Thursday, May 1, 2014

Here Are Some Fun Activities to Help Students Prepare for Final Examinations:)

Well, the year is close to ending.  Some of you will see your last day of school before the end of the month, and others, like us, will still be working in June.  Here at ELL Teacher Pros, we are facing a difficult time.  There are some-related issues and in addition, the change from CTEL to CSET is pushing us to redo our popular CTEL Test Prep Review classes which takes a lot of time and energy.  The tests are different enough that we may have to do more than just cut and paste material.  The change from CA State ELD standards to the Common Core ELD standards is also an influence on our work load.

We have decided to focus on reviews for finals this month, as we did last May, and we’re going to cheat a bit and rerun most of that newsletter plus a few new suggestions for games. 

In general, consider letting students lead the review activities? Why not provide them with some ownership in the review process? Why not bring in academic games? How about having students create game-like venues of their own to review? What about asking kids how they would like to have the reviews conducted–they might surprise you with some very creative ideas? Ever think about having students create review test questions for classmates to answer?  One of our favorite things to do with reviews is to use some of their questions on the final.  They really are excited about having that level of control and input.

Remember that you have control over content covered, how points are scored, what the “right” answers are, the time limits allotted, etc.

To “start the ball rolling”, here are some websites with suggestions:

Five Games for Test Review was written for Adult Education and yet is useful for all grade levels.  One review strategy is called “Two Truths and a Lie”  The learners have some amount of control over the process and yet the focus has to stay on the content.  This is a win/win situation.  
Ask each student to make three statements about your test review topic: two statements that are true and one that's a lie.  Moving around the room, give each student a chance to make their statements and a chance to identify lies. Use both right and wrong answers as inspiration for discussion.  This games works really well with teams. Keep score on the board, and go around the room twice if you need to in order to cover all the material. Have examples of your own to ensure that everything you want to review gets mentioned.  There is a game specifically designed for History and one for Geography.

My favorite is “Snowball Fight” because I like a lot of action, particularly after lunch.  I divide the class into heterogeneous teams and have each learner write a question related to the topic presented.  (I would recommend reviewing some ideas for questions, depending on the level of the ELLs.)  The learners then crumple their papers in the shape of a small ball and throw them at each other.   When time is called, each learner picks up a “ball’ and reads the question.  The team then has 30 seconds to answer it.  They earn a point when they get it correct. 

Another, less active game, is Brainstorm Race, which works with teams of 4-5 learners.  Each team has a way to record their answers.  They are then given 30 seconds to write down their ideas concerning a specific topic as they can, without speaking.  The lists are then compared and the group with the most ideas wins a point.  However, irrelevant or incorrect answers are deducted from the final total so they must write sensible ideas.

Other useful websites are:

TOOLS FOR TEACHERS–you will find a wide variety of ideas: rubric generators, quizstar, academic skills builders, PBL (project based learning) checklists, kid videos (support for including kid video projects), and much more. Everything is free.

FAKE FACEBOOK — I must say that this is still one of my favorites. Almost everyone is involved in some way or another with this social medium so it is familiar territory. What about having students create conversations with famous historical figures? One student could be the historical figure and a second student could take the role of a contemporary of that figure OR be a student from 2013 with many unanswered questions?

BRAINFLIPS–here students may join study groups or create them. They may create flash cards or use ones already available. Take the tour and see how the site might make test review less overwhelming for students.

PURPOSE GAMES–many of the games already up are related to education. However, students (or teachers) can create their own games as well. Such a site might inspire even the strugglers to actively take part in the academic game creation and this should lead to these students doing better than expected on the examination. Of course, the site is also free:)

SUPER TEACHER TOOLS — this site does charge; however, if you like game shows, but don’t want to spend hours creating them, this may be the site for you. There also other features like a classroom seating organizer, and a randomizer app (students never know when they will be called on in class—suspense with accountability).

MOTIVATE YOUR STUDENTS — last but not least, here are some gentle reminders on motivating students. The vast majority wants to do well in school, but sometimes feel lost. The tips here are reminders on why each of us became teachers:)

Last, but not least, here are some other approaches to support students in preparing for any exam.
1. Let them use their binders/notebooks for the test. If they have been meticulously maintaining them throughout the year, this would be a well-deserved reward.
2. Assign key sections to small groups and then have them conduct the review session for the class. Let them be teachers for part of the period.
3. Have students in either small groups or with a partner create multiple choice questions for the class. Teachers can use those questions (after being checked for accuracy) in a  class competition with the class broken up into number of teams of no more than 4.  Offer class participation points to winners:)
4. Assign groups of 4 the task of summarizing key points of a topic in posters. Students will then explain to the class how their poster captures all the necessary sections of the  lesson. The rest of the class will rate the posters and the presentations for accuracy.
5. Provide students with a pre-test. Let them work with a partner in completing it. This would be especially helpful for English language learners since they would have several opportunities to process both the academic language and the content before the actual test. Students could then as a class review the answers and discuss any issues that surfaced in taking the mock test.
The bottom line here is to build student confidence in going into the final exam (or any exam). Keep it light, but academic, and you will see grades improve on the actual final assessment.

Hope your students like the sites:)

Denise, Cheryl, and Marnie

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