The first test of the school year did not go as smoothly as anticipated. The test answers were not completely wrong, they were often just missing the details to make them fully correct. Even though every class practice involved providing an answer, the text evidence to support it, and an explanation, when it came to the test they thought a single word would suffice.
I started to question my ability as an effective educator while writing copious feedback and probing questions on every single test. Somewhere between the panic and the frustration I realized I could not take full responsibility for them learning. The opportunities were available, encouraged, and occasionally forced down their throats, but that did not mean they were invested in learning. Mentally I envisioned the expression about leading a horse to water, but you can’t force him to drink.
For the Five Themes of Geography, there were a variety of activities:
- They had a teaser activity they worked on with a partner to infer as much about the themes as they could (without any prior knowledge).
- Flipped lesson homework assignment to hear the five themes.
- Cornell Notes, examples, and practice (x4)
- Scenarios involving the Five Themes
- Jigsaw activity to apply the Five Themes to our town. After each group finished, I left specific feedback on their GoogleDocs. There was also an answer guide posted on Google Classroom for groups who had questions.
- More scenarios, but done through Quizizz
- Projects to apply the Five Themes. The students really enjoyed the creative freedom of the project, but the content was sometimes overlooked with the project construction. It did not have the deeper level of learning that was hoped for.
- Formative assessment on Socrative with practice scenarios. The results shifted my lesson plans for the following two days.
- Focused practice on the definitions and core examples of the Five Themes with Quizlet.
- Optional scenarios on GoogleDocs with an answer guide/explanations.
- Study Group during Study Hall for the students identified as needing additional review from the formative assessment.
- Review games and videos posted on class website.
There were many opportunities to apply the learning. However, there were some disappointing statistics.
- Only 1/3 of students completed the Learn Mode on Quizlet
- About 1/2 the jigsaw groups fixed their answers based on the feedback I left them.
- Only 1 out of 90 students completed the optional (but highly recommended) extra scenario practice. Not a typo, that says ONE.
As I reflected on the test and the test responses, I had some ah-ha moments. There are a few minor tweaks to the directions for next year to clarify even further the answer expectations. I also did not write the grade on the test, just in my grade book. I did not want the percentage to be a distractor. So many times all the students check is the grade and do not process the comments and questions.
Right before I had the test back, I am going to hand them a self-reflection form for the test. The first portion they fill out without seeing my feedback.
Once I had back their test, they will fill out the second side of the reflection form. At that point, they will also need to respond to any and all of the questions I wrote on their test. They will highlight their new responses so it is easy to read. My hope: do they see the connection between the classwork, studying, and success on a test?
Re-Take Policy: There will be some students who are shocked by their grade. Our department has a re-take policy that puts the ownership back on the students. They need to develop a study plan, complete all of the optional assignments (or assigned work that they missed), and arrange a time to work 1:1 with the teacher. I would check their general level of understanding before allowing them to attempt a re-test, because if they are not prepared they will not be any more successful the second time.
So this entire test was a learning process for everyone. In the future, I will emphasize the importance of studying outside of class and provide some study strategies. The students do not have an innate study habits, but that does not give them an excuse not to study once they are modeled. Lessons learned for all of us, except not necessarily about the Five Themes.