Posted in Co-Teacher, Education, Learning, Teaching, Testing

What’s the Most Effective Way to Help Students Feel Prepared for an Assessment?

Ughhh, tests.  I hate them.  In fact, I hate everything about them.  I was never a good test-taker in school and so my grades were never perfect since I usually flopped on major tests and quizzes.  I felt like my teachers created test questions just to trick us, the students.  Why?  What purpose does that serve other than asserting one’s authority?  Students are not going to respect a teacher who purposefully creates difficult and tricky tests and quizzes.  And don’t even get me started on standardized testing.  A monkey could complete a standardized test and score better than me.  What does that prove?  That I’m dumber than monkey?  Although that may be true regarding some topics, it simply proves that any mammal with fingers can fill in a bubble.  Standardized tests do not showcase an individual’s knowledge of concepts or subjects, but rather are a waste of valuable time.  Just talking about testing makes me angry.  I detest everything about it.  However, I do also realize that my students are going to face the unnecessary pressure of testing throughout their academic futures, and so I must prepare them for what is to come.

B-wait for it-UT, I can definitely make the testing experience for my students much better than my past horror stories.  I don’t have to create difficult tests.  I don’t have to try to fool my students.  I don’t have to foster unending pressure within my students regarding testing.  I can actually make the testing experience for my students enjoyable and non-threatening.  It starts with the actual name: Test.  I do not test my students as if they are rats in a cage.  This is not Salem and I do not need to find out if my students are witches.  I do assess my students.  How are they progressing towards meeting and/or exceeding the objectives?  What else can I do to help support them on their journey of learning and understanding?  I don’t test my students, I assess them.  The “tests” I give them are called assessments.  An effective assessment should allow students to demonstrate their knowledge of a topic, skill, or concept in a simple, straightforward manner.  They are also not the end-all-be-all of the learning process.  Students can be assessed multiple times in multiple different ways.  If a student does not do well on a written assessment, I will assess him orally to determine his understanding of the content.  I want my students to be successful and so I will do whatever it takes to help them be and feel a sense of accomplishment and pride in the learning process.  I also allow redos on written assessments for those interested students.  While the redo process is cumbersome and challenging, it truly showcases a student’s learning and allows me to know if they have mastered the concept or not.  It also helps teach the students the valuable lesson of preparation: Redos are not necessary if you are prepared going into a written assessment.  Assessing students is a process and not a singular event.  I want my students to see learning as a journey and not a destination.

Today in STEM class, I helped my students prepare for their first written math chapter assessment that will take place in class on Tuesday.  I met with each of my two math groups in class and discussed the assessment.  I shared the document they will see on Tuesday with them.  I went through the format and problems involved.  I answered questions they had and made sure they felt completely ready and prepared.  I don’t want them to be nervous between now and Tuesday.  I want them knowing exactly what the test will look and feel like.  There should be no surprises.  During the remainder of class, the students worked on completing the chapter review exercises in their textbook.  They worked with their peers when questions arose and I helped guide those struggling students to a place of comfort and understanding.  It was great.  I feel very confident in my students.  I feel as though they are prepared and ready to go for Tuesday’s assessment.  Throughout the unit, my co-teacher and I have formatively assessed the students on the objectives we will be summatively assessing them on in Tuesday’s chapter assessment.  We have both worked with those students in our group who struggled to display their ability to meet one or more of the objectives.  Through the reteaching and reassessment process, they demonstrated their ability to master the skills they once were challenged by.  Now, I wait until Tuesday to find out how they do.  Do they really know their stuff?  Have they genuinely learned the math content?  Can they still meet and exceed the objectives covered?  After Tuesday’s assessment, I will have a much better idea if the process my co-teacher and I used to help prepare our students for this first chapter assessment was effective or not.  If not, we will discuss how we can change the preparation process to better, more effectively prepare our students for the next chapter assessment in STEM class.

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Author:

I teach sixth grade at Cardigan Mountain School in Canaan, NH. I'm currently ensconced in my fourteenth year at this small, independent boys' school. I love engaging students in relevant and hands-on learning. I was nominated for the NH Teacher of the Year Award in 2016 by a parent. While I love education and guiding students, my first passion is my family. I have a wonderful son, Jeffrey, and a beautiful and intelligent wife, Kim. I couldn't be happier. Every day is the best day of my life.

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