So, I've been searching for exciting ways to teach test-taking skills and review English skills with my 8th graders. They have to take the Terra Nova tests in March and while we don't like to teach toward the test, if they don't pass these tests, they don't pass 8th grade. The pressure is mounting, because while I love my students to death, I don't want to see them next year (because it will mean that they didn't pass). So here it is. It's not a revolutionary idea, but they're getting excited about this approach to going through the test prep book, and that's all we can ask for.
We've divided them into teams. They chose their teams, they chose their team names, they drew us a mascot which we put on a posterboard/scoreboard. I teach the lessons and they do the practice problems (in the book or in other resource materials that we've outlined that focuses on the same skill... such as inferencing, comparing and contrasting, sequencing events in a text) as a group, helping each other and needing to come to a consensus before they're done with the problems (this encourages group work, THINKING and students justifying their answers by using the text to back it up!!).
On Thursdays, they take the unit test (which means we teach 5-6 lessons in 3 days... but they're motivated by competition, so it's working, so far) and their test scores are averaged with the rest of their group members and posted on the scoreboard. On Fridays, we play Jeopardy! I've created a game that's based on Terra Nova skills and also connects to the novels we're reading, and also brings in grammar and usage skills. It's also a reinforcement and review of the skills they learned this week. We're rotating "team captains" every week so everyone gets to participate orally. TRying to figure out how to work writing into it, too. So far, it's been really successful as the kids want to compete in-class and with their colleagues in the other sections of our class.
We'll see how it develops from here. Just wanted to share. Happy hopeful snowday tomorrow, though if it is one, I'll be sad about missing Jeopardy.