Bright Ideas Hop: Twisted Test Prep

Welcome to Teaching in the Fast Lane. Whether you check in often, or hopped over from the Bright Ideas Blog Hop I am glad you are here! Let's get to it:

It is that time of year, test prep season. I don't know about you, but I have a hardcore case of the test prep blues this year, and we still have nearly two months to go. I know that it is a necessary evil, but that doesn't mean I like it. My students feel the same way, as I am sure yours do as well.

In order to combat test prep fatigue we play a lot of games, but I have a few that are tried and true crowd pleasers that still pack in the review!

The first is Stinky Feet. No, I don't know where the name came from. This game was passed on to me by a fabulous teammate and couldn't be simpler to integrate into review you may already have planned.

Students work in teams to answer questions of any type. (I use the Numbered Heads Together Kagan Strategy, but you could do it in whatever way best suits your students.) Any teams that answer the question correctly get to pick a sticky note from the stinky feet poster. (Instead of a poster I have also been known to just draw it on the whiteboard and stick the stickies right to it, but I like the poster because I can use it over and over again.)

This is where things get a bit "stinky." Each sticky has a different point amount on it, some positive and some negative. Teams keep a running tally of how many points they have on a piece of paper or small whiteboard at their table. I LOVE having such varied point amounts, because it keeps everyone in the game. In a single turn, the results of the game can change entirely, so it keeps teams from getting discouraged. 

Our next go-to activity is the passage biathlon. Like any other group of 22 nine to ten year olds, passages are hard for my students. Especially the amount of time that they take to complete. Enter the biathlon...

The first time I do this activity each year we watch a short video on biathlon, because let's be honest, who living in central Texas knows what a biathlon is? I like to draw an analogy between the passages and biathlon. We talk about how the passage is like the cross country skiing. It takes a while to do, but slow and steady wins the race. You have to pace yourself and check for understanding as you go. Then you have the questions, they are like shooting targets because while you may have six questions to answer, each one is important and you should take your time so you don't get a "penalty."

Next, we establish what the penalties will be. I always have the students come up with their own, and they are simple exercises like 5 jumping jacks, or hopping one one foot ten times. Sometimes you have to reign them in a bit, but for the most part they come up with some great ideas. 

Finally, it is time to get started. Each student gets their own copy of the passage to read and annotate as they see fit. I like to give ample time for them to do this. Then, students move around the room to answer the questions SCOOT style with a certain time allotted for each question. If they get the answer correct they move on, if they miss it they take a "penalty."

It really is simple, but it gets them up and moving. This one has been an especially big hit this year with the Olympics having just occurred. 

Our last activity that my students L.O.V.E. is Vocabulary Relay. This one again, could not be simpler to do. All you need are index cards or small pieces of paper and a list of vocabulary and definitions. The example above are all the math vocab words from our class so far. I typed up and laminated my words for durability, but have used plain old index cards too. They work the same way! Each card has a word on it. 

Students are broken down into teams and lined of on one side of the room, or outside if it is not windy. I like to make teams of four or five. I call out a definition. Students are given ten seconds to discuss what word matches that definition. At the end of the ten seconds I call go, then they run to the pile of words and try to find it to bring back to their team. 

I like to give students that ten seconds before anyone can go to have them discuss it. Once a card has been returned correctly we go over the word and definition altogether, then repeat. 

This activity is always a blast and great to do when you need to get some energy out. We go out to our school's blacktop and run across the whole thing. Students forget that they are reviewing and think they are running a relay... which they are. 

Thank you again for stopping by! I hope that at least one of these ideas will help you beat the test prep blues! 

Next up on the hop is Christina from Sugar and Spice with a post about using new children's books to engage students in discussion! 

You can also look through the linky below to see if there are any topics that jump out at you!


  1. I hopped over during the Bright Ideas Blog Hop!
    Thank you, this is terrific!
    Fern Smith's Classroom Ideas!
    Fern Smith's Pinterest Boards!

  2. I can see kids of all ages loving a game called "Stinky Feet"! It's right up their alley. Good luck with test prep and testing this spring!


  3. Test prep is so terrible - these are GREAT ideas! I can't wait to share them with my teachers!

    Buzzing with Ms. B

  4. Fabulous ideas!! We've been testing till we're all sick of it this last week - I'm definitely going to try these ideas!



  5. In the biathlon, do you check each child's answer as they finish so they know if they have a penalty or get to move on? Or do you have them self-check somehow?

  6. These are awesome ideas that I am certain my middle schoolers will love - so glad a I hopped over!! :)


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