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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Reviewing for the Smarter Balanced Assessment

In the next few weeks, many of my students will be taking the Smarter Balanced Assessment for the very first time.  Although the assessment officially does not begin until next year, we will be piloting the full test in the next few months.

This is a huge change for us!  Not only are we going from our State standards to the Common Core standards, but we are moving our testing from the fall to the spring.  We are also moving from a paper and pencil test to a computer based one.  With all of these changes, the materials I have used in the past to review math concepts for state assessments are just about useless to me now.  I also feel like I have to find new and more creative ways to review because holding onto students' attention in the spring can be trickier than keeping them engaged in the fall.

Today I want to share with you one way I have started reviewing for this new assessment.  I did this series of lessons with my third graders and it was so successful, I will be doing something similar with my older students.  I also am thinking of ways to adapt this for my younger students.  Although they don't have to take the official assessment, I think it is a great way to review and practice what they have learned all year.

I used this set of riddles for my lesson with third grade!

The first thing I did when I got this product was to print and prep all the materials I would need.  While I was doing that, I noticed there were a lot of great vocabulary words on the cards that my third graders SHOULD know.  However, I also knew that there were probably many kids who didn't know all these words.  So, I took about 40 minutes of whole group instruction time to address this issue.

Day 1

I read a riddle card to students that included the word quadrilateral.  I asked students to raise their hand if they heard a word that they didn't understand the meaning of.  Several hands when up when I said quadrilateral so I wrote that word on the board.  I then passed out a small pile of riddle cards to each student and asked them to read each riddle and write any words they did not understand or that they did not think others would understand on the board.

Here are the vocabulary words kids identified as ones that they or other third graders might not understand
Once all of the cards had been read, I chose a word from the board and modeled how to figure out what it meant.  I provided several copies of the Math Dictionary for Kids and the link to this online math dictionary. I then demonstrated how to make a quick definition poster with an example that we could hang on the wall to help us with these riddles.

I had kids choose words, some ended up in pairs and they all got to work finding out more about their word.
A student uses the online math dictionary to help them define rectangular prism
Students took a few minutes to share their new knowledge with the class and then pinned their posters up around the 100's chart.

This lesson took about 40 minutes.  It was a great way to review vocabulary that will be appearing on their assessment and that they will need to be successful in future grades.  It will also provide support to those who need it when we are working on the riddles in whole group, small group or individual work time situations.

Day 2

I had about 30 minutes the second day and I wanted to spend it introducing some of the ways we could use the 100's grid riddles.  We started by choosing a few of the cards to do as a whole group.  

One of the cards we did as a whole group
Then I introduced 3 different ways to use the cards and had kids choose the way that they wanted to try first.

Using the Classroom Hundreds Chart
    The idea of getting to be up in front of the class hundreds chart appealed to many students but I could only let a few up there at a time.  When these cards are offered at center time, I am sure this will be a very popular way to use them.  
A student reads a card at the 100's chart
To play at the 100's chart, students read a riddle and mark the answer with a star.  The stars are included and come in several different colors.  The kids can try for 3 in a row or whatever works in your room.  

Using a Small Hundreds Chart
     This is an easy way to get kids involved in the 100's riddles.  All they need is a pile of the riddle cards and a small hundreds chart.  They find the answer to the riddles on the chart and circle it or color it in.  Each player needs a different color.

Students work on solving riddles and finding numbers on the 100's chart.  MANY skills are reviewed by these riddles and the kids think it is so much fun!

Using a Graphic Organizer
     The other way to use these cards is with the included graphic organizer.  This is a great way for kids to play alone or with another person.  They figure out the answer and color in the section that their answer is in.  Here they are trying to find a wide range of answers. 

Each student has a graphic organizer that says things like between 1 and 20 or between 35 and 50.  When they get an answer in this range, they get to color in that section on their chart.  These students also needed to see a 100's grid for reference to support their thinking.  

Moving Forward  

Over the last 2 days, I have given kids the introduction they need to use these cards successfully.  Now that they know the expectations and have supports in place if they need them, they are ready for these cards to be added to our math center rotation.  At the math center, I will be allowing kids to choose the way that they practice with them.  They will also be available for students to use when they are finished other work and have a few spare minutes.  They are also good for transitions and time fillers.  The 100's chart in this room is near the door where kids line up and while we are waiting for everyone to be in line, reading one of these riddles and having kids solve it is a great way to squeeze a few extra minutes of math practice into the day.  

Storing the Cards 

This really is an inclusive set and I have come up with a great way to store everything needed for kids to do this center in one place.  I used a top loading folder to keep everything in one place.

100's charts, graphic organizer, directions and cards, all in one folder.  This is actually the set for grades 4 and 5 that I will be using next week as I start reviewing in those grades!

 If you teach multiple grades like I do, you might be interested in the Combo Pack.  The Combo Pack includes the primary, third grade and intermediate set of cards.
Get the Combo Pack!

You can also head over to Primary Inspiration for your chance to win a set!

Have you started reviewing for spring testing?  What are your best tips?  Please respond in the comments below!


  1. I love these! I just added the intermediate set to my wish list! Thanks!
    Grade 4 Buzz

    1. They are great cards! It is a fun way to review things kids should know.

  2. Interesting read. I, too, am thinking about how to prepare my kiddos. Sometimes there seems to be a fine line between "teaching to the test" and authentic teaching. I don't want to teach to the test, but at the same time, I sure do want my kids to be prepared. My experience shows me that while I think my kids have learned a particular concept, when they see it presented in a different way on a standardized test, they don't always recognize it. So then I feel driven to make sure the concept is shown in test-like format. And that, of course, then pushes me into the realm of uneasiness. Am I buckling under the pressure of the test??? Therefore, I appreciate reading blog posts covering the topic of preparing kids. I want to prepare my students in a way that emulates good teaching practices!

    1. I understand where you are coming from with this. It is a thin line to walk between teaching to the test versus teaching the concept. I will have to do more practice in a testing format as the test gets closer but this is a great place to start. It got some of the big concepts out there and provided kids a fun way to practice concepts we may not have reviewed in a while.

  3. If I taught third or fourth I'd buy this:) But I can see how the 100s games could be adapted for grade one,

    1. I also have the K-2 set and it is really well done as well. I have been using it in a slightly different way especially with k and grade 1 because of what they can read on their own. We do more full group work and have been using them a lot during transition times.