Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Fourth Grade Test Prep: Math Review Centers with Combined Classes!

Our state testing is exactly 1 week away!  My fourth graders will take their math MCAS right in the middle of Teacher Appreciation Week.  Sad, but true, so what else can I do?  Pretend I didn't realize/care to my kids, whine to my colleagues, and have my fun this week instead with some of their favorite math review centers!

My Long Division Task Card Center
Now that we have a year of Math in Focus under our belts I got a sense of what concepts the book flies through and require additional practice.  So over the summer and throughout the year, I made games and activities that targeted 2 digit multiplication, long division, lowest common multiple, prime and composite numbers, equivalent fractions and fraction of a set.  Every so often I pull out these centers and group kids according to which skills they need (keeping a strong student at each group unless I plan to work with the lowest kids while the strong kids have a challenge to do). 

My Color Multiplication Learning Center
This past week, however, I had another idea to really motivate the kids and keep the centers from feeling stale.  I asked the other fourth grade teacher in my building what he planned to do for review, and when he said with a sigh, "just keep going over old MCAS tests," I asked if he'd like to join forces!  My idea was to "mix up" the classes, and have half of his class come to my room, half of my class go to his, and have a mix of half and half in each activity station.  Being the epitome of easy-going, he said sure!  

My Prime or Composite Game
We decided to have a nice long block of time, since kids would have a new environment, half of them would be learning a new activity (Mr. E. had his own favorite fraction activities that differed from my usuals) and there would be a whole new group dynamic trying to work cooperatively with kids they hadn't worked with in nearly a year.  We also decided on only having kids visit 2 stations in that time so that they got a taste of transitioning (and nearly all could have a chance to visit the "other" teacher's room) but they didn't feel too rushed and frustrated to have to leave an activity just when they were getting the hang of it.  So we settled on 45 minutes on the first activity (since it would include some introduction time) and 30 minutes on the second activity, with 5 or 10 at the end to debrief and clean up before lunch.

My students' names don't really span the alphabet.  ;)

Next, I created a table for the groups.  Names of centers on the vertical, and teacher's names on the horizotal.  I put those kids who could use a challenge into the activities Mr. E. had created, then used my test data analysis to place the other kids into activities that they needed to practice.  I made sure I had at a child with a leader-type personality in each, but with my class there is no shortage of those!  I knew that if they could teach a center to someone else, they would feel much more confident come test time.  Once that was finished, I filled in a second copy of the sheet for session 2, making sure I had different kids in each, and I handed it off to Mr. E.

Once he got me a copy of the finalized roster, I wrote the 7 centers on the board (sorry no photo of this) and a piece of colored construction paper got taped under each.  I copied the 6 names for each center underneath, then flipped the papers over and wrote the next six names on the back.  This way once we were ready to switch groups, it was as easy as flipping over 7 papers.  It went pretty easily!  They did have to pack up and bring their centers into the other room at the end of the first session (to help everyone get their change of scenery) but that also ensured couldn't blame any mess on the previous session, since they had to have everything they needed in order to play for the half hour, hehe.  

Mr. E.'s Fraction Game
Overall, it was a huge success!  The kids seemed very invested.  They seemed to enjoy showing new people how to do the games they were familiar with, and they concentrated hard on learning a new game that their peers were already familiar with.  Then they relaxed and had fun until it was time to move on.  It really helped keep math practice fresh and interesting during a time of the year when test anxiety can make school feel like the last place you want to be.  At the end of the second session, Mr. E.'s kids were thanking me!  This Friday we're going to repeat the process, (I was so excited I stayed that Friday to write my new rosters) but have 3 sessions instead of 2 now that they're familiar with the process.  I never thought I'd say this, but I can't wait for our next MCAS review day!  

How do you keep review interesting prior to your state exams?

My Blog:  Shut the Door and Teach (Today's Post is on the end of my Fraction Unit)
My Store:  Amber Thomas's Classroom Favorites


  1. I love this idea! I've been doing centers for review as well. The kids have so much fun teaching each other.

  2. We do something similar to prepare for MCAS. In years passed my teaching partner and her class would team up with us and 12 parent volunteers. This year we're doing it with all six 4th grades, three each morning. Some activities are already chosen (the must dos) and the rest will depend on how the kids do tomorrow on our grade level mock MCAS. I'd love to know what activities you used.

  3. Very clever. Both teaching and learning are all about integration of methods. It's not just one way that's going to pull you through, but a dynamic and coordinated game plan, with several other persons in tow, for interpellation and critique.


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