Testing tips for teachers
The winter can be a stressful time of year for students. Middle graders and teenagers come down from the Christmas high to a long winter of snow and indoor activity. Even a bright, charming 14-year-old can suffer seasonal mood disorders that afflicts so many adults when more time is spent indoors. If your child is an outdoor marvel who enjoys snow sports, cold weather and good health you are in luck. But if your child is an indoor animal, using television, computer games and the telephone for entertainment in bad weather, you need to reconsider the need for other activities. The pressure of testing adds to the stress. Students who do poorly on tests are not motivated by their frequent failure. They give up easily and don’t learn the strategies that that help them succeed. Testing can become a nightmare or a learning situation if the students are prepared. Here are some helpful ideas, and if your child scores poorly on tests you might suggest the following to his or her teacher:• When grading written work, use a pencil and write lightly to give students a chance to correct their work and learn from the experience. Papers can be graded after corrections are made. • Avoid giving zeros or no grade for work that has to be corrected. Half-credit motivates a student to improve while a zero or no credit only reinforces negative feelings. • Don’t let another student grade any paper other than his own. Kids are cruel and embarrassing a poor student is an obstacle to success. • Have students participate in making up questions for a test. This involvement motivates them to learn. • Repeat directions and type tests so that each question stands out on the paper. Teach youngsters some of the words used in directions and be sure they understand how to follow them. • Base your grades on a number of small tests and try to vary the method of performance from writing to verbal responses, projects, etc. Avoid the situation where one exam makes or breaks the term.• Make different forms of the test – have one with easier vocabulary and shorter questions for poorer students and a longer more difficulty form for more capable students. If a student can’t read at the level to be tested he or she can be tested orally for knowledge of the subject. For some youngsters with serious reading problems multiple choice or true/false questions may be far easier than writing a full essay. • Always provide lined paper for essay exams and lined paper turned sideways for math exams. This will help students keep their number in correct columns. To prepare youngsters be sure to review thoroughly and give a list of vocabulary and concepts to be tested before the exam.• Include a bonus question if you can. The more able students will feel better when they have the option to get extra credit, while the poorer student will probably not want to try to answer it.• Give open book exams when retention of a great deal of information is required. This kind of test will tell you whether or not a student can find and utilize pertinent information, an important research skill.Remember, no student wants to fail. Testing should be another kind of learning strategy, not an instrument of torture for students.Vail, Colorado
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