Testing season activities: 5 Reasons to Use Rocket Math During Testing Gaps

Testing season is stressful.  The task of scheduling testing for each student in the school is difficult.  It causes significant stress due to time logistics, student absences, and disrupted schedules. Teachers know how difficult it can be to deal with odd and awkward time gaps.   What testing season activities can fill those holes?

Teachers spend a lot of time juggling schedule and testing material.  Students are anxious about the tests as well.  Often the mood in the classroom can feel tense.

We at Rocket Math are concerned about the success of students. We know how precious teaching time is. We believe that doing Rocket Math practice sessions can significantly aid during the busy spring test season.  Here are five reasons why doing Rocket Math is a great activity during testing season.

1. Rocket Math is a time efficient testing season activity.

Your students are familiar with the Rocket Math routine.  They know just what to do. The process of doing Rocket Math from start to finish should take no longer than ten to fifteen minutes. When you have one of those short intervals created by the testing schedule, you can make good use of this short amount of time. Rocket Math fits in a short amount of time and is still productive.

2. Rocket Math can be used during multiple testing season gaps.

As test schedules tend to have multiple gaps, Rocket Math works great as an activity that can be used multiple times throughout the day without causing extra work for teachers. Students actually appreciate the opportunity to have another chance to practice Rocket Math in the same day.

Students can easily use Rocket Math a second or third time during their school day without any negative impact. In fact, multiple sessions of Rocket Math during a single day can help students progress faster.

3. Rocket Math is a testing season activity that doesn’t require re-teaching lessons.

As students are taking make-up tests, the rest of their classmates need something to do in the classroom. Because students work in pairs during Rocket Math allows students to work through math lessons on their own.  Because it is just practice, there is no need to re-teach material, students taking their make up tests filter back into the classroom.

As long as there is at least a 15-minute gap between testing sessions, students can easily complete a Rocket Math session. The best part is, because students are familiar with the Rocket Math process, teachers don’t need to explain a new activity to each student who filters in after testing.

4. Rocket Math is a highly engaging and productive testing season activity.

Many teachers struggle to fill time in the gaps between test sessions. Reading time or make-up work is often the go-to solution.   Teachers know that these activities don’t seem productive or engaging.  Plus, students know that these time-filling activities “don’t count.”  Rocket Math however, does count!

In contrast, Rocket Math offers students a fun and creative way to effectively learn critical skills that are necessary for future success.

5. Rocket Math is a testing season activity that students truly enjoy.

Accountability tests can cause stress due to unfamiliarity, whereas Rocket Math offers students comfort in an activity that they know and enjoy.  As Rocket Math shows progress along the way, each student gains a sense of pride in their accomplishment and is more likely to feel motivated to continue learning.

When there are gaps between test sessions, Rocket Math can provide students a boost of confidence as they are instantly gratified by their success.

During this busy spring test time, I highly recommend teachers are prepared with their Rocket Math folders to help productively fill the time gaps left in the daily schedule. Rocket Math is a quick and easy testing season activity.  It can be used during multiple gaps as an engaging learning tool.  Doing Rocket Math helps students feel accomplished in an otherwise stressful testing period.

Four make-or-break principles for motivating students

Many teachers are concerned about how to best motivate students.  We want to appeal to intrinsic motivation rather than having students work for extrinsic rewards.  None of us want to foster unhealthy competitiveness in our classroom.  Teachers want to motivate ALL the students, not just the most able and brightest students.  Here are four principles of motivation that need to be taken into account when designing a system of motivation.

1.Is the teacher impressed? 

The most powerful aspect of any reward or recognition is how the teacher acts when giving it out.  Teachers powerfully motivate their students when their affect is one of being impressed by the accomplishment.  Students love to do something that “wows” their teacher.  Children are motivated to do things that impress adults.  When adults seem like they think the child really did something amazing, then the concrete form of the recognition doesn’t matter.  Even a slip of paper,if it’s given out for an impressive accomplishment, will be highly sought after.  A food prize, that is given out without caring by the teacher, will be worth little.  The Olympic gold medal is powerful because of the recognition that everyone gives to that accomplishment–it has nothing to do with the actual token given.

2. Does it represent a concrete achievement? 

The accomplishment that is rewarded must be a concrete achievement that is objectively measured.  The students must all know what it takes to earn it.  Teachers sometimes give out recognition that appears to be subjectively awarded.  That is not good.  If students can think, “Well Billy got that award because the teacher likes him,” then they will not be motivated.  Students need to see a task or behavior (that they could do if they work hard) as the reason for the award.  Students have to believe they will get the reward even if the teacher does not like them.  All they have to do is work hard and they’ll get the reward.  Then they will be motivated.  Conversely, if everyone gets one regardless of their accomplishments, then it will be meaningless.  Trophies for all makes them worthless.

3. Based on personal accomplishment rather than on beating the competition?

A concrete achievement also lessens competition.  Students are not competing against each other.  Instead, they are competing with themselves.  Everyone who accomplishes that goal will be rewarded.  If students feel they have a realistic shot at the reward, then it will be motivational.  They may not be the first to accomplish that goal, but if they stick to it and keep working, they can eventually get there.  If adults are impressed by the achievement (and they’ve seen evidence of that–see #1) then students will be motivated to achieve it.

4. Is the achievement possible for all students to achieve?

To motivate ALL the students, the achievement needs to be something that is the result of effort rather than talent.  It should be something that might take a while to achieve.  If anyone can do it immediately (like breathing) then there’s no glory. Students need to know that it can be achieved with effort, if you keep trying.  Accumulating 25 miles of running (100) laps is a more motivating goal for students with less athletic skill than trying to be the fastest runner in class or breaking a record for the mile.  In Rocket Math, teachers have reported instances where their whole class spontaneously cheered when a student who had a lot of difficulty and many failures, finally passes their first level.  Now that’s how good motivation is supposed to work!