Let's face it, none of us really want to do test prep with our students. However, preparing for standardized testing is a reality of public education in this era. So, the question becomes how can we improve test prep and make it more engaging for our students?
When students make animations of particular STEM concepts, they are generating a dynamic model of their ideas about the subject. However, if the instruction includes revising these models – either through conversation, group work, feedback from the teacher, etc. – the end products can be rather informative representations of the content that standardized tests are so famous for assessing. Therefore, why not turn animations into test prep materials? Animations are engaging artifacts that for some reason students tend to remember. The visual and dynamic elements of the representation certainly make them memorable. But, the authorship and ownership of these movies also make them more powerful than a review worksheet. When engaging in animation projects during the year, consider how that movie could be used in the Spring to review for whatever tests are coming down the pipeline. Review with animations can come in many forms.
Take "Blood Flow Through the Heart". Have the students view and discuss the movie – what do they remember about how blood flows through the heart and body? Are there holes in their understanding? You can also have the students watch the animation and spend some time writing about the content and ideas contained (as writing is most likely the task the test will ask of them). Lastly, comparing movies of the same general concept can be quite powerful for students. All models have limitations – some models show certain things well, while other models show other things well. Comparing multiple movies allows the students to see not only the concept in dynamic form, but also different ways of representing these ideas – so that the become more critical of the model and where its strengths and weaknesses may lie.
So, rather than worksheets this spring, think about a film festival! And hopefully students sitting in these exams will recall the animations, conversations, or writing that centered on their movie – which is something they are interested in.