Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Test Prep Idea #4: Tell Them How to Study

Every year, the story is the same: students don't know how to study. No one ever taught them how to study. I created the bulletin board at left to give them a little motivation and focus heading into our big test last week. The countdown had started at 30.

Here's what I advised them to do:
  1. Take home old notebooks to study. Mostly they collected dust or were raided by other students for scratch paper.
  2. Do any pages from the TAKS Workbooks that we didn't do in class on your own. Have Mr. D check them or give you the answers. We have the books, you might as well use every inch of them!
  3. Work hard in class on all "Countdown to TAKS" reviews. Every day for two weeks leading into the test, we did one or two pages from this section textbook, which provided good practice and covered a little bit of everything. Most textbooks include something similar in the book itself or supplemental materials.
  4. Make flash cards (get a pack of index cards, write the terms on one side & the answer/defintion/example on the other. This is a simple and powerful tool, and students told me they had followed my advice in other classes where they had to know a large amount of vocabulary to much success.
  5. Re-do old tests and benchmarks. No one took me up on this offer.
  6. Do practice TAKS questions at the end of each unit in the textbook. Ditto.
  7. Come to tutoring Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. We had a good turnout on Saturdays, but not so much during the week. I can't blame them--while I was there all three days throughout April, I was burnt out myself.
  8. Ask for extra practice tests. I always have extra copies of unit, grading period benchmark and semester tests lying around. By the end of the year, I put them out in a visible place for anyone who wants them.
  9. Create a study group--get your friends, some food, and some music and tutor each other (while still having fun). I told my students about my own experiences trying to study with my friends in high school, and I know some students were intrigued by this new-to-them idea.
  10. Get more SLEEP (it helps your brain). This is a theme I hammered home all year long that I made sure to mention one last time before the big one.
  11. Ask for a TAKS Study Guide book created by the state to help you. I had so many of these piled up, and they're freely provided by the state, so I gave them away to any student who asked.
There's no limit to how much you could extend the list, but obviously you have to consider how much of it will the average student be willing to read. Keep it simple.

By the way, now that the test is over, the countdown has been replaced by a Countdown to Summer. 29 days and counting!