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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Learning from Giving a Systemwide Test

As I walked around the room today watching students take a systemwide test, I noticed a large number of teaching points.

First, if you work in a system that gives these tests, and you want to do well, it's important to quiz students regularly to see who knows what. For example I saw one child making an error that I wouldn't have expected--an error that could have been easily cleared up with a bit more practice. The error was related to standards for fourth grade, however, and we all know that it's difficult to retain every fact and figure learned from grades past and not every item is repeated every year even with a spiral program.

Next, it's important that students have the opportunity to write down and utilize math vocabulary. In one case, we had studied a concept in depth with lots of hands-on work, but the study didn't involve a lot of writing, hence when it came time for students to recognize the sophisticated math word related to the concept, many missed it. Lesson learned.

After that, it was a good idea to review a lot of the vocabulary as a class using a crossword puzzle in days prior to the test. That helped students recall past words and learning.

Similarly, it was important to review the many concepts on the test that are not included in our curriculum scope and sequence as that gave students a chance to do well on those concepts. One concept we didn't review and that I noticed a lot getting wrong was how to tell time with an analog clock--that's something to remember for next year if we use this test again, and something that would take about 2-3 days practice with some fun online games.

Sharing optimal strategy with students, I believe, helped too.

For this test, this is strategy that works:
  • Take your time.
  • Eliminate all that don't work, and circle the ones that do work.
  • Carefully bubble and double check your answers.
  • Do your work on the page and then check it over.
  • If you don't know an answer, skip it and circle it on the bubble page as a later question may help you to remember that answer.
  • Read the words carefully, and study the images
I'm sure as I administer the next sections of the test I'll notice more lessons to learn, but these are the some initial strategies that work well for the computation section of the test:
  • Do your computation on paper, not in your head so that you can check it.
  • Write your numbers carefully. Often students don't do this then they think the number they've written is another number.
  • Line up your numbers.
  • Check your work by doing it twice or completing the inverse operation.
  • Don't squish your work--you're always welcome to use scrap paper.
  • Copy carefully. Lots of times students copy the wrong numbers down.
I likened the test practice value to the value of studying and getting your driver's license, and the fact that sometimes it's very important to be precise and test taking is good practice for that. There's something to be learned from every endeavor including test taking.