Test on Alexander of Macedon today! Let the panic reign (or rain, whichever.)
It is fascinating the number of students who have never taken a test before. I’m talking of students who are home-schooled or went to institutions of free-range learning. Test taking is just as much of a skill as learning to tie your shoes, and so I maintain a very rigorous testing environment. I also explain why this environment is necessary. For example, the no talking rule is necessary so that I can know what is in their heads, not what is their neighbor’s heads. Same goes for looking at someone else’s desk. I tell them that I’m not a cop or a detective, and I have to go with what I see. If it looks like a duck, and it walks like a duck, I’m not qualified to state it’s a platypus, even if it is one. So, the no talking and no wandering eyes rules are very important. This is very hard on classrooms where co-operative learning techniques are used. Students learn to help each other, and it is stressful for them to know that the person sitting next to them needs help.
Students are also very used to calling out for help from me which means that I have to really help them not call out during a test. Things that are distracting have to go. This includes sharpening pencils, getting out more paper, or getting tissues from the box, mostly things students do without having to think.
This test was interesting because I needed to juggle the needs to two groups of students. The new students are struggling to write complete sentences while the old group are ready to write an essay. Old students were given the essay question yesterday, but they needed to do all the work for it today. In the time that the new students have answered 3/4s of a 20 question short answer test, the new students have brainstormed, outlined, and written the first draft of a 4 paragraph essay. When I presented this to the olds yesterday, not wanting to surprise them with it, I expected wailing and gnashing of teeth. What I got was a nodding approval. One of them asked if they also needed to do the short answer section, but no, the essay is in place of the questions. The old students did not want to do the short answer test and the new students did not want to do the essay. It worked out well, I think.
This is also the first time I’ve allowed students to use laptops for tests. About four of them decided to use them, one essayist and three newbies. One newbie’s computer wouldn’t work, so she ended up writing the test out by hand. One newbie only has TextEdit on his computer, one has Pages, and one has Word. If you are going to allow computers into the classroom (and the school isn’t controlling what the students have) you really do have a wide range of knowledge about computers. I often call for tech support, i.e., my husband, bless him. It’s good to have a geek in your life.