We started our state testing last week and oh… my… goodness. The kids are (mostly) doing a fantastic job of diligently working on problems, rereading their answers and showing what they know. But it requires a lot of brain power and by the end of it they are in desperate need of a brain break.
On test days, students test for two hours and then have 35 minute class periods for the rest of the day. We also had a minimum day schedule and an assembly day schedule this week. I managed to squeeze in a little teaching, but it wasn’t easy.
I knew if they didn’t get a chance to move around and play a little they would revolt. Yes, middle school kiddos still need play time.
I opted to do two separate tower challenges this week.
Spaghetti and Marshmallow Tower
This Activity is a slight twist on a classic. Most people have done this activity using only marshmallows and spaghetti noodles. I like to add in a solo cup and address labels. I put all of the materials in the cup before class and tell students that they are allowed to use ANYTHING that they were given.
Most students start with the the marshmallows and spaghetti. They are usually confused by the labels and very few realize that the solo cup is also something that they can use.
The address labels are a great way to provide tape without having to measure out tape or give students a whole roll. This is one of my favorite engineering activity tricks.
Their objective is to build the tallest tower. One year I even had a group of students use the paper at the back of the address labels to add a flag to the top of their tower. Genius!
Solo Cup Tower
I start the class period with this picture and tell students that all they are doing is building the tower.
Then I introduce the constraints.
- They may not touch the cups with their hands.
- They can’t talk.
- They have an extra tool, but they can only touch it with one hand.
Their special tool is a rubber band with 3 to 4 strings tied on.
If they break one of the rules, I run over like a crazy person and knock over their tower.
It takes them a few minutes, but they quickly learn to work together and build their tower.
These activities are great for:
- Beginning of the year
- Testing days
- Team building
- End of the year
- Short/ minimum days
Want a copy of these activities? Visit my TPT store.
What do you do on testing days to give students a break?