Saturday, March 16, 2019

How to Create a Fun Test Review Camp

Setting up a test review camp, whether it's for STAAR or any other state test, can be fun and low-stress! Games and camp-themed activities are great motivation for elementary school students. Whether you're planning a reading, writing, science, or math camp, read about ideas for setting up the camp, organizing, decorating, planning hands-on activities, and fun tips for making your test prep camp a hit!Test review camps. They're fun, they're memorable, and they're definitely a better way to spend the last few days before the test than slogging through more passages or 1,000 multiple choice questions.

Looking for fun ways to motivate your elementary school students without breaking the bank?

These ideas will help you plan an engaging test prep camp, meet your standards, and give your kids an experience to remember!

Special thanks to Mary Lou Fierro, @crystaltxteach, Tiffany Brown, Leslie Turner, and @sidetalkingteacher for sharing your camp photos!

How to structure your camp

Depending on how your grade level is functioning as far as team teaching, self-contained, etc. there are a few different ways you can structure your test review camp.

#1 The Team Approach

The team approach means that you and your colleagues will work together to pull of a test review camp. To do this, you'll want to divide up the activities into different rooms. Each teacher is going to be responsible for a different test review activity. Kids will rotate from room to room completing the activities. This means you have to consider a few different things:
  • Activities need to take about the same amount of time to complete
  • Will you group students by their existing class, or into differentiated groups? This could be an opportunity to teach at different levels if students need different levels of support to be prepared. For example, you could have a group of students who is needing to meet the standard at a basic level. You'll provide them with "survival skills". Then you may have a group who's been successful to this point and you want to provide them with extension activities, or lessons to help them move beyond the basics.
  • If kids have been taught to approach the test-taking strategies differently in different classes, you'll have to figure out if you're prepared to align those strategies, or if the kids will have the freedom to approach problems and questions in the way they're already familiar with.
  • What behavior expectations are in place? Are they consistent enough to support your students as they move from room to room?
  • Any specialized support personnel who come into your classroom should be used effectively. Group students so that there will be a support person for those who need it. Will they travel from room to room, or stay in one room in which the kids will need the most support?

#2 All in one Room

If you do your test review camp all by yourself (which I've done MANY times and it's still fun),  you will create the stations in your own room and have students move from activity to activity within your room. You can schedule it to take place all throughout one day, or two days, or you can do it a little at a time, like I explain in #3.


#3 A Little at a Time

For this approach, you'll reserve a chunk of time every day to have students complete either one activity as a class, or to complete one station activity. This can be a challenge if you want to create a camp-y setting, though, because you'll have to have your decoration-type stuff out for a week or two, depending on how long you're running your "camp".



How to plan activities that actually meet your standards

This is the most important thing, right? When you're planning your activities, I REALLY recommend that you think about the following things:
  • How many kids will you want in each group? This might determine how many activities you plan. If you need to, you can create two stations of the same activity to keep the group size small. (I recommend groups of 3-4, tops.)
  • Will you run a station? Plant yourself at a table and support students through a station that will challenge them, or one that you NEED them to learn something new or finally make the connections they need to in order to be prepared.
  • Will you have kids check their work before they finish the activity? You can provide an answer key in a folder if you want kids to check that they've done the work correctly.
  • What standards will students be tested on the most? This is where you should focus your activities.

  • Look at a released test to see what kinds of thinking kids have to do and what the context of the thinking is. 
  • Cute activities are fun, but the activities the kids spend their time on need to hit the exact standard that they'll be tested on. 
    • Writing example: Will they be asked to combine sentences? In what way - using FANBOYS? Complex sentences? Appositives? Whatever the kids are asked to do, your activity needs to require them to do that.
    • Math example: Will students have to problem solve using graphs? What kinds of graphs? Pie charts? Bar graphs? Pictographs? With keys? Whatever the kids are asked to do, your activity needs to require them to do that.
    • Reading example: Students obviously have to answer questions. But in what genres? What strategies are kids being asked to use? What kinds of evidence do they have to find?
  • Provide students with a blank notebook or journal as their "Camp Journal". They can write in their notebooks whenever they finish an activity. 
  • Hands-on materials are especially engaging. Using sentence strips for sorting or revision, puzzle pieces or index cards for matching, dry erase markers and laminated materials, and dice make for a fun day.

How to keep track of the stuff kids do

Why do you need to keep track of what they do? There could be a few reasons: quality control, accountability, and grades. To keep track of what kids do (and motivate them at the same time) you have a few options.

1. Use a punch card or bracelet. Create a punch card with a table on it. Each square in the table represents one station activity. As students finish the activity, they earn a punch on the card.


2. Have technology in your classroom? Use the Seesaw app. Have students take a quick picture of the activity they have completed and turn it in.


3. Create a Camp Memory Book. Each student will have a set of recording sheets that they will complete as they move through their activities.

4. Have students earn a "camp badge" for each station they complete.


How to make it camp-y

Here comes the fun part! Tons of fun ideas for making your camp...like a camp!

#1 Dress up. Wear khaki, a bandana, a whistle, and carry a clipboard. Allow students to dress the part too, by wearing sunglasses and bringing sleeping bags and canteens.

#2 Set up sleeping bags, kayaks or canoes, camp chairs, wading pools, and pop tents for different activities.









#3 Decorate with red checkered tablecloths, small lanterns, stuffed or inflatable "wildlife", and tackleboxes.







#4 Use butcher paper to decorate and create rivers, bushes, and trees for a campy ambience!






 #5 Create a campfire out of paper towel rolls or rolled-up butcher paper, or project a fire video using your laptop and a projector.



#6 Make s'mores or fun camp snacks.


Scooby snacks, marshmallows, and chocolate chips.
Cinnamon toast crunch, marshmallows, and chocolate chips or chunks.


#7 Turn out the lights and have kids read with flashlights!

Setting up a test review camp, whether it's for STAAR or any other state test, can be fun and low-stress! Games and camp-themed activities are great motivation for elementary school students. Whether you're planning a reading, writing, science, or math camp, read about ideas for setting up the camp, organizing, decorating, planning hands-on activities, and fun tips for making your test prep camp a hit!


#8 Sing camp songs or play them on a speaker.


#9 Use camp themed activities. Ideas that are related to camping include...
  • fishing
  • pitching a tent
  • backpacks/gearing up
  • hiking
  • wildlife, such as bears
  • white river rafting
  • building a campfire
  • telling ghost stories around the campfire
  • s'mores & hot dogs
  • observing nature: trees, wildflowers, etc.
  • looking at the constellations
  • national parks
#10: Use camp themed materials. This might include read alouds like A Camping Spree with Mr. Magee or test prep materials specifically designed to help your kids review the skills they need, like Camp Reading Ready or Camp Write-a-Lot!

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Texas-State-Writing-Test-Prep-Camp-Camp-Write-a-Lot-2459907

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Camp-Reading-Ready-Texas-State-Reading-Test-Prep-Review-3732363

 
Want to try out a free nonfiction features station from my reading test camp? 

 
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