Saturday, March 18, 2017

Amazing Race: A Fun Way to Review or Get Ready for State Testing

It's about that time when teachers start reviewing previously taught skills and/or getting ready for state testing.  I'm in Texas, so we have the STAAR (State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness) for 3rd grade and above.  I teach 4th grade, so our students have three tests to take; reading, math, and writing.

This is my second year in 4th grade, and let me just say that test prep can be so boring!  Let's be honest how much fun can it be to read passage after passage and answer question after question.  I teach four classes of reading, and I don't even want to prepare like that day after day.  I'm always looking for ways to make my class more fun and engaging, but I really wanted to do that for test prep. There are times when my students have to sit in their seats and read the passages and answer the questions.

We have completed 2 Amazing Races and my students are still begging for another one!  That should tell you how much they enjoy it.  It is similar to the reality show in the fact that there are road blocks with challenges and a detour with a task to be completed by one person.

Each time I had my students work in pairs.  I only had one group of three if the class had an uneven number.  I wanted both partners to do the work, so I tried to be very thoughtful about making my groups.  I did not want one partner to carry the group.  This is a self paced activity, so you may not want to put two slow workers together unless you plan to take time to keep them moving.  We worked on our Amazing Race for 4 days.  You can definitely complete it in less days by having the students complete the challenges a less number of times, and not assigning as many questions for the skills.

I work with an amazing group of 4th grade reading teachers across my district and we actually put together this Amazing Race together, so that it was not a lot of work on one person.

First, you need to decide what skill or skills you want to review.  The second time we played, we were reviewing for our upcoming benchmark.  We were reviewing fiction, drama, expository paired passages, and poetry.  This would enable use to review many TEKS (Texas Essentials Knowledge and Skills). Here in Texas we have our own standards instead of following Common Core.

This is how I displayed my objectives just in case I had a walk-through by one of my principals.
We picked out one passage for each genre (fiction, drama, expository paired passages, and poetry). Since we were getting ready for benchmarks, we rewrote some of the questions to look more like questions our students would see on the test.  We are 1:1 with Chromebooks in 4th grade, so we decided to save paper by only giving the students the passages (so they could locate text evidence). All the passages were stapled in a packet (the only time I've ever given them a packet of any kind), and given to the students after they completed the first challenge.  We put all our questions in Canvas (our learning management system).  You could put your questions on a Google doc or Google Slide, or you can have them on task cards.  You do not want to give them the questions in advance.  They complete the challenges to earn their questions.

Each student had their own set of passages, but each group had one answer recording sheet. After they completed a challenge and earned the questions, they read their passage and answered the questions by locating text evidence.  I would not even check their answers if each partner did not have text evidence underlined or highlighted in their passage.  In order to move on to the next challenge, each group had to get 100% of the questions correct.  I checked their answers and if they missed any they had to go back and make corrections.  This way groups are not just rushing through and writing anything down instead of taking this activity seriously.

Next, you will want to pick your challenges.  You'll want to pick challenges that you have most of the materials on hand, and that will not take a long time to complete.  Since we were reviewing four genres, we needed four challenges.  These are called Road blocks in the Amazing Race.  You will want to designate a space in your room for each challenge to be completed, so you do not have materials all over your room. Students complete road blocks to earn their questions.  This is the fun part for your students.  Be sure to pick challenges that will be engaging for your students to complete. Pinterest has many pins for Minute to Win It games.  Our students completed each challenge 4 times (2 times for each partner; groups of 3 decided which partner would go twice).  If you need to complete the Amazing Race in a shorter amount of time, you could have them complete them 2 times instead of 4.  Each partner needs to complete the challenges one at a time.  They can not work on completing their part of the challenge while their partner is working, and they should not help their partner complete their challenge.  We decided on the following challenges; run of four, coin sort, cereal box puzzles, and hula hooping.  We created cards for each part of the race with directions for the students to prevent lots of questions.

Since all of your students will start at the first road block, you will need enough materials for each pair to complete the first challenge at the same time.  We decided to start with a run of four.  For my largest class, I needed 12 decks of cards.  A run of four is 4 numbers or face cards in order.  For example, 2, 3, 4, 5 or 9, 10, Jack, Queen.  Player one deals 4 cards to Player two.  Player two decides which cards to keep and discards the other cards.  The dealer gives player two the same amount of cards they discarded.  Play continues until Player two has a run of 4.  Students shuffle the cards and begin again until they have completed the challenge 4 times.  I forgot to take pictures of this challenge.

The second road block was coin sorting.  I borrowed a bunch a plastic coins from second grade.  I filled baggies with a mixture of coins.  For this challenge, I only had enough materials for 8 groups. Since groups get here at different times, I did not have enough for each group.  Partly because I did not have enough materials for 12 groups, and partly because I did not have enough space in my classroom.  Students take turns sorting the coins into different piles.  When finished they had to put all the coins back into the baggie and shake it before their partner was able to complete the challenge. I forgot to take take pictures of this challenge too.

Our third road block was putting together cereal box puzzles.  I got this idea from Pinterest.  Click here to read more about it.  I had the students bring in the front of cereal boxes.  You will want a variety, so that each group can put together 4 different puzzles.  You'll want to express the importance of putting all the puzzle pieces back in the baggie and closing the baggie.  A few of my puzzles were missing pieces by the end of the Amazing Race.

The fourth challenge we did was to Hula Hoop for 10 seconds.  The students either loved it or hated it, but the majority loved it!  Some of my boys had trouble hula hooping, but I insisted that everyone try.  You will need hula hoops and timers.  I only had enough for 3 groups to go at a time.  I borrowed the hula hoops and timers from our P.E. teacher.  Decide how long you want them to try before either letting them try to hula hoop on their arm (which most of my boys could do, just beware of flying hula hoops), letting their partner complete the challenge 4 times, or adding up all their attempts to equal 10 seconds.

We included a detour in the middle of our Amazing Race.  For our detour we decided to practice vocabulary skills.  We did a two part detour.  For part one we had the students read a short passage, and answer context clues questions.  I checked their answers and when they had 100% correct, they moved on to task 2.  For task two the students went on a figurative language scavenger hunt. Even though we taught many types of figurative language, our scavenger hunt focused on similes, metaphors, and idioms. I set this up in the hall to have more space.  Pairs had to get 100% correct to get back to the Amazing Race.

The last thing you will need to do is give each road block a location.  You would be surprised how excited your students will get about the locations.  We picked Dubai, Iceland, Finland, and Paris.  For our detour we picked Venice.  I found a picture for each location and included a map.  I put this up a few days before we started the race, to get the students excited.

We decided to give our students a finial destination task.  They had to label each passage with the genre of that passage.

I kept track of where each group was at in the race by quickly checking in at the end of each class as they turned in their passages and answer recording sheets.  As they moved through the race, I let them know what place they were in for the race.  In one of my classes, a team that was in 7th place going into the detour ended the race in 1st place.  It's all about the work they put into answering their questions.

The engagement level in my classroom was 100% each day while doing the Amazing Race.  My students are begging to do another one, and have been making suggestions for locations and challenges.  It was well worth spending four days to review in this manner.  We did very well on the benchmark!

Well, that's all I got!  See you around the blogging world!

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