Monday, January 12, 2015

Interactive Test Prep: Using Games to Review

Preparing for tests is rarely fun, at least from my school experience. What are some strategies you use to help your students prepare for tests, and not be bored out of their minds?

I love to use games, the most kids play the less they feel like they're learning. We all know that, but it's often hard to implement in traditional learning environments. Let's go back to the basics. What are the building blocks, or the foundations, of games used for review?

  • We have whole class, or large group games, usually involve teams and some sort of competition. 
  • Small group games of 2-5 players, maybe as many as 7 or 8. These games are typically a board game or card game. There is some goal to reach, and players usually compete to achieve the goal first. 
  • Then we have individual games, this usually includes some form of puzzle, such as a cross word, a physical puzzle, a riddle or cryptogram, or something similar. 
When planning your test prep, it's important to know which of these platforms will serve your purpose the best. Once you've identified the platform, then it's time to figure out the specifics. The options for each game platform are innumerable.  

You might find an electronic game such as an interactive PowerPoint game the entire class will enjoy. These are usually very specific in content, but you can do your homework to find editable versions, or get creative and use a template to make your own. Here's a little lesson on using macros that might help ;) Most of the electronic apps and games we use for content review are based on typical physical games, such as Wheel of Fortune or Jeopardy. There are printed versions of these games as well that might be more suitable for your class/content. 

Other classroom games that have been popular for years are various races, Trivia Pursuit, Around the World, hangman (or other less gruesome versions), and so on. These are quick and easy to put into practice, because the only prep you need is your list of questions and a few simple rules on the board. 

The smaller games, board games and card games, this is my favorite. Breaking things down into smaller bits always seems to help students cement those skills and that knowledge. Working in a smaller group allows more of the students to participate, and each student usually has the opportunity to answer more frequently. I love cooperative games such as Memory, Wild (UNO), Go Fish, and Old Maid. 

Over the past 2 years, I've been building my supply of games that would help my students. SOme are just spin offs of popular games I mentioned, others, I like to think, I came up with the ideas. Although, the longer I"m around, the less I believe anyone has a truly unique idea anymore! Here are just a few of my most recent games that work well for reviewing, or building skills.

This same format is available with content for covering a unit on organisms, cells, or living systems. More are in the works that will include interdependence of life, adaptation and change, genetics, history of life on earth, and science investigations. 

I designed this for older kids who had been struggling with time for years. Because of their special learning abilities, they had never received actually teaching on telling time, elapsed time, or even the basics. This game really helped them understand what each part of the digital time represented and how that translates to words and the analog clock. 

This one was a lot of fun to make and play. My 6th graders still like to pull this one out and practice. I also made a few worksheets to go along with this. Even though I'm not a big fan of worksheets, it is nice to leave a few with my students when I won't be seeing them for a few days, just to know they'll be getting some practice in that I can assess later!

What about you? Do you have a few favorite games you like to use to review skills or concepts before a test? Feel free to add up to 3 links in the linky below, or post the concepts of the game in the comments. Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Dramatic Readings

When I say, "A book can take you places you'd never dreamed of visiting," I think most of my students imagine something like this picture I just found on Dollar Photo Club. I was there looking for something to help me write about the Secret Garden, and it made me think of my 6th graders this past couple of weeks. 

They are reading The Secret Garden for school, and just could not get into it. Reading that Yorkshire in their minds was confusing, and they couldn't make sense of it. I had my mom (fantastic dramatic reader) read a couple of chapters to them, and I gave it shot. Let's just say, you DO NOT want me to read in Yorkshire dialect to any of your students! It was like a train wreck for sure!

My 2 youngest needed to finish this book over break, and I desperately wanted them to appreciate the story. So I set out on a mission and searched for dramatic readings. I remembered the days in middle school that we would do a readers theater, and how engaged every classmate was. I wanted to see that same excitement on my kids' faces. And I wanted to talk about the story, knowing they were really grasping the things that were happening. Peanut even decided to add it to her reviews!

I found this site There are public domain readings, and dramatic readings of so many pieces of literature. The second half of the book, they followed along while the characters told the story. They would laugh or sigh, and then pause the recording to discuss what was happening, on their own. The experience even caused my 11 year old son to watch the movie on his own Friday evening! I have full confidence that these dramatic readings helped them enjoy their book, and they felt what I always tell them, taken away to Misselthwaite. Here's a link to several versions of The Secret Garden if you'd like to use them with your class!

I know several teacher/authors who have created some fantastic reader's theater packages for the  middle grades, if you have one to share, please feel free to post a link in the comments below!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

What's the Story behind the Logo?

I saw this linky and just had to join in. What perfect timing, since my logo has recently changed!

To really understand the story behind this logo, I have to tell the story backward. I have a 15 year old daughter who has an entrepreneurial spirit and artistic skills. I've been trying to encourage her to develop her skills of digital art so she can start making some money now while she's young, develop a fan base, and have a ready-made business when she needs it to support her.

LunaBear Designs is in its infant stages, and most of her work is done on a by-request-basis from creator friends of mine, or me. This logo is her first venture into marketing art. I am not to keen on the cartoonish people as logo images, I think its a little weird to see a cartoon of myself. So as she was making this, while yes she had several photos of me, I had a completely different idea of what I wanted the "cartoon me" to look like. Big eyes like the Anime characters, fluffy braided hair like the Disney Princesses, and a thin, but "rumply" shape unlike the rounded unpleasantly plump reality.

This is how this image came about, but it is not the whole story. Before condescending to an avatar image, I had hopes of a fun loving animal character. The one LunaBear designed for me was cute, but didn't fit.
Cute? Yes, to me anyway. But it didn't fit. I love the fox/wolf version of Miss Stefany. She only became a wolf, when my darling budding artist forgot the poor foxes tail...and when her crazy momma wanted a black fox instead of a red one! Why did it have to be black? Because I had already picked out the colors for my logo and blog design, and the red of a fox just wouldn't do. Wolf Miss Stefany may still appear in some younger resources I create. 

That is about it, unless you want to hear the story behind the change in my store/blog name. I think I'll save that for another time!

Want to know the story behind more logos? Hop on over to Jenny K's blog for the link up!

Most Popular Posts Lately