This time of year the birds are chirping, flowers blooming, and kids are testing! During this time, students become anxious to showcase what they learned coupled with the promise of summer soon. This often leads to increased amounts of misbehavior and arguments among their peers. I find it difficult to keep my students focused on working hard.
As the instructional leader of the class, I try to keep a well-balanced classroom. However, testing often tips the scale. The different schedules of testing make it extremely difficult for me to keep normal routines in the classroom. I may not see my students for days or weeks at a time. Therefore, I try to implement things that will keep an academic focus while breaking up the monotony of testing. it is important for me to remind my students that learning is still taking place.
I try first to reconnect with my students and have them reconnect with each other, in order to re-establish the culture for learning so that we can be a functional unit once again.
I utilize 3 things
- Team Builders/ice breaker– These activities help everyone reconnect to the classroom. Team builders can be used to establish or reestablish the positive communication in the class. Team Builders/Ice Breakers decrease anxieties while allowing the students to work together towards a common goal. One good thing is that many activities could be tailored to varying time constraints. These activities allow the students and me to reconnect to one another, bring anxieties down, and add fun and helpful competition to the classroom.
- Activities that incorporate M&M (movement and music)- I couple these two students’ favorites together to enhance the learning experience. This could be done simply as a gallery walk, think pair share, or quiz-quiz- trade. During a gallery walk, I allow my students to walk around the room and complete the observation or give input to music. I used soft jazz or classical although I must admit my students’ favorites are instrumental pop or hip-hop music. Other activities, I simply add music by allowing the students to dance (appropriately) around the class with music and, when the music stops, I instruct them to make pair, triads, etc. with their nearest peer and listen for further instructions. Some examples can be found here: https://www.kaganonline.com/free_articles/research_and_rationale/journalism_students.php
- Students Choice Boards- Choice Boards are a great way to help prevent the students’ resistance to continued learning. These boards are shaped like tic tac toe boards but they are filled with some multisensory activities that the students can complete. The key idea around this concept is that the students have autonomy to pick their assignment or assignments which makes them more vested in their learning. Some examples can be found here: https://www.smore.com/z12ay-tic-tac-toe-choice-boards-menus
No matter what activities, the rigor and focus on academics is a must.
For some, testing will be over soon, for others “it has only just begun.” By being strategic about learning and listening to your students, their survival rate will significantly increase, and so will yours.
Madonna Taylor is a National Board Certified Teacher. Currently, she is the Teacher- Leader at Van Buren Middle School. One of Madonna’s passion is to help and encourage people to find their purpose in life. Email her with your questions at Madonna.Taylor@sdhc.k12.fl.us. Follow her on twitter @ T_MadTeach.