Saturday, April 26, 2008

Test Prep Idea #2: Word Wall Review

In preparation for this week's 9th grade TAKS mathematics test (Thursday, April 1st), I adapted my word wall for TAKS review. I first edited the list of words a bit, focusing on terms and groups of terms that were most common and required the most review.

I asked students to pick 5 words they didn't know, write a "tutorial" showing how to solve problems related to those terms, and find a couple of TAKS questions on the topic (scoured from our workbooks, textbook and practice tests). The idea was that the tutorial should be short and simple, similar to the style of notes I give in class. Ideally, at the end of the project I'd have at least one good tutorial for each term, which could be compiled into one last review for the students.

We took two days last week to do this in class, but a widespread apathy bordering on lethargy resulted in students doing a poor job or no job at all (hence the end of my motivational experiment). I asked them to write everything in their own words and create their own examples; they didn't even have their own notes and ended up copying straight from my originals or the textbook. They missed the point.

I don't have enough quality tutorials with which to create another review for my students, and honestly, they haven't given me a whole lot of reasons to want to go that extra mile. Maybe that make me a bad teacher. Maybe it's just the stress of this time of year. Or maybe it's not my fault. I don't know the answer. I only hope that it helped the students who were willing to put in the work.

You could adapt this idea for your classroom in a number of ways:
  • If you have more time, you could ask students to create their own tutorial for every word on the Word Wall (as long as your wall has 20-25 terms/groups of terms that have been whittled down to the bare essentials). This ensures they cover everything.
  • Cut out the "find 2 test-style questions" part. Give students another practice test with maybe one good question on each topic and allow them to use their tutorials while working on the problems.
  • Instead of this project, have students create a set of flash cards for every word wall term. The term on one side and a concise example or explanation on the other.