Keeping Students Engaged After Standardized Testing
Instructional strategies and lesson ideas to keep students excited about learning, while reviewing and preparing for the next grade level.
By Kelly Weymouth
As the school year wanes and standardized testing comes to a close, students are itching to be out of the classroom. Elementary school teachers often scramble during this time to keep them engaged, while simultaneously reviewing and preparing them for the next grade level. This can be particularly daunting as the weather heats up and their desire to work hard diminishes. By modifying instructional strategies to include more kinesthetic and inquiry-based activities, your class will be prepared for next year without leaving you begging for retirement. As educators, we should be excited to make the most of those few weeks in the year when we’re afforded some reprieve from district-mandated curriculum.
You may not have enough time to get into a whole novel before summer is upon you, but it might be the perfect time to do a small unit on poetry or a short story. Introduce a new type of poem each day, giving students ample time to create their own poetry. At the end of the unit, have them compile their poems into a book and design a front and back cover.
If poetry isn’t your thing, or is not part of your grade-level standards, consider reviewing a novel from earlier in the year in dramatic form. Your class could create their own scene or reader’s theater from a particular chapter of the novel. Include costumes, props, sets, and lighting to enhance the story. Incorporating drama into the classroom provides an opportunity to grow as public speakers and may be particularly beneficial to the oral language development of English learners.
Math builds upon itself in a way unlike other content areas, thus it is extremely important to give students many opportunities to review and practice skills they have learned throughout the year. Instead of xeroxing more worksheets, try integrating some fun games that will solidify the concepts you have already taught. There are some great lesson and game ideas below.
In order to review science concepts, you might want to recreate some of the experiments or demonstrations from throughout the year. If your class kept a science journal, have them look back and develop questions for further research. Use those questions to design some simple inquiry-based experiments. If your class has access to research material and other technology, ask students to research and present their own findings to the class. As a fun activity, they could create their own book or television episode explaining a particular science concept you covered in the year to classes a grade below them.
History and Social Studies come alive when they are made real and relevant. If you’ve covered the main social studies units already, it might be fun to turn one of them into a classroom simulation. For example, if they have learned about the basic economy of a community, consider pairing them off to form businesses. Each group can decide on a product to sell, calculate their costs and projected profits, organize materials and uniforms, and even designate a charity to which they will donate a portion of their profits. You could even invite other classes or parents to come shop at the businesses.
Interactive Game and Lesson Ideas:
Take a story and turn it into a play, incorporating dialogue and staging. This enhances language, literacy, and public speaking skills through the use of drama.
Kinesthetic movement is used in this lesson to review basic math facts. A beach ball is tossed. Whoever catches it must answer the problem written on the beach ball on which their right finger lands.
Learn what it would be like to live under an authoritarian regime by creating this simulation. It could be modified to learn about other forms of government as well.
Reinforce science skills of observation and classifying objects. Your class canvases the campus collecting trash and other items and then graph their results.