Test Prep: Top Chef Style

Have you ever seen the show Top Chef?  It is a competition between chefs for some amazing chef prize (I am sure it is amazing, however not being a chef...nor someone who can actually cook anything other than the 4 standard dishes I have...I wouldn't actually know)  Anyway, one of the competitions they have on the show is a switch-a-roo challenge.  It goes something like this:

Chef one begins the dish.
Ten minutes later, Chef two enters and continues the dish, without ever talking to Chef one.
Minutes later, Chef one reenters to complete the dish, again, not talking to Chef two.

The point of this is to see if the chefs can use common cooking techniques and strategies to complete a well rounded, delicious dish.  That point fits in very well into my classroom.  When we are talking about testing strategy, I am teaching them the common techniques that will help them to gain the most well-rounded and complete answer.  Since the challenge meshes so well with what we are doing, I thought we could do a version of the challenge right in my class.

I printed out a copy of my state released questions.  I then cut out 6 of the most common grammar type questions that the students will see on the test.  I glued each question separately on a piece of plain white paper.

The students, seated in groups of 6, then were each given one of the papers.  I strategically placed them so that no two students within a group had the same question.  These papers lay face down on the desk while I described the directions.

1.  Students have 30 seconds to look at the paper, read the question, and begin answering it.  Once the 30 seconds are up, they turn the paper back over.
2.  Students pass the paper to the right.  Looking at the new question for 30 seconds, the students need to pick up where they former student left off.  They should continue answering the question, showing the strategy, and using what was already done to help them.
3.  This continues until the papers have gone around at least once (my class needed them to go around twice) and the questions have been answered.

This is a VERY fast paced challenge....and my students LOVED it.  They really liked seeing how everyone else was applying the strategy and seeing if they could pick it up right then and there.  I honestly can say that the kids had FUN while applying the strategies...if you can believe it! 
You can see in this picture where the different kids took over and how they actually corrected each others mistakes or just picked up from where the other left off.  During the debrief, they discussed these marks.

Then, I asked the kids to go through each question individually and talk about the strategy as a group.  I kept this quick, but there were a lot of great talk about *why* the kids chose the answer, how they were circling key words, etc...

This was really a successful use of strategy.  It helped me to see who was doing what, as well as validate for the kids that they know the strategies, no matter the question.  And on a sort of related note, afterwards we had our Test Prep rally question of the day (that my school does).  The strategy talk must be rubbing off on them because even on THAT paper, they showed their evidence!  haa haa!!!


  1. Love this idea (and Top Chef, actually)! I think I might laminate the questions and have kids use vis-a-vi or dry erase markers so we can use them next year, too. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Very clever, nice way to spice things up!!!

  3. What a great test taking activity. I love the way it's timed making them zone in on their thinking quickly. Thanks!

    Fun in Room 4B

  4. Steph, you seriously need to write a book! This is genius!!

  5. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this idea!!! It would also be great way to review for a test, using a study guide (and each student would go home with a completed study guide to help them study). Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner!

    Runde's Room

  6. This is so smart!! You have the best ideas!

    Marvelous Multiagers!

  7. Awww...thanks guys! I have been feeling not so great about my ideas lately, so you have really made my day! :) Bloggy friends are the best :)

  8. I love this idea. I am going to try this with my math. If anyone has an idea about that let me know. I am just to let my students use the strategies I have been teaching for each standard.

    1. You can most definitely use it on math. Just have them use math questions instead of Language Arts ones :) Though you will probably have to have less time in between people because (at least in my experience) math problems take less time to do than LA.


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