This is by far, my most absolute favorite beginning of the year activity! You've probably done this in school before, but many kids have never done it! It's the "Following Directions Test."
I begin by having students completely clear off their desks, except for a pencil. Then I tell them that today in science, they will be taking a test. After all the groans, I go on to tell them that this test will let me know what they can do. I repeat this a few times as I pass out the papers, face down. I tell students that they may not turn the paper over until I say "begin." I make a big deal of the test being only 15 minutes long and 1 page long. A few ask about directions, and I tell them that everything they need to know about the test is on the other side of the paper. When they flip it over, they will see what to do.
Then, we shake off some nerves and I tell them to get started. You see, the very first number on the paper says, "Read everything first." Students SHOULD read all steps 1-20 before doing anything else, but of course, you don't tell them this, and of course, most of them don't. Students then proceed through the steps, making fools of themselves. IF they had read everything else, they would not have to do anything silly. Since the majority don't read all the directions, most of them are working on hard math problems, writing the alphabet 3 times, flapping their arms like a bird, crumpling up their papers, etc.
This is where acting skills come in to play. YOU must walk around the room, as you would during a real test, and try not to laugh at your students making fools of themselves! This is so hard to do, and I find myself staring intently out the windows, trying to suppress my giggles. It's hilarious. It's a lot of fun. It makes an impact.
At the end of 15 minutes, some students are finished making fools of themselves, some are bored from drawing pictures for 15 minutes, and some are still trying to make it through the strangest test ever. But, call time and tell students that you are ready to grade the test. Ask for a student to read the directions. Then ask for a student to read #1. This is where kids groan and can't believe they fell for it! Then, proceed to talk about what would happen during a science experiment if you didn't read all the directions, and why it is ALWAYS important to know what to do before you do it. Like I said before, this test makes an impact. During any following lesson throughout the entire year, you can bring it back up. "Remember how important it is to READ EVERYTHING FIRST?"
I wish I had pictures from this, but I forgot to take them. Maybe next year!
I am posting the "Following Directions Test" in my TPT store as a freebie for you to use and adapt to your class.