Friday, April 27, 2012

Testing Week Down Time

Testing week is upon us.  From Tuesday through Friday we will have full school days and I will be spending over 7 non-testing hours with a rotating group of 130 students.  Three fourths of these students I have not had any class time with at all this year.  So, I sit and ponder how to provide quality activities that will make their testing week as positive as possible while they are spending time with me, a complete educational stranger in their lives.  I think I have come up with some low tech mathematics ideas and resources I would like to share for those of you who are in a similar boat or are just wondering what the heck I am planning on doing with these middle school kiddos for four days.

Last Monday April 23 - the day after Earth Day my students explored the Brita Water Filter 3 Act Math activity from Dan Meyer's Three Act Math Activities.  I showed the short video about plastic water bottles circling the Earth and it really hit home with the students.  Here are the questions my classes came up with: Brita Questions.  The reason I am bringing this up is because it is leading up to my first activity for testing week

A Year Is...  I will begin by showing all of the students the Brita Commercial (19 second version) to remind those students who got to play with the math what we did, and for those who did not, to introduce the idea of a year of their life.  Then I will share some of things that I am considering for "A Year Is... in my life.  I will be thinking of those this weekend.  Then the students will have some quiet time to list some thoughts, then share with their groups, then we will make a class list of ideas that will enable the students to steal from each other.  We should have some interesting ideas and discussions.  My goal for this activity is to give the students a mental break while connecting to their lives and integrating math that is meaningfully applied to a topic they are interested in.  The students will produce posters that can be displayed in their homeroom classes for our "Showcase Night" which is our schools version of Open House.

The other activity will be math art which will be some form of tessellations since that incorporates pre-algebra standards.  It again allows the students to explore math topics but gives their brains a break after testing and allows for cooperative interactions and a relaxed atmosphere.

Finally, I have one of my classes everyday because it corresponds to our lunch schedule.  For this class I am going to use the book, Creating NIM Games.  I am not sure how many of you are familiar with NIM games or the game of Poison, but it is something I love to do with my students EVERY year.  I begin by showing the students the basic NIM Game Rules, it is not a fair game and so it is a hoot watching the students play and discover strategies and collectively create moves and counter moves.  I let them practice and play each other and then we have a class "tournament".  Right when the kiddos feel confident in their ability to win, I introduce a new NIM game (the above book has a plethora of them).  If we have time the students will create their own NIM game which is the culminating activity in the book.

My goals for the week:

  • Give students a mental break while still providing learning opportunities
  • Creating an atmosphere that is relaxed, collaborative, and creative
  • Allow a brain break
  • Respecting the students' need for learning experiences that  are the opposite of the testing environment
  • Mix seriousness and fun
  • Lighten up the atmosphere during a stressful week for students
Thank you those I stole ideas from!


  1. Your students (guest and familiar) are so lucky to have you! These are fantastic plans. What will you do to 'get to know them' at the beginning of the rotations?

  2. Hey Kim,
    I will probably cruise around the room while they are working in groups and chat with them. It is my goal to know all of them by name by the end of the week.

    Thanks for reading the post!

  3. Kristen,
    You always have such awesome technology connections and a way to get everyone involved. Kudos! Very thoughtful and engaging. Everyone that comes into your path learns and grows! Love the Dan Myers connections and how he influences all of our thinking. Great ideas. Students always do better when their affective filter is down. I think myself and students do well when they are given permission to let the mind ponder mathematical situations in a non-pressured, non-formal manor. Those times have been times of breakthrough for me. Let us know how this worked. Chrissy

    1. Hi Chrissie,
      Thank you for the kind words! I'll keep you posted on how it goes!1