Articles by Rachel Samuel

5 Popular Test Review Games For Middle Schoolers

 

You have come to the end of a chapter or unit, and now it is time to prepare your students for the test. It can be tough to engage students with traditional study guides, and middle schoolers present additional challenges. If we are being honest, watching students struggle to review their notes and complete their guide isn’t much fun for us teachers either.

Looking for ways to liven up your reviews? With more and more classrooms having access to technology, teachers can create fun and engaging review games to help students prepare for upcoming assessments. Here are some games to help reinforce skills in a fun and educational way that are guaranteed to have your students looking forward to the next test.

 

📊 Quizizz

Quizizz is a free fun multiplayer classroom review tool that allows students to practice and learn together. It’s easy to create quizzes and fun to use with avatars, leaderboards, themes, music and memes to keep your students engaged. There are many educators who created public quizizz that are either skills or standards-based. Teachers can access detailed class and student-level data at the end of each quiz, which provides insight into the entire class.

 

💻 Kahoot

Kahoot is a game-based classroom response system played by the whole class in real time. Multiple choice questions are projected on the screen. Students answer the questions with their smartphone, tablet or computer.

 

🧦 Stinky Feet

The rules are simple. Students are to answer questions in teams using the “numbered heads together cooperative learning strategy.” Any and all teams whose answers are correct get to choose a sticky note from the Stinky Feet poster. Each sticky note has a point value on it, some positive points and some negative.

⛄ Snowball Fight

For this game, everyone writes one review sentence or question on a piece of paper. Students stand in a circle around the room. Everyone balls up their paper into a ball and throws it into the middle of the circle. Each student picks up someone else’s snowball and reads the sentence aloud or answers the question.

 

🌍 Around the World

The goal is for a student to go all the way around the room and get back to their own seat first. The player who does so wins the game. Begin at the front of the classroom at the first seat in a row. The student from that seat stands next to the next seated student. Show both students a card with a review question. The first student to say the correct answer gets to move to the next seated student. The student who loses sits down. If a student answers five consecutive questions, they sit down and play begins with two new challenges.

 

Preparing for tests can be stressful for students and teachers. Whether you are using technology or not, spice up your reviews in order to make test prep a bit more enjoyable for everyone!

Are you looking for more ways to engage your middle school students? Visit bit.ly/platformreadtolead to learn more about our research-based learning approach which combines innovative learning games, data-driven tools, and educator resources to personalize learning for all youth in grades 5-9.

Five Clever Appreciation Gifts for Fellow Teachers (or to Treat Yourself)

Teachers deserve a huge thanks for all they do to help develop the future leaders of our country. Teacher Appreciation Week is an excellent time to tell them how much their dedication is valued.

Teachers are accustomed to receiving gifts from parents and students, but what about gifts from other teachers? Here are five clever gifts to give to a fellow teacher or even yourself!

 

🗒️ Sticky Notes | $15 via Amazon

Credit: Learning In Hand

What teacher doesn’t love sticky notes? A fun way to bring your sticky notes to the next level is to use a template like this one via “Learning in Hand” blog to print (!) pre-made messages or graphics onto the notes, game-changer!

 

🏷️ Label Maker | $30

We all know “that” teacher who is extra organized and has pretty much labeled everything except her students! Step up your game with this easy-to-use label maker so that you can identify all of your teacher tools. Pro Tip: Label your label maker…it will get borrowed!

 

💧 Aluminum Water Bottle | $19 Amazon Prime

In order to be present for students, it’s always important for teachers to take care of their health! Staying hydrated is one way for teachers to do that, so consider purchasing a fun water bottle like this one to help you or your teacher bestie get all the water you need in for the day!

 

🖍️ Dry Erase Markers | $17 via Amazon Prime

Credit: Amazon

As teachers come to the end of the year, many are finding their supplies are running low. Dry erase markers have been reduced to sad, dried out sticks this time of year. Make someone’s year buy purchasing a colorful pack of this teacher favorite. Plus, this set comes with extra black markers!

 

📦 Teacher Subscription Box | $35/Month

Who doesn’t like receiving packages in the mail? Consider gifting a subscription box to yourself or your favorite teacher. Subscription boxes are delivered monthly and contain an assortment of products. With this gift, you can look forward to a surprise every month!

 

Teachers are very special people who deserve so much for their dedication to giving students a quality education. The team at Read to Lead and Classroom Inc. would like to thank educators everywhere for serving students, encouraging curiosity and inspiring students everyday.

The Power of Anchor Charts

If you’re anything like us, you enjoy the professional development that is teacher Pinterest. We can easily get lost for hours looking for activities, finding teacher blogs to read, and collaborating with other educators. One thing we love looking up are ideas for anchor charts.

Anchor charts are instructional tools displayed in the classroom for students to reference. They provide information to support a lesson the teacher has taught or to remind students of routines and expectations in the classroom. They make the learning visual for your students. Here are 3 ways to use anchor charts in your classroom:

Credit: A Cupcake For The Teacher

 

1. Create anchor charts during class

In order for anchor charts to have the most impact, they should be created while you are teaching the lesson. It is okay to have a framework or an idea in mind before making it, but do not present a completed project to your students. As you are teaching about the lesson or introducing a new strategy, that information should be written on chart paper.

Involve your students by asking for their input and giving them the opportunity to help you create the chart. Even if it doesn’t end up looking Pinterest-perfect, your students will be more engaged in the process! When the chart is complete, place it in a spot where students can access it easily.

2. Use anchor charts for classroom management

Think of them as friendly, visual reminders of classroom routines and procedures. You can have charts telling students what to do when they are finished with work, the procedures for using the classroom library, what transitioning in between centers should look like or how to engage in accountability talks. These charts can stay up all year long if need be.

3. Use anchor charts as a reference tool

Do your students forget how many vertices a rectangular prism has? Maybe they need a reminder of different transition words that can be used in their writing? Not every lesson needs to be turned into a chart. Determine the important ones that students will need. Students can refer to them instead of asking the teacher, effectively taking ownership of their learning. Anchor charts are a great tool to use in your class, and can be an excellent way to involve your students in their learning. Some charts may stay up forever, while others may be used during the lesson and then reappear later to be used during a test review.  

4. Use anchor charts in Read to Lead® 

 

While most teachers like hand-drawn anchor charts, we of course have to mention digital versions, like the one we have in the lesson plan on “Building Bridges: Problem Solving in the 21st Century”! The great thing is that this lesson can be used as a tie-in to any of our 3 games in the Read to Lead® suite, so it’s a great 21st century problem solving teacher resource to use before your student sign up and dive into the game!

Anchor charts keep learning accessible to students. Students can refer to them and use them as tools as they think or to question, to expand ideas, and to contribute to discussions. They are an amazing resource, so grab some chart paper, or sign up for a free Canva account, and your students and start with creating!

Five Ways to Celebrate Earth Day with Your Students

Earth Day is a global event celebrated in many countries around the world. As teachers, we have the opportunity to educate our students about respecting and saving our environment. Here are five ways to celebrate Earth Day with your students on Monday.

  1. Organize a school event

Work together with other teachers and your principal to plan a school beautification event. Assign grade levels different sections of the school to pick up trash, paint walls, and tidy up classrooms. Have an assembly and invite a local scientist or environmentalist to come speak to students about the importance of taking care of our planet. Consider starting a composting program, planting a garden or even trees. In addition to making the school, beautiful, trees reduce CO2 and ozone levels.

  1. Read books about the earth

Help students understand why they should care for their planet by reading to your class.There are so many books about Earth Day topics. Some titles include One Tree by Green Start, Compost Stew by Mary McKenna Siddals, One Plastic Bag by Miranda Paul and Mark Kurlansky’s The World Without Fish: How Kids Can Help Save the Oceans. This is a paperless activity, so not only are you teaching your students about the planet, you are doing your part to save it.

  1. Seek student input

Ask your students what environmental issues they want to solve. Help them look into how they can start at the local level. Read to Lead has free lesson plans and activities tied to community engagement. One example is a community service project. After selecting a focus issue, students will create a visual display to inform an audience, learn presentation skills and prepare a brief speech on the topic. At the end of this project, students will be encouraged to make a difference with concrete examples of how they can affect positive change in their community.

  1. Have clothes/supply drive

Instead of throwing away clothes that are now too small, ask students to bring in those items and sponsor a clothes drive. Uniforms would be an excellent item to collect. They can be donated to other students. Other items can also be donated to students in need or taken to Goodwill, the Red Cross or the Salvation Army.  

Also, as the school year is coming to an end, you may find that you have a lot of used supplies. Instead of throwing away the pencils or crayons, consider collecting them and giving them to a local organization that could use them.

  1. Sponsor an Earth Day poster or essay contest

Have students submit environmentally themed works of art or writing pieces. Topics could include conserving water, don’t pollute, going green, or reuse, reduce, recycle to name a few. Prizes could include such environmentally friendly items such as metal water bottles, or a reusable lunch box.

There are so many other different ways you and your students can raise awareness about protecting our planet. Choose one, share photos on social media using #EarthDay and join the billion other people across the world who will be doing their part. 

How to Support Your Students Through End of Year Testing

It is almost that time of year again: Time for end of the year testing. Teachers are trying to get through everything in the curriculum, and cover material they anticipate being on these assessments, while also trying to keep students from burning out.  

Along with reviewing curriculum and digging into new content, students are also learning test-taking strategies. This means students are being bombarded with information, which when you add standardized testing to the mix, can be a very stressful time for students. During this time of the year, teachers can let students know they are more than simply a test score. Here are a number of ways to support students through this intense time.

One of the most important things that we can do for our students is to help them to  believe in their ability to succeed in achieving their goals. Student efficacy can be built by giving students opportunities to be successful, allowing them to see their peers succeed and by providing them with positive feedback. When students believe in themselves, they are motivated to try hard.  

Another strategy, which is closely related to student efficacy, is instilling a growth mindset. Students with a growth mindset know that their abilities can be developed through hard work and perseverance. We have to help students change their perspective. Instead of saying this test is hard, try challenges help me grow.  

Providing daily motivation is another simple way to support students during testing. You can write some encouraging words on post its and leave them on your students desks. You could also write a message on the board. Just imagine the feeling your students will get when they walk into the room and see a message saying how much you believe in them.  

Another way to support our students is by creating brain breaks. These can be done during test prep and during the test. Before you move on to the next section of the test, give your students the opportunity to stand up and stretch. Try doing yoga. Allow them to talk to each other. Consider adding game-based learning, such as Read to Lead. This will relieve some of the stress that many students will  undoubtedly feel.

Students are under enormous pressure to perform well on end of year testing. Educators can help relieve some of the pressure on our students by reminding them that even though the test is important, it does not define who they are. Most importantly, we must help them to believe in themselves and let them know that we believe in them as well.  

Games Today Create the New York City Leaders of Tomorrow

“I always welcome anything that will better me as a teacher and an educator.” –Oriana Pantoja

Read to Lead isn’t just teaching students how to become leaders in their communities. Teachers themselves are also becoming leaders. Bronx resident Oriana Pantoja started teaching with Children’s Aid Charter Schools in 2016 as a summer camp group leader, and made the leap  into the After School Program’s school year program as a facilitator and Program Director. She oversees three schools of seventh graders from Tier 1 schools on a daily basis.

The Children’s Aid After School Program uses Read to Lead as part of a literacy component twice a week, focusing on different objectives for different grade levels: Sixth graders play Community in Crisis, Oriana’s seventh graders play Vital Signs, and eighth graders play After the Storm.

“You’ll always have those kids who can see right through an activity, so we try to find different motivations. We love the progress chart, so it becomes a competition for them,” Oriana says. “Because it feels like a game, some of the kids lose themselves in it, they become so immersed. It’s engaging for them, and it’s nice to see that they have fun with it.”

But the results of using Read to Lead speak for themselves and add up to more than just fun and games.

In Ms. Pantoja’s after school program, a number of her students are English Language Learners (ELL), whose first language is Spanish. Read to Lead’s translated version keeps these students from falling behind in school, while also improving their English language skills and teaching them about context and making choices based on the information given.  

“Last year, when [these students] were in sixth grade, there were numerous students learning English, but they didn’t have the confidence to read out loud or participate in group events, so they would just read in the corner,” Ms. Pantoja says. “Now that they feel like they’re succeeding in something, it boosts their confidence. These same kids are able to participate more. They are stepping up to read aloud, and it’s a whole new level of confidence.”

The results of Read to Lead can also be seen in how Ms. Pantoja’s seventh graders relate to their community. Rather than one large project at the end of the semester or school year, she aims to have her students lead and complete one community project every other month.

This past December, the students made over 150 holiday cards for residents at a local senior center, and the kids wrote about the experience for their student-run magazine. They also make time to check on some the residents, and are currently putting together a dance recital to be performed for the seniors later this year.

Ms. Pantoja loves seeing the improvement of her seventh graders, and the strides they make, as well as learning to become involved members of their community.

“Last year, when [my students] started the program, they were mostly in 1’s and 2’s for the state tests. This year, the results are even hitting 4’s. Honestly, we may have to help them lower their egos because they think they don’t need to keep learning!”

3 Review Games to Help Your Middle School Students Prepare for Testing

With end of year testing coming up in just a couple of months, it’s never too soon to start brainstorming fun ways to engage your students in test prep. We’ve come up with three different games designed to entertain AND educate your students so that they can put their best foot forward later this spring.

🐔 Pass the Chicken

For this review game, have all of your students sit in a circle. Randomly ask a student a test review question while the chicken is slowly passed around the entire circle. If the rubber chicken arrives back at the student before they answer, the student will have to go and sit in the middle (chicken coop) of the circle. If a student answers correctly, then (and only then), can the student holding the chicken can squeak it in celebration!

The chicken is then passed to the next person, etc. If a student doesn’t answer the review question correctly, they can ask the student/s in the chicken coop if they know the right answer. If the chicken coop student is correct, they can re-join the circle and the student who was unsure of the question can remain in the circle as well. Naturally, consider creating some safety rules since students tend to get rough with the rubber chicken!

Time Commitment for Activity Prep
• Low, only test review question prep

Supplies Needed
• Rubber chicken
• 
Test review questions


💰 Jeopardy!

Credit: Teachers Pay Teachers

Always a classic, this game can be done using a whiteboard, blackboard, Smartboard, or PowerPoint. There are a plethora of downloadable Jeopardy formats online, but essentially you’ll need to create questions and answers worth a specific amount of fake money (or points).

The prep for Jeopardy can be as simple or intensive as you have time for.  All you really need to do is determine the categories based on the topics you want them to review and simply glance at your notes and choose a question’s difficulty based on the dollar amount.

Credit: Teachers Pay Teachers

Divide the students into two teams where one student is elected team leader. Each team member should take a turn to select a category and amount, for example, “Poetry for $400, Mr. Jenkins”. If the student answers the question correctly, the team leader adds the cash to the “Jeopardy Jar”. Determine the winner based on which team has the most amount of accrued fake money and award each team member a small prize or “class coupon”.

Activity Prep Time Needed
• 
Medium, creation of game board and questions may take some time

Supplies Needed
• Whiteboard, blackboard, Smartboard, or PowerPoint
Fake money or other way of tracking points
• 
“Jeopardy Jar” – Clear container for each team, or a fun money holder like this one
• 
Test review questions


🥊 Knockout,
inspired by Ms. Torres’ Classroom

Credit: Laura Torres

This review requires a little bit of crafting, but you can re-use it for years! On a piece of foam board use hot glue to line plastic cups in rows making sure to leave at least half an inch between the rims. When the glue is dry, drop in a review question and a little prize.

Next, cut tissue paper into squares large enough to wrap around the cup that you’ll secure with a rubber band. In class, call students up one at a time and have them select a cup and punch through the tissue paper to get to the question and prize. If they can answer the question correctly, they can keep the prize. If not, the first student to raise their hand with the correct answer can claim the prize for themselves (limit 2 per student).

Activity Prep Time Needed
• High, crafting the board and cups and then adding tissue paper may be intensive depending on how big you make the board.

Supplies Needed
• Test review questions on slips of paper
• Foam board/s depending on how big you want it
• Plastic cups (we recommend 16oz)
• Tissue paper
• Rubber bands
• Prizes like “class coupons” or one of these to match the theme

Credit: Composition Classroom Blog

⭐ BONUS: Have students collaborate on a design for a trendy classroom test reminder poster called DAB:

D = determine what the question is asking
A = ask yourself what can be eliminated
B = best answer selection

Do you have a clever or creative way to help your students review test materials? Let us know in the comment box below!

Ready for more fun? We’ve developed 3 games, 44 episodes, 150 hours of lesson plans, game performance reports, and 24/7 support await you and your students—at no cost!

The Madness That is March

No, this is not a post about the NCAA tournament taking over the country. It is about that long stretch of days a lot of students and teachers are experiencing right now. For many schools in the US, the last federal holiday was in mid-February.  

Because most schools didn’t have days off in March, it likely felt like a long, slow trudge toward spring break in April. Students are restless and teachers are on the verge of burnout. Many schools are entering test prep mode, which adds an additional level of stress.

All of these factors could leave everyone feeling a little off-kilter, eager for a three day weekend. Fortunately, we have a few tips to help you and your students get through the spring slump.

🍎 Let students be the teachers

When students are given the chance to own their learning, they become more invested and engaged, often leading to academic improvements.

Identify five or six topics you’ve covered over the course of the year, and break up the class into medium-sized groups. Then, assign each student a topic to teach to their peers. This post from Inclusive Classrooms Project has some suggestions for helping students create their own lesson plans a rubric for grading their efforts as teachers.

Giving your students the opportunity to teach creates a sense of ownership and pride that doesn’t come from one-way learning!

📅 Be consistent but don’t get stuck

Students thrive in organized environments with routines and consistency. Students are comfortable, focused, and eager to learn when there is consistency. But students do get tired of sitting behind their desks day after day.

Look for hands-on learning opportunities that allow them to engage with one another and move around their classrooms. Adding Read to Lead® to your classroom activities is a great way to differentiate learning and keep your students interested.

🧠 Introduce different learning experiences to your students

Why not consider delivering your lesson in a different way? Think about having Worksheet Free Wednesday. Differentiating instruction increases student engagement and takes some of the pressure off you as the teacher.

Invite a guest speaker to give students a different perspective on a subject that they have been learning about, or find a project-based learning lesson plan to work on each week

🏆 Start a challenge

Are you teaching a social-emotional lesson on productivity and accountability? There’s nothing like a little friendly competition to get students motivated. Signing your classroom up for a contest is an excellent way to bring outside motivation to your students.

Our “Million Words Read Challenge” is a real-time competition allowing educators and youth to track the number of words read in the Read to Lead platform and compete with other classrooms around the country.


Read to Lead doesn’t stop there, our completely free platform not only improves the writing skills of students, it also helps them develop key life and career skills that are critical for success in 21st century schools.

3 Ways to Ease Student Anxiety in Your Classroom


Three ways teachers can better support their middle school students and ease anxiety, from breathing exercises to gamified learning.

With heightened demands for academic excellence and social changes (and stressors like bullying), it’s no wonder that 2.2% of American adolescents suffer from general anxiety disorder (GAD). The odds of one of your middle school students suffering from GAD is quite high, especially in our fast-paced competitive culture where studies have shown anxiety has been on the rise among children and youths since the 1950s and only around 20% of kids with a diagnosable anxiety disorder are getting the treatment they need.

Incredibly, studies have shown that anxiety can influence school performance just as much as ADHD and other learning disabilities and since an anxious brain can’t easily absorb new information or remember learned information, your student may be on the path to poor grades and low participation. The tricky aspect of anxiety is that it can affect each of your students differently, one student may constantly be interrupting or overtaking and another may look like they aren’t paying attention.

As an educator, what can you do when you notice a student or multiple students in your class exhibiting symptoms of anxiety? While we’re not mental health experts, we have three ideas on how to effectively implement mental health exercises to reduce student anxiety.

🌬️ Normalize Breathing Exercises
A great way to give a student a break is to routinely lead breathing exercises since your brain slows down when your breathing slows down. If you notice that one or more students are exhibiting anxiety symptoms in class, like shortness of breath, inflexibility, or defiance, for example, announce that it’s time for a 3-minute “breath break” where everyone sits still, closes their eyes, and takes deep breaths.

Guide them through a breathing exercise (here’s a great video for inspiration) and let them know this is a great way to take a mental break and diffuse anxious thoughts. By implementing this exercise on a daily or as-needed basis, you’re showing the class that everyone can get mentally and physically stressed and that all people, no matter their age, can greatly benefit from “breath breaks”.

🎶 Create Opportunities for Movement
Whether or not your school has a recess period for your students, it’s crucial to allow for physical movement throughout the day to help expel anxious feelings and energy. Guide your students through a series of stretches to give them a chance to move and release tension.

A short yoga routine is a great way to get them moving, we love this video since it’s simple, doesn’t require a mat, and can be done in all kinds of clothing. Another fun way to get your students motivated to move is to ask them to each submit their favorite song. After you find the songs on YouTube and screen the lyrics, let them know there will be a daily dance break; your students will love hearing their favorite tunes!

🖥️ Gamified Learning
The benefits of play-based learning are highly studied in early childhood education since it can help develop social and cognitive skills, so why aren’t more schools applying the same principles to middle school students? In our Read to Lead game, Vital Signs™: “High Anxiety”, your students encounter a patient who is exhibiting signs of anxiety.

In about 20-30 minutes of gameplay, your student will be empowered to assess problems by gathering information, analyzing the situation, and making an educated decision based on their findings. After the game is finished, we provide educators with worksheets and discussion questions like:

What are the dangers of self-diagnosing by searching on the Internet?

Why was it important for Sofia to acknowledge her anxiety on her own?

Why does Marianne suspect Sofia’s real problem is due to anxiety?

In Vital Signs: “Crash Course”, a man is suffering from emotions relating to a car crash and your student must decide whether or not to refer Pierre for PTSD therapy. In this episode discussions questions include:

According to Sasha, what signs of post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD, is Pierre showing?

Why is Pierre more at risk to suffer from PTSD than others?

If you were Pierre, would you have admitted the true cause of the accident?

If you’re looking for a tool to start a conversation and mental health, click here to learn more about Read to Lead® and the resources we provide for teachers: bit.ly/platformreadtolead

 

Bridging Communities and Careers

Our Lady of Guadalupe Academy is a small Catholic school in Elizabeth, NJ, where the majority of students fall below the poverty level and are first, second or third generation Americans learning English as their second language. Cassandra Iverson is in her second year as the English Language Arts (ELA) and a reading teacher for the 6th, 7th and 8th grades at Our Lady of Guadalupe Academy, She is committed to creating pathways for her students that extend beyond their education.

Her students work on Read to Lead twice a week in the computer lab, and use the blended lesson plans in their classrooms, which is a big part of why this platform works so well for her class. “I love that Read to Lead transcends beyond the computer and into real world action,” said Cassandra. “The service project and lesson plans are flexible, which makes it easy to modify Read to Lead into other subjects like Social Studies and STEM. Being able to have that integration of different subjects while strengthening student literacy is exciting.”

As a teacher in a Catholic school, Cassandra is tasked with finding ways to incorporate the academy’s values into her classroom. She’s been using Read to Lead with her students for two years because it improves literacy but also involves teaching social justice, empathy and good character, which are all part of her school’s religious studies. “My eighth graders used the social justice components of Read to Lead to help get ready for their Confirmation. After playing the game they started thinking about what they could do to benefit their community.”

In addition to the academic and social emotional components of Read to Lead, the platform is exposing her students to a wide range of real-world careers they had not previously considered. “Many of my students had not realized these occupations were within their reach,” said Cassandra. “Read to Lead has brought new ideas for their lives’ trajectories and opened up new possibilities.” For students who had previously thought of a career in the medical field as being restricted to doctors, Vital Signs has made important connections to the numerous other ways they can be part of this work, including humanitarian aid.

At Our Lady of Guadalupe Academy, Cassandra’s students are eager to think about their futures and what careers align with their personal passions and values. Read to Lead has given them the chance to be the boss in authentic workplace environments where they can imagine themselves as adults. “My students didn’t realize they could have a career in service working at a community center,” said Cassandra. “They have been introduced to these occupations and at the end of each episode they realize they are capable of doing these jobs.”

By incorporating Read to Lead into her middle school curriculum, Cassandra has strengthened her students’ literacy skills while giving them opportunities to connect their values and their learning. Cassandra’s students have shown significant growth in their reading levels and have become more confident readers in class. They are also starting to think about what their life could look like after school, having built strong connections between their community and potential careers.