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Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Taking a Unit Test

Tomorrow students will take a unit test.

It's a bit lengthy, but I'll administer the test in a differentiated way. Some will begin with a few pages, others will complete part A, and still more will complete part B.  Everyone is welcome to take the entire test if they'd like.

It's difficult to make the test short as there is so much to assess--I want to know how students tackle a myriad of problem types that match current CCSS math standards.

Students will work quietly, independently, and with perseverance--this test will stretch their abilities. Some will enjoy the task (Yes, there are students who like tests.) and others will see it as a chore, but all in all, I expect most students to do their best and demonstrate good knowledge as we've had many formative assessments leading up to this. The formative assessments included observations, group work, whole class lessons and response, and even filmmaking.

I'll begin the test by telling students that this test is as much a test of my teaching as it a test of their current knowledge and skill.  I will congratulate them for all their efforts throughout the unit, and encourage them to use the following good test taking strategies:
  • Do what you know first, and then go back to what you don't know as there's often clues in the test that will help you with material that's challenging.
  • Write neatly so I can read your work and know what numbers you are writing.
  • Take your time as you have all the time you need to complete this test.
  • Take it step-by-step, don't get overwhelmed.
  • Do your best so I know what you know, and I know what we still need to work on learning.
  • If everyone gets one part incorrect, I know that I have to teach that in a different way, and if only some get sections incorrect, that means I need to coach those individuals better.
  • No questions for the first 10 minutes. I typically say those words as that gives students a chance to settle down and read the directions, otherwise many pop up to ask questions right away without taking the time to review the test.
As students work, I'll assess their comfort level, manner with which they complete the test, and strategies that they use. Then when question-time opens up, I'll only answer questions that are specific. For example if someone says, "I don't get it?" I'll respond, go back and read it over and tell me what exactly you don't get." Or if they say, I don't understand what this means, I'll say, "Go back and underline the key words, read it again, and then come and tell me exactly the part you don't understand."

I'll give clues and help as needed recognizing that this is as much a learning exercise as it is an assessment.

I don't think that school should be all tests, but I do think there's still room for tests in school. The information I gain from students' results helps me to teach them well, and the time they spend quietly completing a challenging task that results in mostly positive, encouraging feedback helps the students to gain confidence, stamina, and skill when it comes to serious learning tasks.

Do you still give tests in school? If so, how is your approach different than mine? If you're curious about this test, take a peek, and let me know if you have any thoughts.