Open Book tests

Discussion in 'Debate & Marathon Threads Archive' started by Jenny G, Jun 25, 2007.

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  1. Jenny G

    Jenny G Companion

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    Jun 25, 2007

    For the last couple of S.S. tests this year, I let the kids use their books. The grades were not any better than if I had made them study. I'm thinking of letting them do this for all Science and Social Studies tests next year.

    What are your thoughts on this?
     
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  3. Proud2BATeacher

    Proud2BATeacher Phenom

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    What grade do you teach?

    In my younger years, if I knew that a test was going to be open book, I probably wouldn't have studied. This could explain why your grades weren't any better with it being open book -- the more studious students re-read the chapter and knew where the answers were located if they couldn't remember it while the others were too busy reading and searching for answers.
     
  4. Upsadaisy

    Upsadaisy Moderator

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    I've had this happen, too, and it is discouraging. They just don't seem to know how to use resources well, to find the main points, to discern what they read in non-fiction.
     
  5. goopp

    goopp Devotee

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    Most of my science, health and Social Studies tests were open book. I learned after the 1st one not to tell the class it was going to be open book, because they didn't study at all if they knew it in advance...and the grades were worse than normal. If you do that though, you have to throw in one that's not open book every once in a while to make sure that they just stop studying because "It's always an open book test".
     
  6. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    I wouldn't recommend doing it all the time.

    I teach a foreign language. The teacher before me was only around for half the school year. Apparently he left because he did A Bad Thing. I came in the next year to a huge, huge mess. It appears that his teaching strategy was to hand out resource worksheets all the time, like lists of verbs and their meanings, lists of verb and noun endings...basically list after list after list of the type of thing you'd find in the appendix of your textbook. He let the kids use these lists on their exams and the result was that practically NO ONE actually learned anything. They knew that they'd always be able to look up what they were after, so they didn't bother to memorize or do the most basic things.

    Perhaps your exams could be two-parters, where the first part was from memory only and dealt with essential facts and applications, while the second part dealt more with being able to use the book as a resource and included some essays or big, comprehensive-type questions.
     
  7. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    I think it depends on what you're trying to test.

    Obviously, not a good idea for teachers testing spelling or vocab, where the answers are right there.

    But I can see the sense if you're trying to get kids to pull info together. Say, an essay on the future of coal mining or something, when they have notes on a variety of different pieces of the puzzle in their notes.
     
  8. Jame

    Jame Comrade

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    (Talking about Social Studies and Science, mostly here. :) )

    My kids do not study either if they know it is open book, so I never tell them ahead of time.

    I always have them partner up to fill in a study guide as a review of the chapter...a sneaky way to get them to reread the material and focus on the main ideas. :) We go over it in class as a means to hear the material one more time, and we always do a review game of some sort. I tend to spend a lot of time, at this level, working with them on how to properly answer and organize essay questions.

    Sometimes, I let them write out a cheat sheet. They can fill out a regular size piece of notebook paper with any information from the text or notes that they think will be helpful. Again, it is my hope that rereading the material and writing it down will reinforce what we have covered. :)
     
  9. frodolass

    frodolass Comrade

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    I had a college professor do this and I loved it. She let us write whatever we could fit on an index card and we could use this when we took the test. It really made me think about what was important in the material we covered and in order to gather information, I had to read the material again. I like this idea.
     
  10. ancientcivteach

    ancientcivteach Habitué

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    I think it is important to be clear on what you are assessing. I feel that open book tests assess a students ability to read and locate information - important skills to be sure, and if that is what you want to test, go for it! :) Such a test doesn't assess content knowledge though. I could see open book in a circumstance such as an essay question test, but other than that I wouldn't do it.
     
  11. wdwteach

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    When I had 5th graders, I did let them use their books. They had NO EXCUSE to fail then. More importantly, they need to learn to read text books for information! I would rather them be able to read and find answers than memorize dates.
     
  12. Brendan

    Brendan Fanatic

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    Textbook reading is an important skill, but not the most important skill when teaching history. You can easily practice textbook reading through worksheets (classwork and homework), but tests and quizzes should be used to asses what the kids have learned, not their textbook reading.

    I would not do this. I sometimes allow my kids to use NOTES on their tests/quizzes, but never their textbook. By the way if you are making kids memorize a ton of dates as a teacher, you are teaching history the completlely wrong way. Sorry to be so blunt.

    My kids make a cheat sheet for their test, they turn it in for a 5 point bonus, but it cannot be used on their test. Every once in a while I do let them use it though.

    On some test essays I allow my kids to use their notes, but others not. But on regular papers they can use whatever they would like.
     
  13. wig

    wig Devotee

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    We often toss dice on the day of the test. The kids really like it and they know that there is a 50% chance that they will have to "use their brains only", so they do study (or at least the majority do)

    1,2,3 - Use your brain only

    4, 5 - Use your notes

    6 - Open book

    Occasionally I will "give" them the 6 if I needed to get the test in before a long break or end of quarter and there wasn't enough time to review properly.

    Sometimes I will give them a 4 x 6 note card and tell them that they may put as much info on it as they want and use it for the test.

    Occasionally their entire test will be an essay test. They get two class periods to do it and may use their text book.
     
  14. Bitsy Griffin

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    I never tell a class in advance if they will be able to use their notes or their book. It's always a surprise. I always tell them to bring those things and for good reasons as they might have to look up a problem or use instructions from a particular page.

    This seems to help some.

    I give four retests a year - their choice. That they do no better on a test that is set up exactly the same way in exactly the same fashion with the original test in hand from which to study is terribly disheartening.
     
  15. DizneeTeachR

    DizneeTeachR Virtuoso

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    We had one tha did that as well.

    In High school biology & earth science our teachers usually allowed 5 mins of open book or notes at the end. I don't think we ever really knew it was coming. I do remember that I loved it just to check on those few I wasn't so sure about.
     
  16. SpecialPreskoo

    SpecialPreskoo Moderator

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    Jun 26, 2007

    You could let them take an open book test then regive the test the next day closed book.

    OR

    The first 75% of testing time make it closed book then the last 25% of the time use the book for correction and rechecks.

    I liked the notecard idea. I had a college professor let us use one page of notes for our Economics test. Each test was comprehensive (including stuff from past tests). It is amazing how small you learn to write and how much you can get on one sheet of paper! Then she ended up scaling the grades because some just weren't getting it. It was her last semester before she retired... she didn't care. What was funnier... people were still dropping out left and right!

    Sorry! went rambling!! :)

    Maybe as a review use the questions in a game form... like Jeopardy or trivia...
     
  17. etcetera83

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    This is a great idea!
     
  18. etcetera83

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    I did this several times next year. A lot of times I saw kids complete all the questions they knew right off the bat and then go back to the others with the book. However, some of the students would try to wait until they could use their book to do the whole test. Usually, they would run out of time.
     
  19. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    I'm going to add a little bit to my earlier post.

    I think we are doing a huge disservice to our students if we teach them that they will always have a crutch in the form of a textbook. They need to be able to memorize essential information and to be able to apply it as appropriate.

    Jesse Jackson and Hilary Clinton spoke at my high school last year, and half the students (no exaggeration) did not know who they were. Most of the students live on or near a big street called Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, and most of them think that MLK freed the slaves. Are you kidding me?

    Have an open-book test if you want to teach textbook skills or resource skills or study skills. Please do not have an open-book test because you think the kids will fail the test otherwise and you don't want them to have an excuse. By doing that, you're really just helping them not to fail this time, but what about next time? What about when they are taking a standardized test? What about when they look completely foolish in front of their peers for not knowing pretty basic things?
     
  20. shasha379

    shasha379 Devotee

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    I find that open book tests are harder because if the students are not familiar with the material, from not studying or reading, they spend too much time trying to find the answers. After and open book test I've had a student, who of course did not study, say, "That was hard!" I asked them if they had studied, and they said, "no, I knew it was open book." I learned not to inform them of future open book tests. I only give one open book test per semester. I really like the dice idea. I think I will use it this year.
     
  21. DizneeTeachR

    DizneeTeachR Virtuoso

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    I see your point as well, but then why do as teacher's do we have a "crutch" to help us? I'm not trying to be rude, but the point is sometimes some of the info on tests gets so jumbled. I was one of those who studied, rewrote notes, even audio taped my self speaking the notes to study, but I had test anxiety.

    I know with the info like Hillary & Jesse & MLK we should all know who they are and what they did/doing for our country. I would more be embarrassed if I was the parent especially of those kids who live on MLK.

    Just my 2 cents...I did have open book/note tests during high school/college, but only on towards the end and for only about 5 mins!!! Plus, never really knew when it was or if it was coming, so had to study like it wasn't!!!
     
  22. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    I don't use a crutch. I know my subject matter inside and out, and I'm certain that I could teach any aspect of it without warning or time to prepare. I'm sure that most of us could do the same with our relative subjects.

    Students with severe text anxiety, learning disabilities, and other issues can certainly make a case for open-book tests. As for the rest of the students, I stand by my belief that they should memorize and learn the bulk of the material.

    I've written before about my experience with students entering my classroom without any knowledge of basic English grammar. These students should have learned from the beginning about subject-verb agreement, how to pluralize words, when to use apostrophes, and the difference between who and whom. Unfortunately, it seems like almost none of them did actually learn those things, probably because they were scooted along without ever being held truly accountable. They have a tough time in my class because I do hold them accountable for the material we go over in class--it just isn't good enough for them to have a rudimentary understanding of Latin by the end of the year.
     
  23. Brendan

    Brendan Fanatic

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    I could not agree more Cassie! Cassie, the thee big words in my classroom are "Accountabilty, Responsibilty, and Respect." Too many kids come into my class thinking that they can just guess on their classwork and homework and get a 100% as a grade. I expect my kids to read the assignment and answer with a decent accuracy.
    I see the biggest problem with questions that go along with readings. Too many kids just skim for answers and do not actually read and comprhend it. Next year I am going to have the kids read an take notes on ALL readings before answering the questions on them.

    I too do not use a crutch. In my mind when I hear crutch I think of one thing--laziness. We as teachers cannot be lazy, it is our mission to teach the material to kids. We must not use shortcuts or crutches to do so. Most of the time these shortcuts and crutches hurt our kid's learning. I know history inside and out and work hard to teach history to my kids. I do not take shortcuts or use crutches to do so. If the material is "jumbled" to ANY of your kids its simple you are not doing your job.
     
  24. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    What "crutch" are you referring to? I'm not sure I understand your point.
     
  25. goopp

    goopp Devotee

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    Jun 26, 2007

    You all are being a little rough, don't you think. I appreciate that you know your material inside and out. I can only assume that you've been teaching that one subject to 6 or 7 classes each day for a while. Some of us, on the other hand, teach every subject to our students on a daily basis. An we have to make sure they can pass the reading and math standardized tests so that they can move on the next grade. Plus, we are held accountable for the scores they receive on the state writing assessment.

    I'm not saying that kids shouldn't be expected to learn the information, but if my 5th graders last year had learned everything there was to know about history from the Civil War to Present Day, why would they need to take any more history classes? Our elementary standards are not always to teach for mastery. A lot of the science and social studies standards are just to overview the material.

    I gave a LOT of open book tests, especially in Social Studies, and my class learned the material, even with the so-called "crutch". Every child in my class passed the social studies section of our state standardized tests, and that's on top of every student passing reading, language arts and math. I think that we all have our own way of teaching/testing and as long as students in our class are learning, there isn't really a right or wrong way to test.

    JMO
     
  26. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Goop, did you mean me? I wasn't trying to be critical; I just wasn't sure what crutch Diznee meant. She said that we use them as teachers; all I could think of that might apply is a lesson plan.
     
  27. Brendan

    Brendan Fanatic

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    Alice, she was referring to me I think.

    Even if they are not teaching mastery, but familarity (if that is even a word), how does an open book test test that that have become familiar with the material. At some point kids must learn to study for Social Studies and learn that it is just important as Math and English! Giving open book tests in that subject does not show that. My youngest son's teacher (4th grade) does not give open book tests and the kids learn. I have seen it, my son learns. His teacher does not use any "crutches" and his kids lean, he uses no open book tests. What is the problem with that acutally demanding that the kids study and asks questions if they have them?

    BTW, I have no problems with kids using notes on a test. They would actualyy have to become familar with the mateiral to take these notes. But to pass an open book test they really do not need to. (Well except in Math of course.)
     
  28. goopp

    goopp Devotee

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    Alice, I was not writing about you...Cassie and Brendan just seemed a little over the top to me when they made statements about using open book tests. They absolutely have a right to their own opinion, I just don't happen to agree with them on this issue.

    Maybe it comes from teaching elemenatary instead of high school.

    PS. I think that the crutch she may have been talking about was our Teacher's Editions. Sometimes we have to rely on the info in them when we don't know everything off of the top of our heads. I'm sure when I've been teaching for more than 1 year, I'll know more and won't have to rely on the TE's so much for info.
     
  29. Brendan

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    I have a problem with open book tests becuase my 6th graders come in from Elementary Schools having no idea how to study for social studies bceuase of open book tests. Wig has NINE preps and she manages to teach her kids with out always using open boko tests. To be honest I almost never use my TE's in Social Studies, I do however use them in Math for answers to homework.
     
  30. goopp

    goopp Devotee

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    Brendan, I think that's where you and I differ. My students learned very quickly that if they didn't listen in class, take notes, and study for tests...open book was not going to help them. There is no way that they could find all of the answers in the book during the testing time. The book was used more for information that they just weren't absolutely certain about, or for essay questions. If they had to look up every answer to each multiple choice or short answer question, they wouldn't have finished, and they would have failed. Believe me, they tried that the 1st time and when 90% of the class had to explain to their parents why they failed an open book test, they learned to study and take better notes.

    And I do know that they were familiar with all of the material, because they were assessed on that during our state testing in April.

    I also agree with you that SS is just as important as math and reading, but they have to have the reading part down to learn the SS, so it is something we are still working on in the 5th grade. I don't think you'd be very happy if you had kids in high school that had memorized a lot of SS facts, but couldn't read. We all work together so that they can pass each grade/subject as they get to it. Our focus, and sometimes it is dictated by state testing, is just on different things than yours is.

    Please know that I am not trying to attack anyone...as I said before, we all do things differently, and as long as our students are learning, maybe we are can all just keep doing what we do best...teach!
     
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2007
  31. DizneeTeachR

    DizneeTeachR Virtuoso

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    First of all I did not mean to come across negative.:sorry:

    I'm just saying we have the teacher's books/answer books that I know a lot of teachers depend on as a "Crutch". Hasn't there ever been a question to you as a teacher that you've been "stuck" on and said I'll have to look that up & get back to you. I know some of the questions either as a sub or having a very curious child ask & have said that!!!

    Brendan...I know exactly what you mean about not knowing how to study. For awhile the high school I attended had a rule that if you had perfect attendance you didn't have to take the exam...boy that was a very eye opening experience when I finally missed a day & had to take the exam.

    I think that's why if you do decide open book, then surprise them...they will all be shocked and probably love you for the opportunity. Sometimes for those that have bad test anxiety being able to settle a few questions that gave them problems will ease them a bit!!!
     
  32. Brendan

    Brendan Fanatic

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    I agree that they have to learn to read. Worksheets and guided readings teach them how to read. The kids are going to get too much practice of reading, but not acutaly memorizing. I agree your kids have to be familiar with reading. However, I think worksheets are a place to do this. Grade those and sometimes count them as a test. The kids have to learn to memorize the material if all your tests are open book they will never learn to do so. They will come to me in Middle School when I have them for an hour a day to teach them the material as well as how to memorize. While I do teach them how to study and read for comprehension I sometimes wish that they were somewhat familar with studying for memorizatin and mastery before I teach them. If you taught HS or MS you would know what I mean.

    I hate to say it but any teacher who relies on any textbook, answerbook, or teacher's edition should not be teaching. It is your job to be familar with the material. Of course first year teachers and teachers who are just thrown into a postion are exceptions. But if you are experienced you should not really need the use of a teacher's book.
     
  33. goopp

    goopp Devotee

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    Last year was my 1st year teaching after a 21 year hiatus. And next year I'll be moving to a new grade, so I hope you understand that I will need to at least look through my TE's. I am familiar with the material that is being presented, but that doesn't mean I don't need help sometimes, and that's why we are issued TE's. (Now if you wanted me to teach an advertising class, I could do that with absolutely no material, because that's what I did for 21 years.)

    I can tell that you and I have differing opinions on a lot of things. Like testing policies, as well as the use of worksheets to teach reading. Being familiar with reading just isn't acceptable to me. Children have to learn both reading and writing skills or they will not be able to function as adults. As much as I appreciate your love for SS, please understand that I will continue to teach my students the basic skills that they need (which includes some SS facts), but I am not going to put my emphasis on memorizing facts that they can look up when they are adults...not if it takes away from time I can spend teaching them to read and write.

    Let's just agree to disagree, and I'm going to move on to other threads. It's been fun...I really do enjoy hearing others points of view, even when I don't agree with them. I hope you do, too.
     
  34. Brendan

    Brendan Fanatic

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    Jun 26, 2007

    What do worksheets teach theen. To me worksheets teaching reading comprhension. But reading and taking notes teach it better.
     
  35. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Let me preface this by saying that I'm not trying to be rude or harsh or disrespectful in any way, and I apologize if I've come across that way. It's just that this whole subject is a huge deal to me. I feel like my job would be one thousand times easier if I didn't have to teach basic skills (like English grammar which should have been learned in elementary school) and basic study techniques (like how to memorize) on top of an already demanding curriculum.

    As to your statement above, I think it's unfair. I'm certain that your standards don't require mastery or even familiarity with everything from Civil War to the present day. Your standards probably require some basic, overview-type information like the main players, events, and dates. The thing is that I feel like most elementary kids aren't mastering even that overview stuff, and they're certainly not learning basic study techniques like memorization. So what are they learning?

    I'll post a disclaimer that your students, and likely most of the students of most of the teachers on this board, do master those skills and concepts. On the other hand, it's been my experience that students enter my room knowing next to nothing--and that covers basic skills, study skills, math, reading, language, grammar, logic. I feel like I have to teach them ALL those things because they weren't required to master them at an earlier age.
     
  36. ancientcivteach

    ancientcivteach Habitué

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    Jun 26, 2007

    Hey folks :) Just a few thoughts . . .

    I think that we're looking at this testing thing from two totally different perspectives. Secondary folks are specialists and feel a lot of pressure to develop content knowledge as well as content perspectives, and in many cases Science and Social Studies people have been treated as "fluff" or second class citizens. I wouldn't give an open book test but my sole focus is on teaching history and imparting a love of the subject to my students. It is the only thing I'm truly accountable for, although I work on reading comprehension and writing as well.

    Elementary teachers, by their very nature, are generalists. We ask our elementary teachers to be Leonardo da Vincis - equally talented and creative in all subjects. I don't feel its humanly possible across the board, although every elementary teacher I've known is wicked creative. So I think its natural that there would be a bit more reliance on "the book" in different areas. Reading, writing, and math are the focus areas for elementary - sixth grade is often the first time my students have history for a full class everyday. These are the building blocks of a successful educational career and a successful life. Does this mean that meaningful history instruction can't take place? I don't think so, but I can recognize that it might not be a priority.

    Also, I think there can be a huge difference in difficulty levels of open book tests. Several teachers have mentioned that they give open-ended and essay question tests, and many say that they have the students make notes. So when we say "open book" we don't really have a common definition.

    On a personal note, I really don't like the perception that history is "memorizing facts". Yes, there are things people should "know" but we don't talk about "memorizing words", we talk about "building vocabulary". There is something about the word "memorize" that trivializes something I feel is very important - maybe the word has just gotten a bad rap ;)


    I think this has been a valuable discussion, and we've all had an opportunity to voice our opinions and ask our questions.
     
  37. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    In my field the term "memorization" carries no negative connotation. To learn Latin, students have to do a whole lot of memorization. In Latin we change the endings on words depending on how they function in a sentence--so a subject might be spelled iter, but a possessive might be spelled itineris. There are up to 42 possible spellings for any given adjective in Latin. There's no way around the memorization thing. If the kids don't sit down and memorize these charts, they can't learn Latin. Once those things (and the hundreds of possible verb endings) are committed to memory, students can begin actually using the language.
     
  38. pwhatley

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    Okay, I have been reading this thread with much interest, and have agreed with some of the points made on both sides of the issue. Brendan, here is where I must take exception. According to you:
    Worksheets and guided readings teach them how to read. The kids are going to get too much practice of reading, but not acutaly memorizing. I agree your kids have to be familiar with reading. However, I think worksheets are a place to do this. Grade those and sometimes count them as a test.
    This statement leads me to believe that you have little or no knowledge of literacy instruction. Teachers are no longer ALLOWED to simply pass out worksheets. All instruction must be differentiated according to the different levels of the students in each class. and all assessments must be authentic, whether they be paper (tests and written work) or not (running records, etc.). I understand that kids come to you in 6th grade not knowing how to take notes. I have yet to observe an elementary teacher actually teaching students how to do so. Surely there must be some out there, but I haven't seen them. Education is a progression. Students learn things as they become developmentally appropriate, not just because they have reached a certain age or grade level.
     
  39. Brendan

    Brendan Fanatic

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    Jun 26, 2007

    WEll it has been 20 years since I received literacy training, soo....
     
  40. pwhatley

    pwhatley Maven

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    Sorry if I came on too strong there, Brendan. It's just that the word WORKSHEET was a bad word in all of my literacy courses. The things that you were saying went totally against everything I've been taught, which, while I did not agree with everything my instructors said, much of what they advocated made sense developmentally.
     
  41. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Jun 27, 2007


    I have no elementary experience, other than having 3 small kids, but I beg to differ.

    That's the ideal. It would be wonderful if instruction really were differentiated, each child learning at his or her own pace.

    The reality, however, is that with 20 or so kids in a classroom, it simply isn't possible. There are standards based on grade, not on readiness level; the kids are expected to achieve a particular level of competance based on their grade.

    On the subject of teacher's editions: I don't use them. But I know of other teachers who do: they place the HW answers on the overhead or visualizer, so the kids can check their own HW as the teacher takes attendance. Then they open up the class for HW questions. It's effective, quick, and allows the kids feedback on how they did.

    I can also say that, the first year you have a math prep, having access to the correct answers is a big help.I first found out I was teaching Calculus one weekend when the previous Calc teacher was hospitalized. It would have been nice to have the Teachers Edition, just as a check; my last prior experience with Calculus had been during the Carter administration. So I can see how the Teachers Edition might have come in handy.

    To return to the basic question: I think that the kind of test you give is dependant on what you're expecting the kids to know. Kids DO need to memorize some material. That material can't be tested open book. But other types of knowledge-- the ability to pull facts together cohesively for example-- I can see how that might be tested open book.
     
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