January 14, 2010

Semester tests - as old school as it gets!

I'm going to skip the whole hey-it's-my-first-time-blogging speech, because it will probably be pretty obvious to everyone that it's my first time.  If it's not entertaining enough, just picture me writing this while jamming out to Britney Spears and trying to burn calories by keeping my abs tight the whole time (why did I eat that cookie for lunch?).

But really - I'm writing in honor of my students' semester tests. HOW EXCITING, right?! Not as much.  Don't get me wrong, it's a nice idea: teach all semester - test to see what they learned - check tests -  no feedback (usually) - move on.  Heck they probably enjoy testing. And I am SURE they love the multiple choice questions we gave them (they'll never know it was because we wanted to check 150 tests in 10 minutes).

That was my attempt at sarcasm, let me know how it went.

I just don't understand this innate NEED educators have for semester tests.  I don't have it.  In fact, I'm "subtly" trying to abolish these tests by dropping hints like,  "Hey, maybe we could do away with semester tests." :)

My teaching style just doesn't align with these types of assessments.  I like to teach, then "dipstick" along the way to see how they are comprehending, adjust, move on (or back up, according to the needs of the students), repeat.  Don't get me wrong, I do test. Just not usually in the traditional sense of the word.  I test through projects, application, verbal comprehension, individual discussion, and in some cases on paper - well, not PAPER - we have a 1:1 computer program at Van Meter...more about that later.

Tomorrow my 8th graders are creating a glog to upload to an educational wiki - Greetings from the World.  They will be posting the glogs under the Van Meter link.  The students are able to be as creative and advanced as their minds allow, while developing a virtual poster about Iowa, and at the same time utilizing the information covered from first semester (like poems and figurative writing).

Were they excited? More than if I handed them a four page multiple choice test and said, "good luck."  I've heard educators say a lot of things, but my recent favorite is  that it's not our job to excite students -  that baffles me.  I'd say finding a student's passion and getting them excited is a good portion of my job description.  Without that, I have 108 students learning material for a test and then forgetting it the next day - and be honest, we KNOW that's possible.  If they learned when I taught it (which I'd know from various assessments along the way), then semester tests are silly.


NICOLE HONORE, the author and owner of this blog said...

Nice introduction and congrats on your new blog. Not sure if I would agree that semester test are silly but do agree that we need to excite students to some degree. We all study differently and finding the triggers that excite us to study is the key. Oops a little off topic there..thanks for sharing

Aaron Eyler said...


I hope you realize you are dead on with everything you pointed out. Semester tests are useless and a complete fabrication of reality. Multiple-choice does not exist outside the classroom nor does it display an ability to think critically: period.

Here's the most important point: don't stop thinking this way or get frustrated with the complacency of the system by those around you. Realize that anyone who shoots you down is trying to maintain a "broken structure" that stresses the traditional memorization practice that THEY were good at when THEY were in school.

People frequently judge their successes by looking at the failures of others. Keep that in mind especially as you enter the "virtual world" and realize that not everyone thinks like we do.

I look forward to reading more of your work as you continue to blog. You've set the bar high from the beginning.


Anonymous said...

W00t! Thanks for learning out loud here, Kelly... as Van Meter continues to charge forward into the future, you KNOW folks are going to want to peek inside and see how it's done.

Now... can we get your Twitter handle to show up in the sidebar somewhere?

(It's @kellynelsen, in case someone else is wondering.)

So Kelly... said...

Thanks for the positive encouragement. I continue to develop what I do in the classroom to meet the needs of the students and I whole-heartedly believe that the "old way" is not getting it done. We are learning in a different manner, a different WORLD really, than ever before.

I asked my students the week before semester tests a question that stunned them - and that question ties right in to your comment (AE). "When in your life will you face a multiple choice situation?" They couldn't think of one. It's all about higher-level thinking skills.

It's not fair to create an educational environment that is so UNLIKE the real world that it doesn't prepare them for their future. Why make what we are doing in the classroom different than what they will be doing in their careers? I say, find their passion, engage them in learning in any possible way, and start their future now.

Trever Ewalt said...

Nice work, Kelly! I agree with you 100% and I think your students will benefit greatly from your teaching style. I wish teachers taught like that when I was in school. I think more and more teachers are adapting to that style as they begin to realize many of the problems you already have with the typical MC tests and large crammed semester finals. Good job!

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