I know the term "open note test" makes some teachers shudder. Many teachers are completely opposed to this idea. I get it. We love our content areas and want students to retain the information and really know it. How dare students not remember information from my AMAZING lesson on cell membranes?! This is how I picture my students going home to tell their parents about today's science lesson:
But seriously, as engaging as I think my lessons are, studies have shown that students only retain 30-40% of information they see and hear. That leaves 60-70% of the information to be forgotten. I want my students to use their resources in order to become more familiar with that information they would normally just forget. Here are a few reasons why I let my students use notes on tests:
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It's April. Sigh. If you live in the US, you are likely experiencing testing season. Between ACT, SAT, and state exams, it seems like the entire month is taken. Kids are burned out and teachers just want to start teaching again. Students have to be quiet when they finish testing which can be a struggle no matter which age group you teach. If your school is like mine, students aren't allowed to be anywhere near their phones when they are done testing. As much as I would love to see them whip out their favorite book, the last thing many of them want to do is read when they just finished a 3 hour test. Here are some ideas to keep them quiet until everyone else is finished testing:
1. Print out sudoku pages. The first few times I did this I realized many students had never done a sudoku puzzle before, so you might need to teach them. But your left-brained students will have fun working on them! You can print them for free by clicking here.
2. Word Searches- Check out this website where you can print pre-made word searches or even create your own.
3. Coloring Pages- This is my personal favorite stress-relief activity. I love printing out Mandala images and letting my creativity run wild. You can find free ones here, or I've even seen books of them at the dollar store. You can just buy a book and make copies for your students.
4. Extreme Dot-to-Dot- These will take your students quite a bit of time! Unfortunately I haven't found free ones online that are very good, but the books are inexpensive on amazon's website (just search for extreme dot to dot). I have one that I make copies from and the kids love figuring out what the image is.
5. ABC Books- I know this sounds a little elementary, but middle school students enjoy it. Give students 14 pages of paper, have them fold in half, and staple on the edge like a book. Have them write one letter of the alphabet on each page. Then, they have to choose a vocabulary word that is specific to your content area, write the definition, and make a picture. Since I teach science, they might choose acid for A, biotic for B, catalyst for C, etc. It is a great way to brush up on vocabulary from the year.
6. Write a thank-you note- Since teacher appreciation day is coming up, sometimes I have my students pick their favorite teacher at school and write them a thank you note. Then I have the notes delivered on teacher appreciation day. It will truly brighten those teacher's day to read them!
7. Hidden Pictures- Remember the hidden pictures in the highlights magazines when you were little? Well you can print them! Head over to highlights website and print off a few. Are they intended for little kids? Yes. Will your secondary students still love them? Yes.
8. Crossword Puzzles- Here is a website that has pre-made puzzles, or check out this site where you can make your own.
9. Metal Mind Teasers- This one isn't my favorite only because it makes a little noise. If you head to a local dollar store, you will probably find the little metal puzzles that students have to separate by twisting and turning the pieces. Some students manage to do them quietly, but a few like to make it an ordeal, so be careful on who you hand them to.
And last but not least.....
10. Sleep- If your school allows it, let that tired kid put their head down. Seriously. Studies show that teenagers don't get nearly as much sleep as they should. After a 3 hour test, let that brain rest.
Any other fun ideas to keep kids quiet after testing? Drop them in the comments!
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Have you heard these statements before?
"Why are we doing writing, this isn't English class!"
"Why are we doing math, this isn't math class!"
Believe it or not, in science class we integrate almost all of the content areas. The key to this integration is making the learning interesting so you don't hear the complaints. This year I am teaching a biology class of all English language learner students. I not only have to worry about teaching the students science concepts and vocabulary, but also getting them to read and write proficiently so they can pass the state language exam. It's a lot of pressure! I decided one way to get students to write more in my class was to give them fun writing prompts. I came up with 10 prompts per quarter, and would assign them periodically for homework the night BEFORE the concept was taught. Why before? I didn't want to read regurgitated class notes. I really wanted the students to think critically about the science concept and be able to assess their background knowledge. I gave students a grade for completing the homework assignment, but didn't grade them on the accuracy of the content knowledge. It is also a great way to uncover misconceptions and address them throughout the lesson. As I started using these prompts I saw my student's writing skills improve and vocabulary increase.
I not only created writing prompts for biology, but for many science content areas. Check out a freebie from each content area before you buy!
You're giving a big unit test in a few days so you hand the students a study guide. A handful of the students dive in and get it done, while the rest answer about 3 questions and quit. You remind them that it is worth points, so the not-so-interested students wait for their neighbor to finish, take a picture of the completed study guide on their phone, and copy it later. Does this sound like your classroom? It happened in mine all the time. I needed to find a way to get students to WANT to review the material, and study guides weren't cutting it. I started using a variety of review games and puzzles before tests and it has made a world of difference. Student engagement has risen, test scores have risen, and most importantly teacher headaches are a thing of the past. Here are a few games I like to play:
Bingo- This is a great way to review vocabulary. I especially love it for my ecology unit since there is so much vocabulary for students to learn. It's a cinch to create your own bingo cards! Head over to http://osric.com/bingo-card-generator/ and type in your vocabulary words. Choose how many boards you want generated, hit the generate bingo cards button, and voila! For the bingo card markers, I take old construction paper or scrap paper and cut it into small squares. Each student will need about 25 of the little squares to cover their board with during the game. Now the key to this game is to not just call out the words. I call out the definition and make the students cover up the correct word. It will keep them thinking and engaged at the same time. Check out my ecology bingo cards HERE.
Puzzles- Another fun way to review vocabulary. In this activity, students pair up the matching term with it's definition and put them together like a puzzle (see image below). It will take a little time to cut out the pieces prior to playing, but you can use them over and over again. Check out my macromolecules puzzle HERE.
Snakes and Ladders- I like using this game format when doing a trivia review. If you played chutes and ladders when you were a kid, this is basically the same format. The only catch is you need to answer a question correctly before being able to roll and move. If you land on the bottom of a ladder you get to climb up, and if you land on the head of a snake you have to slide down. If you purchase my pre-made versions, you just need the library to print the game boards on large paper and get some dice and game pieces. Students LOVE playing board games, so check out some of them in my store HERE.
Becca of Science Rocks
Hi, I'm Becca! I've been teaching science for 10 years at both the middle and high school levels.