Monday, March 31, 2014

Tests are Fun! Tests are Fun?

"Awww, can't we have a test today?"

"How can I give you the test? I haven't taught the content yet!"

Has this conversation ever occurred in your school? It has in mine, several times, since March Break ended and we returned to class. My students are literally begging me to give them tests. Prior to the break, all the primary grades I see for Media literacy had a big test - and they wanted more.

I'm not a huge fan of tests as assessment of learning, but I realize that it's important to differentiate assessment tools just as much as we need to differentiate teaching methods.  You've seen my project-based assessments on this blog before: students designing hero costumes and creating media-tie-in products that were good enough to barter. I find these projects exciting and fun to see develop, but some students struggle with big, open-ended and multi-step jobs like these. I also realize that for many of my students, writing is not one of their academic strengths.

I think the main reason why my students love taking my last test was because I used the SMARTBoard Senteo Response system, known by my students as "the clickers". One of the parents told me that her Grade 1 son reported that "he did a test with calculators" and she was interested to see exactly what he was talking about. The students find many things about the experience enjoyable, from pushing the buttons to answer, to watching their names disappear when I peek to see who hasn't answered a question yet, to getting their results almost instantaneously. I actually had kids announce in the middle of the evaluation that "this is the funnest test I've ever taken"!

I like using "the clickers" because of the immediate feedback given to the students. (I'm a very slow marker and the SMARTBoard does it for me.) I also like how I can monitor how the students are doing from question to question and provide support and intervention where needed (by reading the questions aloud, paraphrasing, or just reassuring). I appreciate how I can export the data and share it with parents.

I shouldn't give all the credit to the gadget. Prior to the test, I send home a photocopy of the interactive whiteboard files that I used to teach the media concepts, as well as general questions and the titles of the books we've used in conjunction with the topic. (For instance, last week and this week we are discussing crowd mentality and we've read two 2014 Blue Spruce nominees that contain marvelous examples as part of the plot: Oddrey and Willow Finds a Way.) The students felt prepared to take the test, so for many kids, "it was easy". I worried that my assessment was too simple, but I checked the curriculum expectations I was attempting to match and the task met the description. They were very proud and happy with their results, and for a group that places a lot of value on academic proficiency, these students were delighted with their "A-" or "A+".

Are there any other reasons why my students would adore test-taking so much that I'm not seeing? Or are my students just highly unusual?

1 comment:

  1. Diana,
    Why do your students like taking tests? Partly because of the 'clicker', the immediate feedback and the other reasons you listed.....but I would also assume it's because they've been engaged by your teaching - the books, the lessons, the tasks you set for them - and are keen to show off everything they've learned. The technology is cool, but feeling confident in what you know is way cooler - and will stay with them for longer!