Fun Games: Good for Relieving Testing Anxiety

A few weeks ago I wrote a post over at iTeach Third where I shared a few tips on how to help ease your student's test anxiety. {You can check it out here}  Today I'd like to continue on the topic of testing, but focus on something a little more positive...

In Florida, 3rd grade testing is a BIG DEAL. You see for my poor 3rd graders, their performance determines whether or not they have to repeat the year.  That's a lot of pressure to put on an 8-9 year old. No wonder the thought of the BIG TEST leaves them with a pit in the bottom of their stomachs.

That's why this year I've decided to carve out time before the BIG DAY to have some testing fun! I started out the same way I do every year... by reading  The Big Test by Julie Danneberg. She's also the author of First Day Jitters.  As usual my students LOVED it!

This book is all about a teacher named Mrs. Hartwell who prepares her class for the Big Test by going over a few important test taking strategies. Our very own students can relate to this...

The best part of this book though is the surprise ending when her students anxiously enter the library all frazzled about having to take the BIG TEST... however instead of being greeted by a scary testing monster they enter into a room-full of silly tests such as a taste test and a driver's test!!!!

Doesn't that look like fun?

I loved this idea so much that I decided to create my own version of Mrs. Hartwell's Big Test. The games below are a sample from my Test Prep: Bundle of Fun Unit which can be found here.

After reading the story and discussing with my students how they could relate to the children in the book, I let them know that it was time for us to take our very own Big Test. I proceeded to gather some testing supplies...
As my kiddos began to notice some of the items in the testing basket, their worried little looks began to disappear. They knew that something was up! We spent the next hour or so T-E-S-T-I-N-G...

First we tested our bubbling skills...

... and learned that many of us have some "mad" bubbling skills. Did you see how they managed to stay INSIDE those bubbles without being able to see! The only help they had was the directions their partner was giving them such as "go left, no a little bit more to the right... yea right there, bubble!"

Next up... I-SPY the Big Test Version...
Each team had 3 minutes to locate as many items as possible on their I Spy sheets. Check out the GREAT teamwork that's happening...

Another one of our favorite "Tests" was called Follow the Reader... This game tested if we were careful readers and if we could follow directions correctly...

The Reader's job was to read a series of tasks to their partner. The Follower had to listen carefully and follow the directions such as "place 3 red M&M's inside of the circle"... Some of the groups had to reread the last task carefully because they incorrectly assumed that the last M&M belonged in the empty shape {Which it did Not!} Great opportunity to remind your students NOT to assume ANYTHING, but to read directions carefully!

We ended our testing session with a game of Pin the Passing Score on the Big Test where everyone was given a passing score medal, blindfolded, and spun around a few times. They I gently guided them in the direction of "The Big Test" sign taped to the board. As you can see below, our Big Test is covered in awards... Woo Hoo... way to go 3rd graders!!!!

Don't you wish ALL tests were this much fun?
It did feel GREAT to take a much needed break from all the practice tests and strategy sessions we've been dealing with lately. My kiddos and I left that day feeling reenergized! Now it's your turn to share... I'd love to hear what YOU do in your class to keep your kids calm about the Big Test.

Click the picture to see more...

8 Party Games Good for Any Time of the Year

This week I blogged over at Minds in Bloom about 8 FUN party games you can play in your classroom. I think you are going to love these games! The best part is that they are great for ANY time of the year. Here's a quick teaser...

With so many holiday and class parties happening throughout the school year, I'm always looking for games to play that are simple, easy to setup, and LOADS OF FUN!

The 8 games that I'm going to share with you are some of my students favorites and would work wonderfully ANY time of the year. The best part is that they require minimal prepping or setup, which is a BIGGIE in my book! I mean, who has time to put together complicated games with a gazillion different materials when you have a room full of 25-30 excited and wound up kids bouncing off the walls ready to have some FUN!

1. Anteaters- This game is one of my students favorite!
Materials Needed: 1-2 bags of plain M&M's or Skittles, straws, and paper plates or napkins (either one will do). Instructions: Divide students into teams (the number of teams doesn't matter). Give everyone about 20-25 M&M's. I like to prep these ahead of time in reusable and sealable plastic containers or Ziploc baggies. (The M&M's represent ants) The goal is for students to pretend to be anteaters, and use only a straw to suck up and transfer as many ants/ M&M's as possible from a napkin to a paper plate in 1 minute. The team that transfers the most wins.

Head on over to Minds in Bloom to read the rest of my post...

8 Ways to Help Ease Your Students' Test Anxiety

This week I blogged over at iTeach Third about how to help ease your students' testing anxiety. It's unfortunate but we all have those students that get REALLY nervous during the Big Test... some so badly that they actually make themselves sick. If you know what I'm talking about, then I think you're going to love the 8 tips I share and the freebies I've included. Here's a small teaser... 

My students and I are currently in Crunch Mode... unfortunately this does NOT mean that we spend the day doing stomach crunches or eating Crunch bars, although I wouldn't mind a Crunch bar marathon :0) Instead this is what we call the last few weeks before our high stakes testing begins. For most, this is also the time when anxiety levels are through the roof for teachers, students, and parents alike. Especially in my state (Florida) where student retention is determined based on test scores.

I've seen first hand how HORRIBLE anxiety can be. It can cause so many symptoms ranging from stomach aches, head aches, clammy hands, nausea, sleepless nights, anger, frustration, inability to think clearly and even hives! (Yes, I actually had a parent break out in hives one year due to stress) 

We can't change the fact that our students have to test, what we CAN do is help them deal with their testing anxiety. If you're unsure where to start, here are 8 ways you can help...
  • Practice Breathing Exercises- In my school we call our relaxation technique S.B.G. or STOP, BREATHE, and GO. When students feel frustrated during a test, they stop and close their eyes, breathe in through their nose and out through their mouth (2 times), and then go on or continue with their test. We practice how to do this quietly at our seats so that others aren't disturbed.

    Head on over to iTeach Third to read the rest of my post... 

Distributive Property of Multiplication

For many years I dreaded having to teach my 3rd graders the Distributive Property of Multiplication. They just always seemed to struggle!

Then one day I had an idea that changed ALL of that and teaching the Distributive Property has actually become one of my FAVORITE math lessons of the year!

What’s my secret you ask?
The Distributive Doctor 
more on Doctor D. in a little bit... 

But first, let's talk about planning... I like to block out a few days (usually 3-4) in order to provide my kiddos with plenty of practice at all 3 levels of instruction: concrete (using manips), pictorial (making drawings), and abstract (using numbers).

  We begin by...

Manipulatives are key in order for students to be able to "see" and truly understand this property. So we use them quite a bit in the beginning!

I'll start off by having my students show me an array. (This step is usually easy, since we've already learned about multiplication and arrays.)

Next, I tell them that we're all going to be distributive doctors or surgeons for the day! They LOVE this! I even refer to them as Dr. Smith or Dr. Rodriguez :0) You should see their faces light up when I call them all doctors!!!!!

Our first "operation" as newly named Distributive Doctors is to use our scalpels, otherwise known as popsicle sticks, to cut our arrays. 

Using an EXPO marker, I have them write on their desks a multiplication expression for each of the arrays. (Don't worry, the writing comes off easily with a tissue.) 

At this point we spend some time discussing that we haven't added or taken away any counters so the number of bears we started with has not changed. What has changed, however, is how we've decided to group them. 

Next, we add both arrays together to find the total. We repeat this a few more times and practice "breaking apart" the arrays in both horizontal and vertical directions. 

The following day we practice some more! 
Drawing Pictures is next... Once I feel the majority of my class has mastered breaking apart with counters, we move on to pictorial representations. We follow the same steps we practiced above, the only difference is that students are no longer using manips., but instead drawing pictures.

You can make things interesting by using a Q-tip and paint. The key is to provide plenty of time experimenting with the Distributive Property so that students become comfortable with it.

You can even set up a center with supplies such as graph paper, scissors, colored pencils, and glue sticks.

One of our favorite activities is Doctor D. You can check it out by clicking here.

Using Numbers is the last step. Now that students have had plenty of practice visualizing the Distributive Property, it's time to remove the support.

Some students will reach this level sooner than others and that's okay. The goal is for all kids to receive PLENTY of practice and support in the beginning, so that by the time they get to the abstract level of understanding they get what's going on. All of the hard work and time that was put in in the beginning will pay off in the end!

I hope you can take an idea or two back to your classroom! If you have other ideas on how to practice the distributive property, share them in the comments below!

Many of the resources used in this post come from my 
Distributive Doctor resource which can be found here.

Looking for more great math ideas? 
Click here to follow my Math Pinterest board...

YouTube Channels: Focused on Science Experiments

I love using science experiments to help my students understand difficult concepts. And although I know how hard it can be to find time to prep, carry out, and clean them up, I also know that it can make the world of difference.

Sometimes a lab is the deciding factor in whether or not students make the connection between what they're reading in a textbook and the real world.  It also doesn't hurt that the kiddos  LOVE being little scientists and watching/making "cool" things happen! So you'll score some extra brownie points with them too!!!

To help you save time searching the Internet for experiments, I've compiled a list of 5 AMAZING YouTube Channels focused on science and experiments. You can also download my FREE Scientific Method Foldable resource in case your students need a refresher.

1. Sick Science!- This YouTube channel is all about easy peasy science experiments for kids. It is by science extraordinaire Steve Spangler so you know it has to be INCREDIBLE because that man is a science guru.


2. SciShow Kids- This kid friendly channel does a great job of exploring many topics that kids wonder about such as what causes thunder and lightning, why do we burp, how do animals stay warm, etc... What I love about this site is that it makes topics easy to understand and even includes science experiments and their explanations. If you don't have time to conduct an experiment, your students can watch the experiment being carried out and then hold a discussion. {Although I'm going to warn you, after watching these videos, your students are going to want to conduct the experiments themselves.}


3. The Quirkles-  The authors of this channel actually have a series of books that include 26 imaginary scientists that focus on helping children develop a love of science. If you want to check them out you can go here. What I love about their YouTube channel is that they have science experiments that go perfectly with each monthly holiday. For example, during the month of February when we're all trying to think of activities that tie in to Valentines, your students could learn what the blood that pumps through our ❤ heart ❤  is made up of.


4. WhizKidScience- This channel created by an 11 year old and his brother who both love science. What I love about this site is that it's by kids for kids and that the brothers always explain what they're doing step by step. Their experiments are easy to follow and are made using common household items.


5. Doctor Mad Science- This channel is hosted by a 13 year old autistic boy. It is another site for kids by kids. The majority of Jordan's experiments use household items and are simple to replicate. (Some steps will require an adult) This site is a great place to get ideas for future classroom experiments.


Are you ready to try out some of the experiments demonstrated in these channels? If so, which one caught your eye?

Find more Science Activities and Ideas Here:

Setting Goals and Sticking to Them [freebie]

I know it’s hard to believe, but another year is coming to a close and you know what that means...  'TIS THE SEASON FOR SETTING GOALS!

This is the time of year when everyone gets all excited about New Year's resolutions. I know that I get pumped up at the thought of a new beginning, a chance to start all over again,  a real life do over just like in the movie Groundhog Day

But how many of us set goals and ACTUALLY stick to them? 
Let’s be honest here, folks! I’ll go first...

I LOVE to set goals! I really do... I usually have them all mapped out in my head (mistake #1) and I start off really psyched. Then some times life gets crazy busy and I end up falling into my old routines and out the door goes some of my goals. When this happens my motivation quickly follows.

That's why I've come up with 5 tips for setting goals and STICKING TO THEM! These tips will come in handy when we return in January. We're going to spend the first few days working on these New Year booklets where we look back at 2015 and then plan goals for the New Year.

To make sure that we succeed, 
here are the 5 tips that we're going to stick to...

The first thing that I've learned about Goal Setting is KISS or KEEP IT SIMPLE STUPID! Limit the number of goals you make. I know that around the New Year there's so much we want to do, and accomplish but it's best to start off with fewer goals and once you accomplish those move on to others. 

Having too many goals is difficult to keep track of and nothing ends up getting done. For students in 3rd grade and above I recommend setting a reading, math, and perhaps even a writing goal. With younger students you might want to focus on one goal at a time.

Coming up with goals that are EASY to achieve will mean students will experience small successes. This will then motivate them to keep on going and deter them from giving up. In the beginning it's important for our students to feel success with goal setting. Especially, if we want them to adopt this type of mentality for the future.

It's been proven time and time again (I'm proof of this one) that simply thinking or speaking your goals isn't enough to make them happen. You actually need to set aside some class time to brainstorm. Then have your students WRITE them down. 

Once students have written down their goals, it's important to post them up somewhere in the classroom where they will have a constant reminder of what they should be working towards. Remember... OUT OF SIGHT, OUT OF MIND! That's part of the reason Tip #3 is so important.

Make time to reflect. After coming up with goals, decide how much time you're going to give your students to work towards their goals before you have them reflect on their progress. 

Keep in mind that you don't want to wait too long or you run the risk of students forgetting about their goals. I suggest waiting between 1-2 weeks and then discussing how they did. This might be a good time to discuss that sometimes when we don't meet our goals we need to figure out what may have gone wrong and what they should do differently going forward. 

It's important to stress the importance of not giving up! Why weren't they able to reach their goal? Was their goal unrealistic? Did they not put in the effort or did they simply forget about their resolutions?

If you're interested in any of the resources in this blog post you can download them for FREE here or by clicking the picture below. 

So friends, have you used goal setting with your students before? If so, how do you introduce it in your classroom and what have you learned about the process? I'd love to hear your ideas!
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