Thursday, February 16, 2012

Those dang tests

Amber and I have something in common that I wish we did not. We both hate tests, with a passion. I have horrible test anxiety that stems from my panic disorder.  Amber, has growing test anxiety that I wish would stop.

Now that we are homeschooling her, what can be done to alleviate some of this? Do we stop tests all together? That doesn't seem like a reasonable solution. At some point in her life she will have to take tests again.  I'd rather she learn how to deal with them.

My decision for the remainder of 4th grade was to continue testing in all the subjects with a slightly different method.  Amber is accustomed to the teacher sending home a study guide that she must complete and memorize prior to the test. She usually had 1-2 days to do this.  Considering that it required a great deal of time and work to look up some of the answers on the study guide that indicated to me that she didn't learn the material as well in class or during assignments as was expected.  I guess it could have also meant they didn't get everything covered during class and the kids were learning while working on the study guide.

First I want to say that we are trying a different approach for the remainder of 4th grade and may change things later.  I just know we need to do something different than the way she was testing, but this may not work as well as I hope.  My new approach doesn't involve any study guides or crash learning.  I decided to take a cue from Math.  Amber did not and still does not study for Math tests.  She likes math and understands it well.  She is either going to know how to do something or not.  She is either going to check her work for silly mistakes or she is going to take the point off for not carrying a number.  But crash studying the night before a Math test isn't going to help her. In our home school she doesn't even know when her Math tests are.  When it is time for Math we go over a new chapter or I give a test. Neither way causes any more stress than the other.

Showing off her A+ test.
The question was how to translate this to the other subjects. Science was her first test in a subject that she normally would have used a study guide to prepare for the test.  How do I ensure that she is tested over the material but doesn't stress overly much about the test.   First, I didn't tell her until the day before the test that she had a test coming up.  This prevented the week of worry about the upcoming test. The week of questions about what would be on her test.  Thinking back over our lessons and her work, I knew that she had understood the concepts and could tell me all about the topics with correct information.  I knew that she had done her Science assignments without looking back in the book and then only checked her answers before turning the assignments in to me.  So, that became my idea for her tests.

The new plan was that she take the test for the Science chapter that is provided by the publisher, only it is an open book test.  However, unlike her Math & Spelling tests, this test will have a limited amount of time.  I will not give her enough time to complete the test if she has to look up any more than half of the questions.  She will need to know the answers for at least half the questions to finish the test.  I know she understands the material and can complete the test with no problem.  She needs to have confidence and know that she has already covered everything that is on the test.  Nothing will be a surprise.  That way the few things that slip her mind can be looked up, but over all we are testing her understanding and not her ability to crash memorize.

We took the Science test today.  I added 2 bonus questions that required analytical thinking and could not be looked up.  There definitely was a correct answer to these questions, but nothing in the book that she could find and copy as the answer. She had to really demonstrate a deeper understanding of the topics to gain those points.

Goofy, stress free test day.
Amber did great on the test.  She missed one question in the definition section (because she didn't check it against the book).  I was proud that she didn't check each answer in the book. I watched her take the test from my desk while pretending to play on my computer.  She checked 2 answers and only after she had written them down on the test. That was all she used the book for.  Amber also got both bonus questions correct.  Each one required a small paragraph to answer the question with the details needed for full credit.  She didn't miss a single detail to either bonus question. She thought them through and got the correct answer.  We were both proud of her performance on the test, but I was happiest about the answers to the bonus questions. She never doubted her ability to answer the rote vocabulary and fill in the blank answers questions, but her ability to answer the thinking questions is what worries her.  She truly understood the material and she wasn't stressed at all by the test.

Amber has a Social Studies test next week on the Southeast region of the U.S.  I think we will try it the same way.  Open book, but not enough time to look it all up. 

No comments:

Post a Comment