Wait, wait, wait. Did I just use the words "fun" and "test prep" in the same sentence?!
Yes, I did! Before you mentally roll your eyes and click away from this blog, I promise I am not being sarcastic at all. You can make test prep fun for your students. This time of year, as many teachers and students are facing the end of the semester, it can be a daunting task to try to review for upcoming exams and benchmark tests. Instead of making it be a chore and dreadful, spice it up a bit and provide a bit of spark to your review.
Task Cards Make Review FUN!
One of the easiest and most effective ways I have found to review anything with my students is the use of task cards. Task cards are simple to make and can be used with students from kindergarten through high school (personally, I would also use them with adult students learning English as a Second Language because they are just fun). You can also buy task cards for just about any subject you can think of on sites like Teachers Pay Teachers or Teachers Notebook (when I search the term "task cards" on TpT, I get over 21,000 hits!). Most task card sets are sold in bundles of 24-32 cards which makes it easy if you'd like to use the cards in a center, small group or as a whole class.
Here's an example of a task card set designed for Primary Students
Here is a task card example for middle/high school
One of the main reasons I like task cards so much, aside from being visually appealing, is that they are so versatile. Especially now that most districts are using the Common Core, you can make (or purchase) task cards to fit almost any Common Core Standard that you can think of. While you wouldn't use task cards to introduce concepts, they are more appealing than worksheets due to their smaller size and the addition of graphics and can very easily be used as games to really turn on the fun.
My 4th graders absolutely love to play Scoot! I love it to because they often don't realize they are actually reviewing material because they are having so much fun. Playing Scoot! is very simple. First you decide which concept or skill you'd like to review. (I often use this game with math but you can really use it with anything that you can fit on a task card.) Make sure there is a card for each student in your class (if your set has too many cards, just leave out the extras; if there aren't enough, you can double up a couple). Decide how students will move around the room and allow them to practice before you actually play.
Here's an idea of how my students rotate for Scoot! Since I only have 24 students this year and my desks are in groups of 6, its very easy. You can rotate however makes sense for you, your classroom setup and the number of students you have.
Once you have practiced a bit and your students have the hang of it, you can begin. I like to tape the cards to the desks so they won't fly away as the students are moving about (especially as the student at spot 24 moves past all of the tables to get to spot 1). Some teachers simply lay them on the desks. Provide your class with a task sheet or some other way to record their responses. Depending upon the type of problems and concept you are reviewing, you will want to provide 1-3 minutes for each card before you ring a bell or chime and say "Scoot!" signaling your students to move to the next card.
A Few Tips
1. It's a good idea to make sure all of your task cards have the same type of answers (ie multiple choice or short answer) if you are going to play Scoot! so you can be sure some students aren't finishing really early and having to wait another minute for kids who had a different type of repsonse.
2. If you are finding students bored with review and test prep, ask yourself whether or not you could use task cards to accomplish the same review.
3. You do not have to play a game to use task cards. You may not even have the space in your classroom for that kind of movement. You can even use them as whole group review by putting them on the document camera or overhead and having student respond on white boards.
I hope that if you haven't used task cards before that you will try them now! If you have used them but haven't played Scoot!, I would encourage you to try it. You'll be amazed at how your students (yes, even big ones!) will beg you to let them review using this game. It becomes somewhat of a competition for them but it also helps to reinforce the key skills and concepts you really want them to learn.
This week's tech tip is an incredible website called online-convert, which quickly and effortlessly converts various types of media files. This free online file converter changes media files easily and quickly from different types of file formats to another. Online-convert supports a lot of different source formats and the site allows users to search for the conversion needed and if it is not available the site states that it can probably can help users in some way to find a resolution.
This website is very useful in so many different ways. For example, I had my students create a short story using Microsoft Word on the American Revolution. The end product was that this story would become an e-book that could be read by an iPad, Android tablet or Kindle device. Using online-convert, students simply took their Word file stored on Dropbox uploaded it to the online-convert site, choose the target format and then the site will provide you the converted file to download to your device. Also, there have been many instances where students created a document at home and did not have Microsoft Office installed, so that when they brought their files to school, the computers could not read the file. Online-convert allowed me to quickly convert the files that the students needed without having to download another program or to have the student purchase Microsoft Office.
Online-convert also offers premium services as well in case users have larger file sizes up to 1 gigabyte. For example, if you wanted to convert a small movie clip that was 1 gigabyte, you would spend $49 for a monthly subscription and receive the highest priority conversion speeds, convert up to 10 different files at the same time, have ad-free pages, send files encrypted over the internet for privacy and email the file if necessary. I highly recommend this site for any user that works with various types of file formats.
Want to turn your students into geography whizzes? It’s never been easier. There is a plethora of resources online and for phones and tablets that make studying and teaching geography a breeze--and fun, to boot. Google Earth is a great resource, but there’s so much more out there!
National Geographic Mapmaker Interactive
It’s no surprise that resources from National Geographic top the list of best resources for geography. Their Mapmaker Interactive turns students into cartographers. Students start with a map of the world, and can zoom in to any area of interest. From there, they can add icons to indicate structures such as schools or train stations, natural landmarks like volcanoes, and oddly, meerkats. Maps can be overlaid with physical and human systems, and completed maps can be downloaded as XML or PNG files. Don’t stop at Mapmaker Interactive--National Geographic also has historical maps and downloadable and printable 1-page maps of many countries.
Mapping Our World
Mapping Our World, an interactive website for teaching about maps and geography, was created by Oxfam, a UK-based charity that works on global poverty issues. This website is set up to be used with interactive whiteboards like SMART or Promethean, but it would be easy enough to adapt it for a projector. The site includes three lessons, each with multiple parts. Teacher notes are provided for each part, and you can use the entire unit, or pick and choose parts. There’s a lot of great information here. Lessons clearly explain the difficulty of translating a round globe to a flat map, and there is an in-depth discussion of the difference between the Mercator, Peters and Eckert IV projections. There’s even an interesting segment on the first-world bias of certain maps. Interactive games will keep kids engaged in the lessons.
For geography on the go, there are a ton of great apps out there. These are two interesting ones.
Stack the States - This app covers the geography of the USA in a fun, easy to use game. Students have to answer questions about geography, state capitals and famous landmarks, then “stack” the corresponding states to reach the goal line. A nice feature allows multiple players on the same device, so students can build on their scores. Stack the Countries is the same idea with a global focus.
The World Factbook: Not to be confused with the CIA World Factbook (also a great resource) this app offers detailed information about all of the countries of the world, including flags, maps and political, cultural and geographic features. This app makes a great resource for a class on world cultures or geography.
Once you’ve checked these resources out, if you need more great ideas for teaching geography, in 2012 the New York Times Learning Network published an article, All Over the Map: 10 Ways to Teach About Geography. Many of the suggestions are NYT-specific, but could easily be replicated with your local newspaper.
This week's edition of Tech Tips, is a resource that I use all the time in my social studies and psychology classes. This website provides free educational resources for middle school, high school, college students and instructors, is called HippoCampus. There are a variety of subjects on the HippoCampus site, such as math, natural science, social science and the humanities. For example, under the social science category there are economics, history and government, psychology, and sociology resources available. Within the history and government category, you can find simulations, AP U.S. History content and collections from various institutes such as the Virginia Historical Society.
Some of the main features of HippoCampus are:
- Playlists allow cross-collection mix
- Browse by Subject
- Browse by Collection
- Multiple collection search and retrieval – by subject, textbook, standards
- Subject-specific blogs with PD and ideas for integrating Hippo content into lessons
In my 7th grade social studies class recently, I used HippoCampus during our learning about the Boston Tea Party. First, we watched the video portion, discussed some of the main ideas and then the lecture portion of the class, where many examples from the video could be discussed further. For lesson closure, students then listened to an account of the Boston Tea Party by George Hewes and then had to answer a question: "If Americans believed they were overtaxed and wanted to retaliate against Parliament, why was there only limited support of the Bostonian's actions in the harbor?" The examples referred to above are just a "tip of the iceberg" when it comes to HippoCampus. This educational resource is a website that any teacher or student would immediately bookmark and love to use as an addition to their learning.
HippoCampus.org today serves over 250,000 teachers and students a month. Teachers can create playlists of content from HippoCampus or any website, customize HippoCampus to your subject and textbook and teachers can share your custom HippoCampus site and Playlists with students searchable by topic for student after-school homework help.
This week's tech tip is a very useful tool to keep track of volunteers for any kind of activity, for any kind of organization, especially schools. The service is called VolunteerSpot and claims it can boost parental and community support for projects because of its ease of use making signing up for activities less stressful. It is easy to get things planned by first setting up a schedule, inviting people and then having parents and/or students choose a spot by clicking a link to sign up. VolunteerSpot will send out reminders periodically before the event so that people are sure to not forget their commitment.
There is a free service, which includes:
- 365 day calendar with easy planning wizard for shifts, jobs and supplies to bring
- Participants sign up with a few clicks - no registration required
- Quick multiday copy
- Free Group Page — customize with logo & activity links
- Automated email reminders
- Easy smartphone signup and calendar sync
- Print sign in sheets, calendar summaries and rosters, export data including basic hours
- Send thank you notes
- One activity organizer
- Collect Contributions
There is also a premium service which includes:
- Everything the free account includes
- Participant hours tracking report
- 5 customizable activity registration fields
(e.g., T-shirt sizes, group affiliation,
teacher's name, child's name)
- Advanced reporting
- Up to 10 assistant organizers
- Up to 30 Participants: $4.99/month
- Up to 50 Participants: $9.99/month
- Up to 150 Participants: $19.99/month
- Up to 400 Participants: $29.99/month
Finally, I plan on using this service for the trips that I plan for students, such as our Albany, NY trip and European trips. There are so many times that I kept various sign up sheets all over in various file cabinets, then I have to set up email lists and someone or something usually gets lost. According to VolunteerSpot, there are 10 good reasons that teachers should use their service and having just started to use the service myself, I completely agree!
Top 10 Reasons to Use VolunteerSpot
- NO MORE REPLY-ALL EMAILS
- EASY TO SET UP
- MORE PEOPLE SIGN UP TO HELP
- MORE PEOPLE SHOW UP TO HELP
- CLIPBOARD COMPATIBLE
- FLEXIBLE invite by email or a shared link in a newsletter, web site, Facebook or Twitter
- SAVE TIME
- COLLECT CONTRIBUTIONS
- IF YOU CAN SHOP ONLINE YOU CAN USE VOLUNTEERSPOT!
Check out this video!