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Five No-Fail Activities for Testing Season

Updated on May 7, 2015

Help! It's Testing Season!

At this time of year it’s hard to tell who’s closer to a panic attack, you or your students. Whether you are the one administering the brain-numbing standardized tests, or you’re just monitoring and doing damage control, here are some activities that will keep students engaged when their brains are fried.

1. Extreme Dot-to-Dot Explorers

Connect the Dot puzzles with over 300 dots. For some unexplainable reason, these are both addictive and soothing for the frazzled child. Type this in a Google search and print them out yourself (check the images for a high resolution), or purchase a book online (they’re about $10).

2. Color-By-Number Anatomy

This is not just any old color-by-number. The drawings are detailed, organ systems are explained, and the colors are complex. Yes! $5 online. If you don’t have time to wait a week, do a web search for “color by number printables” and print a few with large image sizes.

3. Stories With Holes

These riddles are incredible! Just today I had a teacher friend who relayed to me the distress of students having to sit at their desks thirty minutes prior to testing with nothing. Nothing at all. She is a first year teacher, and this is the inner-city, people. Yesterday when she tried an activity they balled up the papers and threw them at her. These are short riddles, students ask you yes or no questions to narrow down the scenario. Print this free PDF here, or buy some books online. I do these regularly after lunch as a calm-down activity. They love it.

4. Pictograms

Also known as Rebus puzzles, these are something my students regularly beg for. All you need is a document camera, and if you don’t have that, you can write these on the board. They are picture puzzles and like crack for kids. My management plan includes a Beanie Baby unicorn named Steve who passes from student to student as they raise their hand and get the correct answer. Print them for free here or buy your own online for around $5.

They've started bringing friends for Steve. I'm talking 6th graders!
They've started bringing friends for Steve. I'm talking 6th graders!

5. Board Games

I keep old bed sheets in my classroom in a box labeled “rugs” (remember the boxes?) Yesterday I presented the board games I had in my classroom, had students write their name on a post-it and list their favorites 1-5, and then grouped them accordingly (3-4 per group). Each group grabbed a “rug” and stayed on it for the duration of the game. Let them know you will switch them every 20 minutes and that way no one is upset about not getting to play their favorite game. I suggest going to Goodwill, raiding the school (especially the after-school supplies), and begging your friends (unless it’s Wineopoly). Here are some games I know they like (keep in mind you’ll have to probably play with them, rotating from group to group, because my kids tend not to read instructions):

  1. Monopoly (let’s be honest, this will take more than 20 minutes. But it’s good for your kids who are sick of it to switch)
  2. Scrabble (I had to explain this to them, but some ended up loving it)
  3. Chess (YES!)
  4. Sorry (Why were they obsessed with this?)
  5. Uno
  6. Life (Incredibly valuable for those sweeties who aren’t usually exposed to practical life skills)
  7. Mancala
  8. Bank Account (this requires a lot of supervision from you, but it opens doors for some incredible discussion on finances)

Pain Free Testing Days Ahead!

I personally have used all these strategies and not only are they engaging for kids who just can’t think anymore, they’re great for incentives. I suggest switching activities every 20 minutes or so, or setting them up as centers. Kids need structure and a feeling of progression when they're stressed. Comment below on other things you’ve tried post-testing, and let me know how the activities go!

How to Play Chess, in case you forgot ;)

How Do You Handle Testing?

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      Vivienne Ziegler 

      3 years ago



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