The following is a guest post by Sean Farnum, an educator of twenty years and currently an Education Associate at Buncee. Check out his bio below!
One of the most frustrating aspects of teaching is test preparation. You’ve worked hard to make your instruction engaging for the entire chapter, you’ve done the review, you’ve communicated with parents. It should all fall into place when it’s time to grade your chapter tests. And the keyword there – should. It should fall into place, but by the end of grading, you’re talking to yourself!: “We did that!”, “They know this!”, “Oh come on!”
It doesn’t have to be that way, though. With a few engaging practices, you can help your students to be more ready for the test when a chapter’s over.
Show, Don’t Tell!
Starting off, I’m not going with an end of chapter/unit review. Let’s start the unit off differently, by keeping students connected to their learning, and providing them a resource to refer back to when it’s time to study. Skip the worksheet after each lesson, and have your students construct their knowledge in a Buncee. Whether you have them store their ideas in a notebook for the chapter, or put together a board so they can compare their work with that of their peers, the curation of knowledge and the choosing of images is going to stick in their brains far better than a worksheet. This works super well for vocabulary words, too! Having your students construct images of their vocabulary brings the words to life for them in a way that a handwritten definition and sentence just cannot. The bonus of both of these ways for students to mark their learning is that when it comes to review time, they can peruse their notes much more quickly because the imagery that they created jogs their so much better than written notes, review sheets, or a worksheet returned with a ✓ written at the top.
Correcting Misconceptions is a Powerful Way to Learn
Have you ever had that student who thinks that they’ve got it all under control, but they’re so, so wrong? It’s painful isn’t it? While there’s a sense of poetic justice when an irrationally confident student looks at their test grade and it’s far lower than they expected, you’re not really helping them if you wait until the day of the test to show them the error of their ways.
But what about a Pop Quiz? Sure, they go down in educational history as a gotcha that just proves to kids they’re not ready. They’re good for teacher revenge, but again, there’s a better way! With a Buncee Pop Quiz, students start out only using the knowledge that they have at the ready. Have them answer every question that they know for sure with one color (I chose blue, but any color works). Once everyone is sure that they have the quiz answered to the best of their knowledge, it’s time to change font color. Students are allowed to use any resource in the classroom, their friends, their textbook, Google (Bing?), or even you to help them answer their questions. The only hitch is that this time as they answer, they understand that anything that’s written in their second color (I chose red) is their study guide for the test. No shaming, no mocking, just a nudge to say, “You have some getting ready to do!”
Because the Smartest Person in the Room is the Room
This tip takes an age old teaching standard and spruces it up a bit with Buncee Boards. Start out by having students make a study sheet for their upcoming test, but instead of doing it on paper, have them put it together in Buncee. When everyone is done, pop those study guides onto a class Buncee Board for review! Here, students can comment on each other’s work, point out information that their classmates have forgotten, and check to find information that they need to beef up. It gives you a last chance, too, to give feedback to your students as they’re wrapping up review before the test.
Students write out their practice test questions.
When I was still a newish teacher, one of my friends shared the idea of having students write quiz questions, joking, “You know that they’ll at least get their question right!” Through the years, I’ve found that my students often wrote harder questions than the ones I was going to put on the test. If you pair this practice with either Buncee Pop Quiz or Buncee Boards, you’ll really be helping your students to be ready to show what they know!
Communication is Key!
With all of these strategies – communication is so important! Shared information within the class is key to helping students correct misconceptions – and to their understanding that studying the things they’d misunderstood will help them most! It’s important when students are headed home, too! For students who have internet access at home, it definitely helps if parents know where to find your class review board and when the test is. In the meantime, if you’ve got a student who doesn’t have home access, printing up their Buncee is going to make for a perfect study sheet!
Sean Farnum is a teacher, troublemaker, the host of the #2PencilChat, and the producer of The #BestClass Podcast. He is an Education Associate at Buncee and runs the Buncee Ambassador Program. He thinks you’re pretty great.