Pl. give test-taking tips on science and math for my son

Discussion in 'Middle School / Junior High' started by thesub, May 7, 2016.

  1. thesub

    thesub Comrade

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    May 7, 2016

    He is in grade 7 and gets about 75%-80% in his science and math tests. He gives vague answers in science or just barely answers the questions, makes silly mistakes in math and does not attempt the bonus questions So how do we improve his test-taking skills?

    This is how he studies science: He reads a few pages of the text, I quiz him. Then he goes over the study guide and I quiz him. I try to make questions tricky so that he knows answers from "all angles."

    Math: We go over the study guides from his teachers.

    He studies only over the weekends though I have been nagging him to study a little bit every day if he has a test coming up. I keep urging him to give some background to his science answers to make them well-rounded but he's not getting this idea

    What are we doing wrong? What kind of answers will the A-grade students be giving???
    thesub
     
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  3. phillyteacher

    phillyteacher Comrade

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    May 8, 2016

    I think you need to work on making him be more independent. I say this from a place of having much younger kids, so no experience with this exact situation. I am positive it is way harder than I am imagining it to be, so please take this suggestion as coming from a place of kindness, empathy and trying to be helpful.

    It really does sound like you may be supporting him in just getting by - you seem to be doing a lot of the work of the studying for him. Maybe that is just how it's coming across and not how it is in reality?

    As far as suggestions:
    • Can you ask the teacher(s) for some exemplars of what they're looking for to analyze with your son? If not (or in addition), can you find some from released state tests online?
    • Can he build study time into a daily schedule/ routine like he would sports practices?
    • Can he make his own quiz flash cards and then you can help him review them (it sounds like you may be coming up with the quiz material but it would probably be better if he did, including detailed answers)?
    • When quizzing him, are you asking him to explain his answers? If he can't, are you asking him to go back into the course materials to figure out how to explain them or are you letting him get away with partial answers?
    • Have you looked into additional learning resources such as videos online or adaptive programs to practice skills? They have their flaws but could be a good supplement for building his understanding of the concepts he's learning.
    Good luck!!
     
  4. vickilyn

    vickilyn Multitudinous

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    May 8, 2016

    I guess my question is how much do YOU want to truly study and know the subject matter, so that you can ask questions more in depth, with deeper understanding? You may have to accept that, at this point in his life, he is a high C/low B student. The biggest thing I take from your post is that unless you lead the charge, the son is not going to be too worried, since nagging to get him to study daily isn't working. The truth is, many middle school boys are not interested or motivated to give great effort in school. Is there a negative consequence to bad grades, such as loss of right to play video games, or some other activity that is eating up the son's energy and time? I am not recommending loss of all free time, but if the son isn't studying except right before a test, then I believe the outcome is unlikely to change.

    When I mentioned you truly knowing the subject matter, that wasn't a jest. My son has a LD in math, so I would have to be truly qualified in math so that I could reinvent ways to reteach the material and put it in terms he understood better. I had to be there to do the math with him, to find out where the breakdown in understanding the concept and actual application was occurring. The result was him being able to comprehend the principals of the math, and then figuring out ways to incorporate the small changes in how he approached actually doing the problems/reading the problems, so that the calculations worked. He went from a low functioning to the highest functioning math group between 5th and 8th grades, but you have to know that this work was every night including some weekends, and for the most part, my son didn't watch TV, ever play video games, or do much of anything until all homework was done. Many parents don't want to give up their time, daily, to stick to this kind of regimen, but I was a sub, so my son and I were truly on the same schedule, so there was not time for him to get involved in TV, etc., because the rule was homework first. Doing the HW was one thing, mom looking at it to see if it was haphazard and thorough was another.

    Before I get replies that I ruined my son's life, he played in the concert band, jazz ensemble, and wind ensemble in middle school, and added marching band and glee club to that list in HS. He also ran cross country, did track spring and summer, and played basketball MS into HS. When I talk of consequences, the rule was that if grades suffered, the activities would be curtailed, no exception. You really have to be strong, as a parent, to enforce that rule, so it isn't easy on the parent, either.

    Knowing what kind of questions to ask him when he is studying is going to depend on how well you understand the material yourself. If math and science are not really your area of expertise, you will have to study the material ahead of him, so that you can present complex questions to your son, the kind that indicate he truly understands the material and concepts. I always told my son that I didn't care that he didn't want to be in science or math as an adult, because the first hurdle was going to be a GPA and test scores high enough to allow him to choose what university he wanted to attend. Accept low scores and you accept that your choices will be extremely limited, which is totally true.

    I worked a lot with my son in MS, was the "go to" resident specialist through most of HS in math and a little of the science, but mostly I got to enjoy his study habits, attend concerts, go to sporting events, and I was the person who stayed up with him when there was the occasional all nighter, usually because of a term paper. By HS, his motivation was clear, habits developed, and he graduated with honors. I had told him the truth - he had his pick of the five colleges he applied to.

    You want to know how to get your son to give better answers, and my suggestion is to not accept less from him than the best you are certain he is capable of. If he has the ability to get higher grades, then make those higher grades a priority, with consequences. You need to be the parent, not a bystander. He doesn't study except on the weekend??? He is lucky to be a C student. If he is a B student, then he has the talent, but lacks the drive and discipline to do better, and you asking him better questions will probably not help. That is blunt, but true.

    I now teach full time, so I am familiar with students who have talent but lousy study habits. These are the ones who you will find us talking about in these threads, the ones who do very little but feel entitled to great grades, the ones who don't test well on the first shot, but don't care, because they are guaranteed a "do over" in the form of a test retake. So what have they learned? See the test, bomb it, and then study just what the teacher is testing you on. It isn't how you truly learn the subject matter, and I, for one, abhor test retakes. Most of the students who employ this testing strategy are those who only want to put in the minimum amount of study to get an acceptable grade (usually whatever the parents will accept without taking away privileges).

    I hope that you can find a way to get your student to invest in his future, because it will impact the rest of his life.
     
    Last edited: May 8, 2016
  5. thesub

    thesub Comrade

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    May 8, 2016

     
  6. thesub

    thesub Comrade

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    May 8, 2016

    Thank you, phillyteacher. Yes, we definitely need to make him more independent. I am now so panicked that he should not slip further that I "do the studying" for him! His school is now big into the Claim-Evidence-Reason Model and my son barely gives evidence . He does not do flash cards - he prefers to write down the definitions on paper and memorize them.

    I do not ask him to explain his answers - I get stressed out by the thought of another approaching test and I just do a straightforward quiz to get it over with!

    I have not looked into the resources you mention but now that you mention it, I might do it, He does enjoy National Geographic videos, Discovery education .

    Thanks again - we have our work cut out!!
     
  7. thesub

    thesub Comrade

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    May 8, 2016

     
  8. thesub

    thesub Comrade

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    May 8, 2016

    Vickilyn, thank you! I remember you (lynettstoy!). I am a sub/aide now, so I can work with his schedule. He does not watch TV/screen till his hw is finished - he's a good kid that way. He also has a syndrome and hearing loss, so not many physical activities for him.

    So I guess the struggle now is to make him WANT to do math and science. I am ok with reading his science and math materials but I get so worked up about an approaching test that I just quiz him on straightforward answers to get it over with. I know this is a horrible approach and I am trying to work this out.

    Anyway, we got a microscope to make cell analysis fun and like the other poster said, he can watch instructional videos about the topics he's currently doing in science. For a short time, he got excited about genetics because one of the Spiderman movies had the DNA double helix playing in the background. But this did not translate into an A grade:-((.

    Thanks again for your detailed reply!
     

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