Friday, June 20, 2014

What to do after THE TEST

Here in Virginia, we call our standards tests SOL Tests:. It is supposed to stand for Standards of Learning, but - you know.

Anyway, these SOLs occur at the end of the year, often as close to the very end of the school year as possible. In most schools that I know of, the testing usually ends with just a week or two left in the year. That means that when THE TEST is over, students assume all learning ends. It doesn't help that most teachers fall into this trap as well (we know how burnout goes - and once the kids think you're done it's hard to convince them otherwise). I try my best to do math as long as possible. It's even a great time to fiiiinally get to show some of the cool things math can do. Also, my Algebra students get to do "expedited retakes" if they fail the test within 25 points, so I am often remediating them and have to amuse the other students with something they can work on pretty independently. Here are just some of the activities I've done with my middle school students:

Logic Puzzles - A lot of the students enjoy these puzzles, which they see as "not math." Oh, if only they knew how important logic is, not just in math but in life in general. Ha! Tricked you! The cool thing is my students often come back asking for more puzzles.

Basic Cryptography - I show my students just a couple of basic cyphers. A random letter cypher and then a Key+ cypher (if this has a better name, someone please let me know). They decode my messages, then spend the class writing secret messages to each other. A lot of my students want to go into the military, so they find this particularly interesting.

Transformation Pictures - My pre-algebra students loved doing these and I liked that they challenged themselves with content we studied, even if they didn't realize that. We did a tessellation picture for translations, then for rotations, dilations, and reflections they created their own pictures to transform. They were interested in how some of the pictures overlapped and others didn't. Plus they were able to get super creative with their coloring/designing.

Graph Pictures - We've all done these Graphiti-style pictures where they plot the points, draw the lines, and color the picture. I take it a step farther by having students create their own picture and write their points. Then they rated the pictures Easy, Medium, or Hard and switched points with someone who had the same rating. Differentiation, skills practice and review, "making it fun." A perfect lesson.
The list of points created by one student. This one created a robot I believe. 

Set - This is an awesome game I learned when I was in 8th grade. My students love to play card games - and generally when we have some downtime I allow them to get decks from the closet and play. I love having an open classroom where they have certain drawers and/or cabinets that they know they can go into. It just makes the whole setting more comfortable.

What cool activities do you do with your students?

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