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For the elementary level learner, we want school to not just be a place of learning but to be a place where they can develop positive connotations with education. We try to achieve this by making learning fun and entertaining through games, visual cues, and storytelling where possible and when possible. For the casual in-class learning experience this isn’t too tall an order but what about the end of the year review and assessment? How do we make an event that is inherently stressful fun for the student? Let’s take a look at how the hip hop class deals with this.
THE SUMMATIVE ASSESSMENTS
If you’re following yearly schedules for your elementary classes, chances are at the end of the year you have one final assessment that seeks to evaluate all the students have learned. This type of assessment is called summative assessment and even at the elementary level, it serves its purpose. It helps to identify if all the learning objectives set out at the start of the year were achieved and also helps identify a student’s strengths and weaknesses that can inevitably impact their future if not addressed at the right time. The summative assessments also serve as a feedback mechanism for the school and/or teacher which helps identify any shortcomings in the curriculum.
Inevitably, summative assessments can put intense pressure on the students(and teachers) to perform well and get good grades. I say inevitably but this pressure is entirely avoidable. In the first place, summative assessments are not carried out to compare a student to some gold standard that he or she is forced to achieve. The only focus a student at the elementary level needs to have is that they learn and that they enjoy learning, progression is key. We need not forget that these small children are not giving a bar or medical exam that has their whole future at stake rather they are only at the onset of their education journey and that it must not start with the anxiety and pressures of performing well on something as obtuse as an elementary grade exam. We as teachers need to take responsibility that somewhere along the line we have put this pressure on the students and we need to break this cycle. It’s also up to us to inform parents that while they should devote their time to preparing their kids for end-of-the-year assessments there is no need to put pressure on them. That no matter the result we should celebrate the fact that they learned something and if they were lacking in any way the exams helped us identify that and we can work on it moving forward.
USING THE END OF THE YEAR REVIEW and assessments CONSTRUCTIVELY
One of the ways we can take away the pressure attached to summative assessments is by using the end of the year review sessions constructively. The idea is that instead of attaching too much meaning to students’ performance on the end of the year assessment, instead, we return to content already covered and tackle it with fun-filled activities and group games. Let’s take a look at a few end of the year review activities you can do:
Sparkle is a spelling review activity that can be fun for the whole class. For this, you arrange your class in a circle and you say a word that they covered as part of their learning objectives. For example, the word ground. The first student will start by spelling with the first letter g, the next student will say the following letter r, and so on. When the word has been correctly spelled the student whose turn comes next will say the word sparkle, claiming that the word has been correctly spelled. If at any time a student says the letter wrong, they are eliminated from the game and the turn is moved to the next student.
Sink or Float
This is a review activity that checks the student’s ability to correctly pronounce words. You will divide the class into two and write a word on the board or show them a word on a tablet. The first team to correctly pronounce the word can make a student on the opposite team sit down or ‘sink’ or alternatively have a student from their own team stand up ‘float’. The first team to have all of their members sink loses.
I Have, Who Has
This is a game for reviewing math skills. For this, you want to write numbers on flashcards and then distribute them to students. You will randomly say a number, for example, 5. The student with the number 5 on his or her flashcard will say they have 5. Now they can ask any simple addition or subtraction question. For example, who has 1 + 1. The student with the flashcard with the number 2 will say I have. So the game continues.
This game can be applied to any subject and can be played with any question type such as fill in the blank, true or false, etc. The concept behind this is a simple game of battleship. You will create a battleship grid on a smartboard or whiteboard and place all your ships on it. You will ask students questions and if they get it right, they can choose a square on the grid. The game ends once they destroy all your ships.
DO YOUR HOMEWORK
The end of the year assessments should never be a stressful ordeal for elementary students(or teachers). As teachers, we must support our students till the end and take away from any worries or anxieties they might have due to the assessments. The end-of-year review sessions provides us with a good opportunity to take away from the dread of being graded and to remind students that learning can truly be fun.