10 Ways to Test Smash {Make Your Test Prep Rock}

Ten ways to use Test Smash {Make Your Test Prep Rock} The 2nd and 5th ones are my favorite!
It's that time of year. The time of year to get ready to build up our students' confidence and build their learning to the point of mastery. If you have been around the blog at all you have probably noticed this Test Smash series that I have used, with a lot of success, to track student data, key in on what our strengths are, and use this data to build small groups that allow students to reach mastery. 

I have loved Test Smash from the moment that I started using it, but I have to admit, at first it was a bit daunting. I mean, each page, which is meant to be completed on a single day has 12-14 questions on it covering the major concepts of the content for that grade level. It's a lot, but it is worth it. 

Any test prep can be monotonous, but there is really no need for that with all of the amazing strategies that we have in our teacher tool belts. I know sometimes it gets tough this time of year, and we go for what is working instead of what might be the most engaging way to reach all of our students, so I thought I would help out with a list of strategies I have used to break up the monotony of Test Smash. 

While I would NOT encourage you to choose one of these strategies to use every day, I loved to mix it up once or twice a week over the fifteen day period that Test Smash covers. This allows students to experience a bit of variety which breaks up the monotony of test prep. 

Bell Ringer

This is a pretty traditional method. Basically you can display the problems using your document camera or project directly from your computer on a screen and students answer in their notebooks. This is usually how I used it, and allowed students to use each other as a resource to complete the problems.

When the allotted amount of time was complete, we would review the problems as a class and students would complete their data sheets.

Stinky Feet

This is hands down my absolute favorite review game ever. I could go on, and on, and on with how much my students and I both LOVED this game. For a full description of the game, check it out here. Seriously, check it out.

One of the things that I LOVE about using this strategy is that each problem is completed cooperatively, and then you review each problem individually as you go along, so it is a double whammy of skill reinforcement. This is also the perfect chance for students to complete their data sheets.

Game Board

I have not personally tried this method, but Mary from Teaching with a Mountain View has a great post here with lots of ideas for using game boards with task cards, which would follow the same principle, just with the problems for the day cut up or numbered.  

I would still recommend reviewing each problem either cooperatively or as a class so that students are able to see the work and complete their data sheets.

Ten ways to use Test Smash {Make Your Test Prep Rock} The 2nd and 5th ones are my favorite! Fish Bowl

I love the fish bowl strategy because it allows students to complete as many problems in a period of time as they are able to. This is a great strategy to try if you are pressed for time. The fish bowl strategy is played similar to how you would play SCOOT. You cut apart the questions and place them in a bowl. 

Depending on the size of your class you probably want to use more than one copy of the problems. The way I manage this is to make three copies on different colors of copy paper and assign a color to each student. Every time they draw a problem they draw that same color.  I liked to use a plastic fish bowl that I purchased at DollarTree, just to add a little something to it, but you could use anything. 

To start, each student draws a problem to solve. As they finish they return the problem to the fish bowl, draw another problem, and continue. If they draw a problem they have already completed then they return it and try again. 

Once your allowed amount of time has gone by you review all of the problems so that students are able to see even the problems that they didn't get to and are able to complete their data sheets.

Interactive Notebook

Much like the bell work idea this one is for when you want students to work through all of the problems, most likely individually. In this case each student gets a copy of the day's questions along with the recording sheet to glue into their interactive notebook and solve. 

When students have completed their work or as time allows, you go over each of the problems and complete the data sheet.

Scavenger Hunt

This strategy is a bit time consuming, but is a great way for students to have a chance to move around the room a bit. I liked to have lots of room for students to spread out, so I would make three copies of the questions of the day on different colored paper and assign each student a color. Then I cut apart the questions and hung them around the room. It was the students' job to find each of the problems and solve them. 

In the end we would come back together to review the questions and for students to complete their data sheets.

Find Someone Who

This strategy is another great way for students to get up and moving while completing Test Smash, but does not guarantee that each student will solve every problem, which in my book is okay from time to time. 

Students each have their own recording sheet with their name on it as well as the problems. It is the job of the students to stand up, hand up, and pair up to find a partner. Once they have their partners they trade papers and solve a problem. Then they trade back and find a new partner to repeat the process until they have completed all their problems.

I always challenge my students to answer as many different questions as they can, and work with as many sets of students as possible. After the allotted time is over we come back together as a class to review the questions and complete student data sheets.

Sage and Scribe

This strategy, in my mind, is one of the most powerful that I have ever used, and it is all because of the academic conversations that students have while doing it. You too can be amazed by your students' academic language using these steps:

Partner students up. Each set of partners gets one paper and one pencil. The first partner is seated with the pencil as the scribe, the second partner stands behind them as the sage. It is the sage's job to tell the scribe exactly what to do, explaining their thinking the entire time. The scribe writes exactly what they are told to do where they are told to and can offer coaching and praise to the sage. When they have completed the problem they trade roles and continue to repeat the process with opposite roles. 

Due to the nature of this strategy, while walking around the room you are able to hear your students' thinking as the sage talks the scribe through each problem. This metacognitive process is enlightening to say the least.  

When using this strategy students are only able to complete half of the problems each, so filling in the data sheet can be a bit tricky, but is still worthwhile. 

Snowball Fight

This is a great strategy to use if you are short on time, but still want to stick with the routine of including Test Smash in your daily test prep routine. 

To complete this activity you will need a couple copies of the problems for the day cut apart so that each problem is separate. Each problem is given to a student who then crumples it up into a "snowball." When given the go students throw the "snowballs" back and forth at one another until time is called. Then they pick up the snowball closest to them and solve that problem. This process can be repeated as many times as you can. 

I would still recommend reviewing each of the problems as a class and completing the data sheets so that students are exposed to all of the problems. 

Easter Eggs

Ten ways to use Test Smash {Make Your Test Prep Rock} The 2nd and 5th ones are my favorite! This strategy is another great one for getting up and moving, and is especially fun outside. Again, you will need a couple of copies of the day's problems cut apart. This time though you place each of the individual problems into plastic Easter eggs. For simplicity's sake, and to save time, I usually have two different sets of eggs (maybe one pastel and one bright colors) so that students are not finding the same problem multiple times. 

I then take these eggs and hide them either around the classroom or in an outside location and turn my students loose. This strategy is similar to the scavenger hunt, but the eggs add just a little bit of novelty to the activity.

Again, I end the activity by reviewing the problems and having students complete their data sheets. 

Summing Up 

This is by no means an exhaustive list of how to use Test Smash which is available for math, (third, fourth, and fifth grade) science, and writing. To be honest, my first year we simply did the problems each day with very little variety aside from splitting the problems into two days instead of one for the first couple of days to get used to the format. The moral of this story is you do you. Is there a strategy that works well for you and your students? Use and abuse it! For my class, Stinky Feet was the absolute BEST way to get my students excited and engaged, so we did it a lot. A whole lot. Find what works for you and capitalize on it.

If you are looking for more ways to review all year long before the big test hits, check out this post on The Magic of Math Stations/Centers

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  1. Thank you for your ideas! I used the game Stinky Feet today. My students loved it.

    1. I still stand by saying that Stinky Feet really is the BEST review!


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