3 Review Ideas to Try Next Week

Three ideas to keep your students engaged while you are reviewing. Making anything interactive will help students stay focused.  By including active movement and conversation you are increasing the students engagement and the opportunity for the information to be retained.

Happy Reviewing!!


  1. Break students into groups of 3 or 4.  Number each group.
  2. Have one person from each group go to the board and draw an object such as a castle. The castle should be labeled with the group number. Give them a 1 minute time limit. (Draw on Flipchart page or Whiteboard)
  3. Teacher will ask a question. All groups discuss and work on the question.
  4. After a given time, a group at random is picked to answer the question.
  5. If the answer is correct, they get to “attack” two castles by putting an X on it. They can only attack each castle once per turn. If the answer is incorrect, the teacher gets to “attack” their object or castle.
  6. A castle is destroyed when it has been attacked three times. (has 3 X’s)
  7. If a group’s castle or object is destroyed—they can stay in the game and continue to get answers correct and attack others but cannot win.
  8. Winner is the last standing castle.

Variations:  Students can attack any object such as a ship, turkey at Thanksgiving, pirate flag, etc.


Stinky Feet

Materials:  A chart created with a stinky foot in the center.

See Example:    http://4thgraderacers.blogspot.com/2013/04/making-test-prep-fun-5-stinky-feet.html

stinky feet

Graphic and idea from Pinterest and above Blog Address.

Around the entire chart, place sticky notes with points such as +3, +1, etc. but also include opportunities to lose points (-1, -4, etc.) which makes it “stinky.”

sticky notes

  1. Students are put into 2 groups.  Each student is given a number.
  2. The teacher poses a question and students put their “heads together” to figure out the answer.
  3. The teacher calls a specific number to correspond to be the spokesperson on one team. The other team must be ready in case the answer is incorrect.
  4. If the student answers correctly, they choose a sticky note from the Stinky Feet Chart. This determines the number of points the team will get. If the answer is incorrect, the other team is given the opportunity to answer and choose from the Stinky Feet Chart.

The creator of this game suggests to put the sticky notes above the chart as you use them so they can reused again.

Here is a STINKY FOOT TEMPLATE (foot page)–print and add your smelly graphics and laminate. Add your sticky note points and you are ready to go!


Review using BOARD GAMES and TASK CARDS for any subject

Bring in board games that children love and know how to play such as chutes and ladders, Sorry, CandyLand, Connect Four, Operation, etc. This is just a way to engage students in question and answers or task cards by allowing them to play a familiar game.

  1.  Students are separated into groups of 4.
  2. Each group chooses a board game and is given a set of task cards with self check answers.
  3. Questions are divided equally among players and placed facing so others cannot see answers or the question.
  4. The board game is played but before a student can have their turn–they must answer a question correctly.  If they miss the question–they lose a turn.

Variation:  You can have students have options (1 each per student) if they miss a question to “Phone a Friend” which means they could go ask one person for input and given 2 minutes to find the answer. You could allow–“Ask a Friend” for help and that person could be given 2 minutes to ask for advice.




2 More SIMPLE EOG Review Ideas

Two more SIMPLE ideas as the week progresses!

A great vocabulary idea is the SWAT IT game below. A variation of the game is to put examples of figurative language in the grid and call out the term which makes students apply their knowledge. You can also include photos or graphics that represent word meanings and call out a vocabulary term that would match it. There are many variations and simple to play.


Materials needed: 4 x 4 grid, a flyswatter

Here is a template:  4 x 4 Grid

  1. Create a 4 x 4 grid.
  2. Fill in spaces with review terms or vocabulary.
  3. Put under document camera.
  4. Divide class into two teams.
  5. Each team is given a flyswatter.
  6. Teacher asks a question and the first person to swat the correct answer wins a point for the team.
  7. The student passes the flyswatter to the next player.

Remember throwing can increase attention and lower stress chemicals in the body such as cortisol.  Watching the movement of the ball improves focus and increases engagement. Use a ball to make questioning part of review more interactive and interesting.

Question and Answer with Ball:

 Teacher begins throwing to a student.

  1. Teacher poses a question and student responses.
  2. If correct, the student throws to the next student. If incorrect, the student throws it back to the teacher.
  3. The game continues with the ball being thrown to the next person and them answering a question.

*Not a game to earn points.

Happy Reviewing!  More Ideas to come!

3 EOG Review “Games”


  1. Put students in a team of 2-6.
  2. Each team selects a leader.
  3. Teacher poses a question to the class. (Putting it up for the class or printed helps students use test taking skills such as key words, underlining, etc.) Teacher sets timer for work time.  (Good time to use the allotted time each student has per math problem on the EOG to get them used to the time.)
  4. Students will write down each answer on white boards or scrap paper.
  5. When timer buzzes—the teacher leader says, “Showdown.” The team will then compare and discuss answers.
  6. The team works together to determine one answer.
  7. Teacher calls “Class Showdown” and each team leader holds up the team’s answer on a white board.
  8. Points are given for correct answers.
  9. The team at the end with the most answers correct—WINS!


These next two games use the 4 answer multiple choice format. They are a bit structured but do not take any preparation to play.  The first game is not competitive but does give the opportunity for students to move and talk which help engagement. In addition, the teacher can formatively assess the class and individuals. The second version has a competitive spirit.


Version 1:  Travel Time

  1. Label or designate each corner of the room to a corresponding letter A, B, C or D.
  2. All students are shown a multiple choice question and given time to work the problem.
  3. Teacher calls TIME.
  4. Students are given 10 seconds to travel to an area of the room that corresponds with their answer choice.
  5. Teacher is able to assess the number of students who answer correctly and the most common incorrect answer.
  6. Teacher leads discussion with students on how to work the answer or have students defend their answers.
  7. Teacher can have students come to board or collaborate with one another to defend.


*If a high number of students are in more than one corner, pairing students across corners to come to a consensus is a good alteration of the game.


Version 2:  Please Stand Up 

  1. Students are put 4 groups.
  2. Each group is designated A, B, C or D
  3. Students are given a question with multiple choice answers.
  4. Students are given a determined amount of time to discuss and work the problem.
  5. Teacher says, “The correct answer please stand up.”
  6. If all students stand, they get a point.
  7. If anyone in another group stands—they lose a point.


Games for “Crunch Time” Review

It is CRUNCH TIME!  As we move through remediation for the BIG TEST—here are a few brain facts to keep in mind:

  • A teacher has less than 3 minutes to engage a learner at the start of an activity.
  • A small bit of stress, competition, can stimulate learning by engaging the learner with a boost in adrenaline. (Remember balance with stress is important)
  • Students learn information more easily in small chunks. We used to think 7-8 but now researchers believe it is 2-4.  Breaks and process time are very important when learning new information.
  • Waelti, Dickinson and Schultz (2001), found a benefit “associating rewarding, positive social experiences with the learning process” which is called dopamine-based reward stimulated learning.  This basically means that students are more comfortable and engaged when talking with their peers so collaborative learning helps to stimulate learning.
  • Graphics can increase retention of information forty two percent which is especially powerful for our English Language Learners and low socioeconomic students who lack background and vocabulary
  • Repetition actually changes the brain and creates a clear pathway for the brain to share information to other neurons.
  • Movement and active learning (GAMES) cross the midline of the brain and connect both hemispheres which increase neuron activity and engagement.


Knowing these facts, using GAMES to increase student attention will also enhance the brain’s ability to learn information.  Remember that learning happens when dendrites are activated and a message is sent along the axon. When the neuron is repeatedly stimulated, synapse occurs which is creating a connection or pathway of learning from one neuron to another.

Here are 3 games to help engage students and their brains during rest review.

Sink or Swim:

  1.  Divide your class into two teams and have them sit across from one another. Assign each student a number. Example:  If each team has 12 people. They should each have a number 1-12.
  2. Ask a question to the team or call out a number and ask that person. They get 15 seconds to answer. (You can increase or decrease this based on the questions you plan to ask)
  3. If the team gets the answer correct, they are able to sink one person from the other team. (They choose by number rather than person)
  4. Then team two gets a question. If they get the answer correct, they can sink a person or save one of their own members who are now sitting in the middle.
  5. The game continues back and forth until one team has no players left.


QR Code Walkabout:

  1. Create a QR Code for 8-10 Math Questions (this could be vocabulary or another subject)  You can use the following site to create QR Codes. It is simply typing or cutting and pasting the information into the link:   http://www.qrcode-monkey.com/
  2. Place QR Codes around your school building.
  3. Partner students and give them a recording sheet. Here is a sample: QR Recording Sheet
  4. Students then will do a “Walkabout” with the goal of completing each problem (showing work) and returning to the classroom in a given time. Students will use the Ipad to “read” the QR code and begin the problem.
  5. If there are two pairs of students working on a problem—they must go to another problem or wait.
  6. If you do not have Ipads for students, you could just print the problem and post it at the designated station.


Post it Practice:

  1. The teacher can write a vocabulary word on a Post It note and stick it to the student’s forehead or their back
  2. The students then move around the room and explain the word to someone else without disclosing the word itself.
  3. After about 15-20 minutes of the students sharing explanations without disclosing the word, the class returns to whole group but do not look at their own word yet.
  4. The teacher will facilitate a discussion by going around and asking what word they think they have and what others said to make them believe that is correct.
  5. The person checks to see if they were correct and the class discusses meaning.
  6. Repeat with next student.

Variation:  Use photographs that represent a vocabulary word or topic.  You can use quotes or events for a history review.

Getting students engaged during this time of year is tough—but with test prep—even harder!  Get them involved, talking, games and movement will improve their attention and engagement while increasing their ability to retain and access the information.

If you try one of these out—let me know!  I have more to share!  I hope you will share a game or activity that keeps your class involved in the comment section.


Too Much Stress = Impeded Learning

Stress is a growing part of our everyday lives for teachers and students.  According to Stanford School of Medicine, the number of children, ages of 7-17, treated for depression has more than doubled between the years of 1995 and 2001.  Based on a report from the National Institute of Mental Health  in 2014, “11.4% of population or 2.8 million adolescents, ages 12-17, have reported a major depressive episode.” Shifts in the home lives and finances of our students’ families, increase in testing, issues with peers and other factors have increased our need, as teachers, to be aware of this growing concern and how it affects our children. Even a small amount of stress produces a shot of adrenaline that can increase alertness and increase engagement such as a competition or struggling with a tough task.  As educators, we must keep a good balance of productive stress while teaching our students to successfully manage stress to keep learning conditions optimal.

Your brain contains 100 billion neurons or brain cells.  These cells have the primary job of receiving information and signally other neurons using electricity or chemicals to stimulate messages within the body. The hypothalamus is the regulation center of the brain which keeps your body at a constant; including temperature, heart rate, etc.  Learning happens when neurons are activated and a message is sent along the axon and when repeatedly stimulated a process called synapse is created. Synapse is created when two neurons are connected from the end of the dendrite. Remember dendrites? When this action happens in the brain, it is relating to the brain the information, action or event is important to remember or retain.


See Image of a Neuron Below:



When the brain is exposed to stress the body begins to release cortisol which is the primary stress hormone. This chemical affects your heart, lungs, skin, immune system and circulation.  In addition, it stimulates the hypothalamus and when it reaches the neuron, it shuts off the impulses of the dendrites which halts learning.  This is a temporary response and the dendrites will grow back UNLESS there is a long term period of stress.  When stress is repetitive the brain will respond by short circuiting that pathway which will stop impulses and result in the lack of input and messaging.

Many of our students are in a constant state of stress from instability at home, lack of confidence in a subject, poor self-esteem, and relationships with their peers, etc. This constant state of stress causes inability to stay on task, inattention, and lack of self control.

The AHA Moment—students in a constant state of stress not only struggle with attention but their brain is actually inhibited from learning due too much or little cortisol.


Symptoms of Chronic Stress:

Symptom Examples 
Physical fatigue, headaches, muscle and joint pain, grinding teeth, stomach problems
Cognitive inattention, lack of concentration, blaming others, poor problem solving
Behavioral loss of appetite, withdrawal, acting out, tantrums
Emotional anxiety, guilt, irritability, uncertainty


Physiological Increase in blood pressure, breathing, heart rate and muscle tension


Looking at the chart above, do you recognize any of your students?


Here are Five Ideas. Try to implement one this week!

  1. Get Active:  Integrated movement where you cross the midline of the brain hemispheres will promote a better emotional state. 2-5 minutes before a test or activity where students need to have a clear mind try this site called Go Noodle (https://www.gonoodle.com/).  It is free and provides active online videos to help your students get moving AND de-stress.  By crossing the lateral line of your brain with movement helps to remove the survival reaction of your brain to a more focused state.

Example of a video found on Go Noodle:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jvgYsbDDZW8

  1. Breathing:  Remember when someone is under stress, they produce cortisol which is impeding the brain’s ability to learn. By adjusting a person’s breathing while under stress, signals reaction and stops or shifts the production of cortisol. You can pair deep breathing activities with a calming visual which deepens the body’s ability to calm the mind and emotions.  The benefits of deep breathing includes more oxygen circulating to the body, cleanses the body of toxic stress chemicals such as cortisol, and begins to refocus attention and clear thinking.

You can access this handout (calm_breathing) for ways to teach deep breathing with your students.  Here are basic guidelines:

  • Take a slow breath in through the nose (for about 4 seconds)
  • Hold your breath for 1 or 2 seconds
  • Exhale slowly through the mouth (over about 4 seconds)
  • Wait 2-3 seconds before taking another breath (5-7 seconds for teenagers)
  • Repeat for at least 5 to 10 breaths

*You can access a calming visual through www.calm.com

3.  Model and practice the “Take 5 Technique.”     big

When students are filled with frustration due to anxiety the “Take 5” strategy is a easy visual to say—STOP and Think.  This strategy allows you to help the child begin an inner dialogue about how to calm down while de-escalating the situation. Breathing or counting is a way to help regulate the brain and stop the focus on the anxiety or emotion that is stopping the dendrites to fire. Students truly do “stop thinking” when in a state of stress or reaction.  Helping them to learn ways to handle this stress will help them learn how to regulate the body.  Click here for a printable version of this technique from:   www.childhood101.com.

4.  Ball Toss or Silent Ball:  Tossing the ball or even the movement of watching someone else, will lower cortisol levels.  This movement increases a student’s ability to focus and concentrate.  As a teacher you can use the ball as part of your instruction during the question and answer part of your lesson. The movement of the ball helps to refocus all students and the unknown of where it will be thrown increases concentration and engagement.  You can also play a ball toss game or Silent Ball for a few minutes (recommendation no more than 6 minutes) before a difficult task to heighten “good stress” by increasing the adrenaline of your students but not overwhelming them.

Click here for directions on Silent Ball:   silent ball

5.  Lazy Eight:   A figure eight pattern will increase thinking and eye movement across the midline of your brain and create coordinated movements. These movements activate the entire brain and the repetition resets neural connections.You can have students take a scrap piece of paper and draw a figure 8 (see diagram below) for 30 seconds continue to retrace.  Have students switch to the other hand and continue to draw and trace the pattern for 30 seconds. Continue to switch hands and draw for a total of 2 minutes.  Another version of the Lazy Eight is for students to physically stand and use their arms extended to move in a figure 8 pattern and move from side to side as you would if you were drawing the pattern.

fig 8 Demonstration here at Youtube


In days ahead, we are faced with the challenge to keep students as free from stress while learning. Remember, for the brain to function, the hypothalamus must be regulated in a stable or regular state.  Deep breathing, active moving, and using calming visuals will help the brain stop making cortisol which impedes learning and thinking.  Learning how to manage feelings of stress is a life long lesson and if we model and practice these skills for our students—they will become healthier AND more engaged in our classrooms. Who knows—maybe we will learn a thing or two along the way!

Resources accessed for this article:

Article by Marian Wilde accessed on March 15, 2016: http://www.greatschools.org/gk/articles/stressed-out-kids/

Statistics accessed on March 15, 2016:  http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/prevalence/major-depression-among-adolescents.shtml





Maximize Learning with Student Discussion

Speaking is a vehicle by which learning happens. Students acquire language by first listening, then speaking, reading and last writing. When you are teaching a concept and think your students understand —ask them to explain it. How often do the ideas of the students become tangled and off topic?  When a child cannot clearly articulate the ideas you have taught—they do not fully understand or comprehend.

Simply having students talking through their ideas will increase learning and retention of the information.  Notice these statistics on retention of information:

Teaching Strategy Applied

Percent of Material Retained

Examples in the Classroom


Students share and re-teach someone else what they have learned





Reciprocal teaching and sharing of ideas by students


Student Practice What they Have Learned




Centers, students applying strategies while reading or math in small groups or independently

This often includes creating or producing a product



Group Discussion



Group discussion on a topic where teacher uses questioning and students share their ideas on the topic as well as the teacher provides corrective feedback when needed



Listening to a lecture with visuals and a demonstration




Direct Teaching with a PPT/Prezi or Flipchart

In addition teacher shows a video clip, demonstrates a concept or draws a picture to help students understand



Listening to a lecture with visuals




Direct Teaching with a PPT/Prezi or Flipchart



Reading Material





Reading an article and answering questions







Direct Teaching of Material (Teacher Talking)

(Statistics accessed from:  http://www.psychotactics.com/art-retain-learning/)

How can we ensure our students are maximizing learning?

Visuals and video clips add to learning but collaboration and sharing ideas elevates learning.  By combining listening, speaking, reading and writing into lessons; you are ensuring that students are actively engaged into the lesson. Sharing material increases the probability the information will be coded into memory by making neural connections.

Here are three easy activities that you can incorporate into your lessons daily to encourage discussion and increase learning.

 #1 Turn and Talk:  Simple I know!  Have students grouped so that everyone has a partner.  There are many configurations such as shoulder partners or face partners but any designated person will work. By designating the partners ahead of time you will have less downtime.  After you have taught a “chunk of information” say turn and talk. Have students turn to their partner and paraphrase what they are learning. After one person shares, the next person responds and shares their version.

#2 FRIEZE which is a fancy way of saying a “statue or decoration” created by your students. After you have taught information, a vocabulary word or concept, have students meet with a pre-designated group of 3-4 students. Students are charged with creating a still “statue or scene” that depicts the concept they have learned. The teacher than should take a picture with a device. Students work together to caption the photo and synthesize the information in written form to further deepen their learning.

#3 Sketch it and Talk it Out: After teaching a concept, students should sketch a visual. You should give no directions other than “sketch it.”  Students will have to process the information that they know and put it into their own thoughts. Next, the teacher should pair students after 3 minutes to share their sketch and explain their thoughts. To take it a step further you can have students caption the sketch for their partner and then defend their caption choice which takes it to the top of Bloom’s Taxonomy Framework.


These are simple activities that encourage students to think about what they are learning, synthesize that information and apply it by sharing it with someone else.  Students learning how to paraphrase and defend their thinking encourages retention of information. In October, I wrote a blog post about Read Aloud and shared a poster. I used to keep this up in the classroom with the following words: STOP Draw, STOP Act Out, Stop Jot, and Stop and Talk. These are the options students would participate in as we read and made notes in their reading journals.  This requires little to no prep except to have predetermined groupings or pairings for your students. Remember pairing learning with visuals increases retention forty two percent.


Wiggling students and springtime sunshine go together. Try out one or more of these strategies and see if you don’t get positive results. When students are in engaged in their learning and processing their own information instead of regurgitating back information positive results occur.

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