.
Technology is also your friend in providing some stress relief for the students and yourself.  If students have access to computers or mobile devices, they can take virtual field trips at AreaVibes or SimpleK12.  Some sites, such as the Online Star Register, offer games and scavenger hunts for students.  Other students will enjoy getting creative with a site like Glogster EDU or Animoto. At Starfall, younger audiences or English language learners can interact with shapes, words, and more.
Activate your auditory learners' potential with some audio content. Try educational podcasts at the Educational Podcast Network.  Your students might even want to try podcasting for themselves! A full lesson plan by Nathan Shelley and an article about free podcasting tools by Richard Byrne will help you get started. Also, try the website Storyline, which offers readings of children’s books by famous actors from the Screen Actors' Guild.  Listeners see the books’ beautiful illustrations as they follow along.  The site also has a planning section for educators.   
            State testing doesn't have to make you pull your hair out! Fun breaks should be easy for teachers to plan and use, and they should be pleasurable for students. Use the time to create special memories that can be shared and enjoyed by all.

Related Products at Teachers Pay Teachers:
Grammar Rocks! 10 Reproducibles for Grammar Rock Videos, $3.50
Test Prep Homework: Getting Read the Night Before the Test, $1.50
Words at Play - Fun Language Arts Worksheets! Puzzles, Games, $3.50
Would You Rather Questions for Kids: 200 Discussion Starters, $2.75 (Top 10 product!)
50 States Practice (Computerized), $1.00
My Memory Book, $5.99
End of the Year Koosh (Smartboard) Activity, FREE
BINGO Boards for Every Season, $3.00
Academic Game Maker & Player - Single License, $20.00
Creative Writing Prompts with Lined Paper, What If...?, $1.95

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