Is a test each week too much?

Discussion in 'Middle School / Junior High' started by rae85, Aug 7, 2013.

  1. rae85

    rae85 Rookie

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    Aug 7, 2013

    I am terrified for the first day of school (next wednesday). I have a million questions, but the one I am most concerned about is how fast to cover material. I plan on following the textbook pretty closely this year, since I'll most likely be in "survival" mode. The chapters are divided into 3 sections. I figured I could cover a section a day, the fourth day would be review, and then the test would be the 5th day.

    Is this pacing too fast for 7th grade social studies? I am the only teacher who teaches this at my school, so I can't ask another teacher. I would ask my fellow teachers at my school, but I just got hired last week, and I haven't met any of them yet.
     
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  3. geoteacher

    geoteacher Devotee

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    This seems a little aggressive to me. When are you scheduling time to go over the test results with students (so that they can learn from mistakes)? Also, does your curriculum require a current event component? While I do understand the appeal of following the textbook rather closely - and that is not necessarily a bad thing - I would suggest that you look first at you district's curriculum for guidance as to what should be covered.
     
  4. readingrules12

    readingrules12 Aficionado

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    I don't get why you plan on being in "survival" mode. 7th grade Social Studies has a lot of interesting concepts and great history. While your textbook is a great starting point, I think you'll find it much less scary if you really take control of the subject and go beyond the textbook at times. If you only use the textbook with 7th graders, it will be a great challenge to get them to enjoy history and remember much about it. There are great items online (including Youtube) and in the libraries on history for this grade level which will make history so much more interesting and less stressful for you. I would be very willing to share with you some sites and book titles if you like.

    Getting back to your statement of "survival" mode. Is there a reason you will be in "survival" mode this year? Survival mode is not a place I would wish on any teacher.
     
  5. Myrisophilist

    Myrisophilist Habitué

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    My impression is that the OP is a new teacher. S/he has probably heard, as most of us new teachers have, about the trajectory that a teacher takes during the first year: anticipation, survival, disillusionment, rejuvenation, reflection, and back to the beginning. See here for a diagram.

    Personally, in the 6 months I've been teaching, I experienced these emotions multiple times a day. OP, try to focus on the flair you can bring to your teaching. Exploit you talents! Use the book if it makes you comfortable, and also try to add experiences beyond the textbook (case studies, class discussions, field trips, guest speakers...).
     
  6. dgpiaffeteach

    dgpiaffeteach Aficionado

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    I think it's too much. Where are the extension activities? Projects? Research? Primary source reading? Google can be your friend here. There are so many good ideas out there! I don't think the kids will enjoy the class much if you just stick to the textbook. My favorite teachers were the ones who did lots of reenactments, projects, and hands on things.
     
  7. readingrules12

    readingrules12 Aficionado

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    I'm well aware of that diagram as I think it is taught to all us in our new teacher's trainings. I don't doubt that is where some of this statement of "survival mode" is coming from.

    I would like the OP a chance to answer for himself/herself. Only he/she can best explain the anxiety he/she is feeling that might bring him/her to feel they will be in survival mode. If the other OP doesn't want to share this information, that is fine too.

    OP, let me know if there is any help you might like.
     
  8. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Aug 7, 2013

    I agree that this seems too ambitious and doesn't leave room for test corrections, extension activities, projects, or reteaching. I think it's probably a decent frame, but I think that you'll need to be very flexible.

    How long are the sections? What sorts of activities are you planning to do with each section?

    ETA: I think that one quiz (or short test, however you're defining that) per week is NOT too much. It's the other stuff that might be too much. I give one quiz per week and it works for me. We take the quiz every Friday, regardless of where we are in the lesson. It will always cover the new vocabulary (since we get that at the start of the lesson) and whatever major concepts we've been working on.
     
  9. Barbd

    Barbd Rookie

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    Are you talking "tests" or "quizzes"?

    I teach math and give quite a few quizzes. Theory being it gives a more accurate representation of the student's ability and allows students to make up for one bad grade more easily.

    Plus realize you can easily assess with a test/quiz grade without actual tests. Instead of a test, have them do a project about the material. Kids love to write stories, poems, skits, songs, etc.

    I have some pinterest ideas for social studies (I'm certified in that subject as well) that are geared for middle school. PM me and I'll send you the link if you'd like.
     
  10. swansong1

    swansong1 Virtuoso

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    Honestly, if I were a student in 7th grade and had to sit through a class of just textbook, I may choose to become a behavior problem to alleviate the boredom.

    As others have suggested, there are countless resources available to make social studies come alive.
     
  11. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    Aug 7, 2013

    I also think it's to soon. When I long term subbed science and also history, the planning was totally up to me (it was about 2-3 weeks at a time). Initially I wanted to cover 1 section / week, but that's rushing it. Why not take 2 weeks? Or even a week and a half?
    With social studies you can do so much in addition to textbook material (view maps, short video clips, make posters, things that will reinforce the lesson). I would do a test on a Wednesday, go over results and material Thursday and allow students with C or less to make it up on Friday.
    You want them to succeed, and there's a better chance if you take your time. If you rush, they won't be that engaged and excited about the material, you might have more behavior problems, and a lot more of them will fail the test. If you get half of the class score below a C, you'll probably want to reteach some anyways, so you might as well just take your time the first place.

    You can always change things and give them tests earlier, or quizzes every Friday, your policies are not set in stone.
     
  12. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    Aug 7, 2013

    I think that a quiz a week is a great idea, but I wouldn't test each week. The first thing that I would do is sit down with your standards and match chapters in the textbook with standards. Then have a talk with the 6th and 8th grade SS teachers to see how they structure their class.

    You definitely want to plan projects, simulations, and other engaging activities for the students. Tests are not the only way to assess mastery of content.
     
  13. HistTchr

    HistTchr Habitué

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    Aug 7, 2013

    This is definitely too much. There is a wealth of primary sources and other supplemental materials out there that you can use to add more depth to the material. Good luck!
     
  14. readingrules12

    readingrules12 Aficionado

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    Aug 8, 2013

    I'm not sure which state you are in, but in most states (if not all) teachers are required by law to teach their state standards in Social Studies. This is true in accredited private schools and all public schools in most states. If a P finds out you are not teaching standards and just going chapter by chapter in a textbook, you could get in trouble. 20 years ago admin. might just remind you and warn you, now it is different. They might use it as a means to not renew a contract. This is even easier to do at a charter or private school. I'd hate to see you in trouble like that.

    My suggestion would be to print out a copy of those standards and then do the following:

    1. Find out which ones are in your textbook (for me it is less than 50% of them, so it might also be for you.)

    2. Relax, and think of any other resources the school has that might help meet some more of the standards.

    3. Think about any other way to meet some of the other standards such as internet, libraries, teacherspayteachers, edhelper.com,or even getting the P to purchase a supplemental text.

    4. If you get to be at a loss, ask for help at school and on this site, and lots of teachers can share good ideas that might not take much planning time. For example: "I am suppose to teach about Shay's Rebellion, but I don't have it in my textbook, and I'm not sure how to teach it, any ideas?"

    This may seem overwhelming, but not if you just take a few standards at a time. You probably won't be able to teach all the standards, but you should be (and probably are expected) to teach most of them.

    Social Studies is a wonderful subject that I think you can really enjoy teaching and the students really enjoy learning. I wish you the best of luck.
     
  15. rae85

    rae85 Rookie

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    Aug 8, 2013

    Thank you all for the wonderful input.

    What I mean by "survival mode" is that since I've only had one week to prepare before classes start (and with new teacher orientation meetings every day), I really don't have the time to look at all of the vast resources out there that cover my topics. Plus my stress level is positively through the roof right now. I love making creative activities and projects, but to start out, I just don't see how I'll have enough time to filter through and create everything.

    Now, I would be interesting in learning about how I can have enough time to look at the material, look through possible activities, create projects (that need detailed instructions, rubrics, etc.), create PowerPoints, create worksheets, quizzes, tests, etc. I feel so incredibly overwhelmed. I'm trying to plan my first lesson now, and it has taken me all night!

    As for the question about if I'll be hitting all of my state standards, I know that I will because my textbook is based off of the standards and lists the ones covered for each chapter.
     
  16. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Aug 8, 2013

    Welcome to the world of teaching. This is what it is all about.



    Be careful. Every textbook says it's based on the standards, but few actually align with the state standards. You shouldn't be relying on the textbook for your standards. Verify everything against your actual standards (not what's printed in the textbook).
     
  17. dgpiaffeteach

    dgpiaffeteach Aficionado

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    Lesson planning will get easier. Did you not have to lesson plan during ST? One lesson plan really shouldn't take that long. It's just going to be too hard during the year to devote that much time to one day. I suggest setting a schedule and sticking to it. Decide how you'll attack everything. I do my lesson plans for each month now. One week usually fits on one page, front and back. Our P does not expect more than the standard/objective, brief plan, and assignment (homework). I make my resources as I go. I try to stay a week ahead on all documents needed.

    When I'm approaching a new unit, I may google "ways to introduce Victorian England". There are plenty of ideas. That helps get me started. I also bounce ideas off my English friends.
     
  18. linswin23

    linswin23 Cohort

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    Aug 8, 2013

    Like what other posters have said, I believe a test a week sounds a bit too much, but a quiz would be acceptable. Could the quizzes later be adapted to the test? You would let the kids know that the questions on the quizzes may appear on the test. The quizzes could serve as a formative assessment where students use it to gauge how well they are doing with understanding the material before the big test arrives? Just a few thoughts!
     
  19. Go Blue!

    Go Blue! Connoisseur

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    Yes, way to fast. How do you plan on covering the material (how will the kids read, review and discuss the material)? I taught 7th grade SS last year (World Geography) and it took us a while to get through each chapter/topic, most of which will be completely new ideas, concepts and vocabulary for the kids.

    I am a one or two tests per quarter teacher. No one wants to have to study for a weekly SS test in MS and you will not want to grade them on a weekly basis. Trust me on that.
     
  20. rae85

    rae85 Rookie

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    Thanks again, everyone!

    Go Blue, since you have experience teaching 7th grade Social studies, could you tell me how you attack things? For instance, my first section is on Geography. It defines geography, explains how geographers study the world on three levels (local, regions, global) and the tools geographers use (maps, tools, and satellites).

    How would you plan to teach this material?

    Thanks for the advice!
     
  21. swansong1

    swansong1 Virtuoso

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    May I suggest that, rather than creating new worksheets, activities, powerpoints, etc, use ones that are already prepared online. No sense reinventing the wheel. If you google any topic that you need to teach, you will be inundated with pages and pages of suggested lessons and activities. This will certainly save you time and, hopefully, make your lesson planning easier.
     
  22. chebrutta

    chebrutta Enthusiast

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    Also: does your school have a required number of tests for each quarter? We have to give an minimum of 4 summatives each quarter, so we try to space them out every two weeks or three weeks and do a project each quarter to count as one of the grades. Because our kids have 7 classes, that means they could have 28 tests every quarter. It's a lot... I think once a week would drain your kiddos.
     
  23. Go Blue!

    Go Blue! Connoisseur

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    I will be teaching HS this year but I am happy to help. Also, last year, I was using the Geography Alive! textbook/workbook curriculum from TCI.

    To start the year off, I pretty much follow this pattern:

    1. The first mini-unit I always do every year - regardless of the grade I am teaching - is on writing and presenting Current Events. This is a week long unit I model and practice because I require that students find, summarize and present CEs throughout the year.

    2. Next, I like to present and discuss a few "Big Ideas/Essential Questions" to my students because we will constantly revisit and asses these themes throughout the year. These include: how do the people living in a region adapt and/or modify the physical environment? How does the physical environment shape human settlement patterns? How does the physical environment shape the daily lives of the people living there? How has the history of a region shaped modern culture? Why do cultural patterns change over time? Students can examine their own local history as you work through these themes at the start of the year.

    3. I usually start the Geography material with a review of the basics: continents and their locations, the world oceans, the equator, prime meridian, etc. and we map these for a day or two. MS love to color so maybe let them label and color these maps if you want.

    4. Next, I usually like to review key landforms and physical features by having students define, locate/identify, draw and describe these. This can take a few days and you can focus on as many (or as few) landforms as you like. I always like to cover the most common ones such as islands, peninsulas, bays, gulfs, mountains, plateaus, plains, volcanos, etc.

    5. After that, you can examine different types of maps/map projections, discuss their history (why were they popular and why may have fallen out of favor), and the pros and cons of using each one. Provide examples for students to work with.

    6. Finally, I like to teach basic grid mapping at the start of the year using relative location (having students determine simple directional patterns between places) and absolute location (having students plot or identify places using geographic coordinates). Relative location can take a day or two, but teaching graphing coordinates can take a while ... this is really a math-based skill and that may be problematic.

    This is pretty much my first unit of the year. Once I hit these basics, I go to the textbook and usually skip to the first regional unit which in most books is about the United States or Canada and the US.

    Hope any of this helps! Let me know if you have any other questions and good luck ... teaching 7th grade is QUITE interesting.
     
  24. Storyteller

    Storyteller Rookie

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    I am right there with you, OP! It's my first year teaching 7th grade Social Studies as well and I'm right in the middle of planning the first unit and introducing rules/procedures at the onset of the year. You are not alone! Everyone here has given great advice and I definitely plan to come back here if I have any questions.

    Go Blue! thank you for your outline! I might steal some of it! Was your 7th grade curriculum World History? That's what mine is - 1500s to the present.
     
  25. rae85

    rae85 Rookie

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    Again, thanks so much for the responses! You guys are all so wonderful. :)

    The good news is that I contacted the 7th grade social studies teacher at another local middle school, and they have the same textbook. The teacher was able to tell me what chapter she finishes by the end of the first semester. She also told me that the first 4 chapters are all review from 6th grade, so I can breeze through those pretty quickly.

    Go Blue, your planning strategy helped me out tremendously! I guess my next question is what are your favorite ways to present the information (teaching methods). I honestly hate lecturing with PowerPoint (i think so do the kids), and I don't want them to just read the textbook in class and do worksheets.

    Storyteller, we can support each other this year! 7th grade social studies here is The Eastern World, so I'm assuming it's pretty close to what you'll be teaching?
     
  26. Storyteller

    Storyteller Rookie

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    Sure thing! We can stress and panic and cry :help: together haha.

    Mine is kind of like that. It's World History in general, from the 1500s to the present. It starts with the explorers and goes from there. ...I actually haven't looked too much further than that, which is probably something I shouldn't be admitting. In my area, 6th graders learn WH up to 1500s, then 1500s to present in 7th grade, and then particularly South Carolina history in 8th grade.

    It'll be a roller coaster year but it'll be great!
     
  27. Go Blue!

    Go Blue! Connoisseur

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    In Maryland, 6th grade is Ancient Civilization (Ancient Egypt, Greece, China, India, Rome), 7th grade is World Geography (People and the Physical Environment), and 8th grade is US History Part 1: The Age of Exploration to Reconstruction. I have taught all three over the past years.
    I prefer class Read Alouds but these can very problematic. My students cannot take the textbook home (I only have a class set), so all reading must be done in the classroom. I teach a population where most students are reading below grade level in regards to decoding and comprehension so asking them to read silently/ independently is useless. Many kids will skim the pages and tell you they have read, yet any quick assessment will prove that they have understood none of what they have "read." Also, lots of the social studies vocabulary, concepts and ideas are new to students at the middle school level.

    Once the kids have read, they don't have to do worksheets. They can write journal responses, answer a writing prompt, put on skits/performances, complete an in-class project (making postcards, travel pamphlets, timelines), create a political cartoon, write a graphic novel/picture book, so forth. Graphic organizers are also good for pre-, during-, and post-reading activities.

    I also like PowerPoints if you can't get your kids to read aloud, want them to take notes/focus on key ideas, or even just need help with pacing and staying on track. Many kids may hate PPT at the MS level, but once they are trained (come in, do the warm up, take the PPT notes), it can be a life saver.
     
  28. rae85

    rae85 Rookie

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    Aug 11, 2013

    Wow, thanks again, Go Blue! You're awesome! :)
     
  29. readingrules12

    readingrules12 Aficionado

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    Thanks for this response. This clarifies a lot to me.

    I have found some things work better than others in connecting students to history. Here is one simple thing that has worked for me that might be of some help.

    1. Students really want to know about the important people in history more than just the events and dates. Without really getting to know the important people in history they become lost and bored.

    Knowing this, look at the textbook and your standards and see what are the important people in that weekly or 10 day unit that you are teaching. For example, if I teach the Louisiana Purchase and I don't first teach about Thomas Jefferson, they will be lost and bored.

    One simple thing you could do (or better have the students do this) is google "Thomas Jefferson Interesting Facts" or "Thomas Jefferson Important Accomplishments". Make sure they (or you) are conscious of what web-site this info is coming from. This can lead to discussions of which web-sites to trust and which not to. They will really get excited about knowing this character far past the few boring paragraphs in your textbook.

    Also, a quick search on YouTube on Thomas Jefferson will lead to many video clips. Choose 3 short clips to watch by yourself and you'll probably find 1 that is good and appropriate to get them interested in knowing more about Thomas Jefferson. Please preview the videos because Youtube can be shocking with some of the content it has in videos that first appear to be safe.

    This isn't much prep, and it makes a HUGE difference in their interest level in history.

    If you have time to take it to the next level, get some good articles on that character from edhelper.com or Teachers pay teachers or some other site that you can run off for free.

    This isn't everything, but it should help some. Good luck to you.:)
     

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