Sunday, October 2, 2016

After the math test

All educators want their students to succeed.  They teach to the Common Core Standards, differentiate instruction so all students get what they need at their own levels, reflect on how the lesson went and decide how to move forward.  They give the students the test, and then either do the happy dance or fall into a deep depression.  Then the next day they move on to the next chapter of the math book, or whatever scope and sequence their district has decided to follow.

I like to add one more step to this merry go round.  I think that the day after the test is extremely important, maybe just as important as all the other steps a student, and teacher have to take to successful learn and retain the material necessary to grasp Common Core math problems.  This step is actually a bit hard on me.  Some nights when I'm working on this step I ask myself, "Why are you killing yourself for this job?"  But I really believe in this step, and if I didn't do, I would kind of feel like all the other hard work that I had put into that particular math standard would be pointless.

You ask what is this ridiculously tiring extra step?  Well, after the students take the test I take them all home and correct and grade them.  Then I record the grades in my grade book.   By this time I am tired and want to stop but I know I can't.  I must write a nice growth mindset message on every test, "I see you've practiced your multiplication facts!"  or "I think if you took extra time and used your notes you would see better results."  I then go through all their tests and make a spreadsheet that tells me how each student did on each question.  This way I can pull small groups throughout the upcoming week to reteach the concepts not yet grasped.

Now you are probably thinking, "Why does this have to be done all in one day?"  Well, I have read research by Dr. Marzano that proves a correlation between the time a student takes a test and the time he receives the results.  The closer the time frame, the more meaningful the test, and the more successful the student will be when taking the test and retaining the material.  The more time that passes, the less powerful the test and thus, the concepts taught by me.  I don't want my hard earned time used teaching the students to go to waste!  I want to get the most bang for my buck!  I want to give my students their tests back as soon as humanly possible!  And if that means that I work late one night so I can give the students back their tests the next morning, then that is what will happen.

So the next morning I give the students back their tests.  I have them write a refection on them in their interactive math journals.  They must write about something they did well, something they still need to learn, and something they question.   Then the next step I feel may be one of the most powerful steps.  I send the students out to mingle with their classmates.  Their assignment is either to explain something, or have something explained to them.  This is how it works.  They look for a peer that got the answer they got wrong, right.  Then that peer must explain how to do the problem.  If the student understands how to compete the problem after the explanation, they ask the student to sign their problem for them.  If they still don't understand, then they look for another tutor.  Both students win in this activity because the person being tutored, gets tutored, and the tutor gets practice explaining a problem, which is fantastic practice to help take him to the next level in their math capabilities.  Lastly, I tell the students to take their math tests home to be reviewed and signed by their parents.   Any home-school collaboration is a welcome addition to my math problem, and parent involvement is an extremely powerful tool in any subject.  Plus, there are fewer surprises at parent-teacher conference time.

You may think I am a workaholic, and you are probably right.  But out of all the extra activities I do off the clock I feel most strongly about this one.  I do feel that if even one of these steps were taken out of my "after test day routine" that my students would be harmed a bit educationally.  I do believe that what we as teachers do after a test is just as important as what we do before the test.  And if we don't have the time to do all the steps, why even take the test?

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