Too many times we assume students know or have experienced things that they have either forgotten or never been exposed to. Every year in the classroom, instead of going over the traditional classroom rules and policies I would do two things.
How to read a math textbook the fun way!
First I always did a fun math activity so students could see the enjoyment, beauty, and usefulness math could bring to them. Then I would show students how to read a math textbook! We as teachers often assume that students who know how to read know the best way to read a math textbook. You do NOT read a math textbook like a novel. If you are reading a math textbook that way you need to seek professional help right away!
I would share with students the simple steps for reading a math textbook.
Read the objects and understand what you are supposed to learn in the lesson.
Skim the reading looking for key words, vocabulary, and key points. These are usually in the bold face, italic type, or underlined in the reading.
Look at the examples. See if you understand what is being done in the example.
Try a problem or two where you can check the answer in the back of the book or know you are correct with the problem(s) you worked.
Finally, only if you struggled with the problem(s) you attempted should you go back and read the section word for word.
I was amazed how many students in my Pre-Calculus classes came up to me after class and said that I was the first teacher who ever showed them how to read a math textbook.
This same situation happens, all too frequently, with the important high stakes testing we are giving students (far too often!) We assume that students know how to use the interface they will be using to take the assessment. This might have been true when all testing was done with pencil and paper, but now with online and digital testing it is definitely no longer true!
Do we show the students all the details and intricacies that exist in the assessment interface? Do we show students how to maximize the tools they have at their disposal in the testing interface? Do we get them familiar or refamiliarize them with the testing interface before each testing session? I don’t know about you but when I have only done something once 5-6 months previously, I tend to forget some of the details and important things that would help me perform better.
A great example of this would be using the BlueBook App for the new Digital PSAT and SAT Assessments. The testing window for giving the Digital SAT Assessment to all Juniors in Indiana is March 4-15, 2024, and April 8-19, 2024. Juniors may or may not remember using the BlueBook App when they took the Digital PSAT/NMSQT back between October 9-27, 2023. It is imperative for teachers to show students and walk them through all the important key features of the BlueBook App, so students can perform their very best on the assessment. Key points you need to talk to the students about are:
➢ How to hide and unhide the countdown timer - this is imperative for students who have test anxiety that a count-down timer, like the one in the BlueBook App uses.
➢ How to use the ABC button to be able to rule out possibilities on both the Reading and Writing and Math Modules.
➢ How to use the “Annotate” button to highlight and take notes for key words in the text.
➢ How to use the “Mark for Review” Flag to help work through the problems.
➢ How to use the “Next” and “Back” buttons to navigate through the questions.
➢ How to use the Black “Questions # - #” to jump around to a specific question.
➢ How to read the Math module directions ONCE and know those exact same directions will pop up for every Student Generated Response on the Math modules.
➢ How to access the DESMOS Calculator that is allowed to be used on ALL the math problems.
➢ How to get the key needed to use the DESMOS Calculator when they are not shown
➢ How to access the Formula Sheet that is allowed to be used on ALL the math problems.
➢ Finally and most importantly, how to make sure students have answered or guessed on EVERY question in each module by making sure every box on the review page is Blue!
If students are not aware of and familiar with these key and important features, they will be at a disadvantage for the Digital SAT Assessment. This is something that MUST be shown to students every time a day or two before the assessment is given.
Another example of making sure students are aware of the testing interface would be discussing with students all the different types of questions and how to give answers to the different types of questions they will see on the ILEARN Assessment. You can do this by making sure that every type of question is used on your formative and summative assessments you give regularly in your class.
The ILEARN Assessment testing window is April 15, 2024 - May 10, 2024, this year. Between now and April 15, 2024 make sure students have seen Drag and Drop, Embedded Text Entry, Equation Response, Graphic Response, Multiple Choice, Multiple Select, Short Answer, Hot Text, Select Text , and Matching Tables (according to the Indiana Department of Education ILEARN Test Specifications posted at: https://www.in.gov/doe/students/assessment/ilearn/#ILEARN_Item_Specifications.) on the test and quizzes you use regularly. You can find examples of all these types of questions at: https://sampleitems.smarterbalanced.org/BrowseItems.
Multiple choice questions
Another important skill you should be discussing with students is how to approach multiple choice questions. This is an important skill not only for the Digital PSAT, Digital SAT and ILEARN Assessments, but also for college placement tests, the written driver’s license texts, and so many other important testing opportunities throughout a students’ lives. Have you had a discussion with students how to rule out possibilities to narrow down the answer choices? Have you discussed with students how to make sure you are answering the question being asked when you select the correct answer for the question? Have you talked to the students about how to recognize the difference between Multiple Choice and Multiple Select questions that might occur on the different assessments? These are discussions that must take place so students can do their very best on these high stakes assessments.
A question I ask math teachers often is “What is the correct answer for every math problem they will give to their students?” The simple answer to my question is whatever solution makes the problem true! This is a useful fact that teachers should discuss with their students to help them with multiple choice questions on a test. If the student does not know how to start or approach a problem to get a solution, they can take the answer choices and plug them into the problem. If the answer choice makes the problem true, then that answer choice is a correct answer. Basically, this is the “Guess and Check” method where your guesses are provided for you. That is a useful strategy when taking tests like the Digital PSAT, Digital SAT and ILEARN Assessments. Another useful tool is to use logic! Many questions on these assessments can be solved with logic and not always trying to use brute force. If you show students a few examples of these types of questions, you will be amazed at how much it can help students to do their very best on these assessments.
Overall, be sure NOT to assume that students have seen the interface that the students will use on assessments! Do NOT assume that students have seen the types of questions the students will have to answer on these assessments! Do NOT assume that students know methods on how to approach problems on these assessments! If you take the time to make sure that students are exposed to the interface they will be using, have seen the types of questions the students will have to answer, and know methods on how to approach problems on these assessments you will be helping students achieve their personal best on the assessments they must take. As the title of this blog states: Don’t assume, be sure!