Making Test Prep fun with Depth and Complexity

The spring semester is in full bloom (pun intended), and teachers across the country are preparing their students for testing season. If your kids are anything like mine, mentioning test prep elicits groans and face-palms. But reviewing content doesn’t have to be boring. Try these three low-prep methods to get your kids up and moving and breathe life into test prep with Depth and Complexity. 

Graffiti Walls

This activity is a student favorite in my class and is always the first task in our review unit. It is as simple as grabbing several poster boards or sheets of butcher paper, markers, sticky notes, and tape. Draw an icon at the top of the poster board or butcher paper and use your tape to adhere it to the wall. Create one of these posters for each of the iconic prompts and spread them out on the walls around your classroom. Give students a handful of sticky notes and invite them to jot down their ideas about the testing topic using the iconic prompts to focus their thinking. During this activity, I generally queue up a few fun songs to keep them moving and bopping around the room. When they are finished, I have a good snapshot of students’ understanding of the testing topic. We leave these posters up for the entire unit and add to them as we gain new insight through review.

Game Show

I like to go all out when using a game show format to review prior to a test. I’m talking suit jacket, slicked-back hair, and a microphone. Bonus points if I have a spotlight and game show music queued up. When students enter the room, I’m in full-on host mode, asking them to step right up and try their hand at a friendly competition. Kids love the chance to ham it up while working in groups to show what they know. Even if becoming a game show host isn’t your jam, offering students an opportunity to review by becoming contestants is a fun break from the norm. Thanks to our friends at SlidesCarnival, we created an open-ended “Jeoparty” Slideshow using Depth and Complexity categories for your next test review. The slideshow can be used over and over with various topics because the questions are interdisciplinary in nature.

Swat a Thought

While this activity takes a little more preparation than the previous two, it is definitely worth the extra work. First, develop a bank of review questions, statements, or definitions to read throughout the game. I generally use a released test from previous years to make things simple. Then, adhere the iconic prompts to the walls around your classroom. I like to use blue painter’s tape and my Depth and Complexity Icon Cards because they are large and bright. Next, move tables and chairs to be as unobtrusive as possible. Then, use more blue painter’s tape to create a starting line or box where participants stand. Divide the class into 2-4 teams. One person from each team will stand at the starting line with a fly swatter in hand. Read one of your questions, statements, or definitions. Students will race to the icon they want to use to focus their answer and swat it. The first student to swat an icon has the opportunity to win their team 20 points, as long as their answer is correct. The second student to swat an icon has the opportunity to win their team 15 points. The third to swat has the opportunity to win their team 10 points, and so on. For example, if the question was “A student pushes a 51.5 kilogram bookshelf across a smooth floor with a net force of 67 N. What is the approximate acceleration of the bookshelf?” A student might race to swat the Rules icon and then show how he would solve the problem using the rule of Newton’s second law. Another student might swat the Big Idea icon, explain Newton’s second law in a generalized statement, and tell how that statement helps him solve the problem. Assuming both students are correct, they can verbalize their processes for answering the question using the iconic prompt that makes the most sense to them. 

Test prep can sometimes feel like a necessary evil. However, with a little creativity and some critical thinking, thanks to the Depth and Complexity Framework, students can review and have fun at the same time!



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