test prep

Discussion in 'Special Education' started by ciounoi, Sep 22, 2011.

  1. ciounoi

    ciounoi Cohort

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    Sep 22, 2011

    Hello everyone,

    One of the classes I teach is a 9 week course on PSSA science prep. I am at a total loss as to what to do for this class. Right now, we are just completing older science tests as a group and talking about strategies to complete. Any other ideas?

    Ciounoi
     
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  3. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Sep 22, 2011

    Stop doing test prep per se and start doing science. Push the content and thoughtful application of the content. Get your students reflecting about WHY an answer is correct, and applying that reflection as they reason. Oh, and don't neglect the academic vocabulary - by which I mean the content vocabulary of the science on which they're being tested AND the terminology that science uses in a sense that the rest of the world doesn't (retort, for example) AND the transition words and text structures and the like that are characteristic of science.
     
  4. ciounoi

    ciounoi Cohort

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    Sep 22, 2011

    TeacherGroupie, although I agree with what you said, I'm struggling to find a way to make this work in such a short amount of time (9 weeks), and with secondary students who are LD and/or missing a LOT of background knowledge in science. Is there anything specific you would suggest to focus on?
     
  5. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Sep 22, 2011

    What science are they responsible for, and what background are they missing?
     
  6. ciounoi

    ciounoi Cohort

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    Sep 23, 2011

    Most of them have about a 4th grade background level in science. We would like to get them to about an 8th grade level.
     
  7. a2z

    a2z Virtuoso

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    Sep 23, 2011

    Good luck with that, ciounoi.

    One question first... are you a science teacher or have you just been pulled for test prep?

    Seems your school is asking the impossible. 4 years in 9 weeks when part of the time is already gone. Maybe the school should have thought about this problem say, years ago...

    TeacherGroupie is right. The only way to teach the kids what they need is to teach them what they need, vocab, concepts, etc. That takes time and it will take different methods depending on the LD or why they are missing the background (moved from another school). Seems what you may be doing in 9 weeks is giving them tons of vocab and practice test so fool the system instead of teach them science.

    Sorry you are put in an unwinable situation. Even sorrier the kids were (not blaming you).

    Vocab, vocab, vocab. Concept, concept, concept. Review, review, review every day.

    Now, what are the main concepts that will be covered on the TEST? Since in our state the science content tends to spiral, break down the concepts and vocab that will be needed such as "state change of matter", "geology", "electricity", etc. What are the important terms they need to know. What are the standards they need to understand? Since what they learn in4th grade science about electricity will be beefed up in 6th grade and 8th grade, you need to find the commonalities and the growth. What was needed from earlier grades which to understand the concept in the upper grade? Was their information in the lower grade that was covered that really is no longer used in the standards 4 years later?

    Now the hard part with LD kids, how can you incorporate that learning for all?

    Can you have an after school club for them to review the concepts and vocabulary every day?
     
  8. ciounoi

    ciounoi Cohort

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    Sep 23, 2011

    Thanks so much for the info, a2z! I work at a juvenile detention center with kids who are in prison. I am the science teacher. I teach all levels in one period, so I might have a twelfth-grader working on chemistry in the same class as a seventh grader working on life science. Since the kids are all incarcerated, there are also some other issues - we don't have science labs and the kids can't work in pairs/groups, for instance. Everything needs to be either whole group or totally individualized. I'm thinking about doing a series of big idea-based minilessons but after that, I'm clueless.
     
  9. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Sep 23, 2011

    ciounoi, you have nine weeks with these kids: are you seeing them daily, or what? How many kids?
     
  10. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Sep 23, 2011

    (We were posting at the same time, ciounoi.)
     
  11. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    What does it mean that you don't have science labs? Does this mean that you don't have laboratory facilities or does it mean than the kids do science by worksheets rather than hands-on?
     
  12. a2z

    a2z Virtuoso

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    OK, that makes a huge difference with what you are doing. I assume you aren't even allowed to demonstrate experiments. How much access do you have to technology (viewing internet examples)? It will take a lot of time to find the examples, but there may be some great ones out there if you have access to a video display. Pausing and asking the hows and the whys can make it much more interactive and engaging.

    How many do you have at once and how often do you have individual lessons? How many can't read so the test will be useless unless read to them?

    Seems like a lot of what you will have to do with them is memorization of vocabulary and discussion of vocabulary in terms of the content and learning of processes. Focus on that.

    Also focus on how that information will be presented in the test they will take. I've seen kids know the information but fail to understand the format. I've known kids to know the format so well and the process of elimination for multi-choice tests barely understand the content of subjects like science and history but still pass.

    I wish you the best and success. Seems there will be more planning involved for this than teaching.
     
  13. ciounoi

    ciounoi Cohort

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    Sep 23, 2011

    I don't really have much access to technology... I can turn out the old projector if I must! I have about 12 students for PSSA. I have been having them work old science tests to see how they do, but most of my students are pretty clueless about the content. While they can all read, many have difficulty with the academic vocabulary and how the test is presented.

    Thanks so much for the help!
     
  14. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Sep 23, 2011

    One resource I recommend for adults who are lacking in science concepts is Usborne's Science Encyclopedia: it's the size and shape of a science textbook, but it's very clearly written, beautifully illustrated, and very engaging.

    I might suggest walking the group through a minilesson - with discussion of ways in which the concept shows up in kids' lives - then immediately doing a group think-through of a question on that concept.

    (Basketball is a remarkably rich resource of analogies for science, and not merely for physics.)
     
  15. ciounoi

    ciounoi Cohort

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    Sep 23, 2011

    Great idea, thank you!
     
  16. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Sep 23, 2011

    Any way you could use a laptop to access this?

    http://regentsprep.org/

    It's a test prep site, but I love their math sections. They do have some science ones that I presume are equally good.
     
  17. ciounoi

    ciounoi Cohort

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    Sep 24, 2011

    Alice, great site! I looked at some of the science materials and although it doesn't seem to be quite as fleshed out as the math sections, it still has some great resources.
     
  18. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Sep 24, 2011

    Yeah, they really do a great job.

    For non-tech Regents Review Questions, take a look at the "little green books" offered by Topical Review
    http://www.topicalrbc.com/servlet/StoreFront

    They're amazingly cheap compiliations of old Regents exams. Even though my school doesn't use Regents exams, I throw a lot of Regents questions at my kids. The green books make that so easy.
     
  19. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Sep 24, 2011

    You might also search for California's released questions: you can Google that phrase, or check out edinformatics (sorry I can't remember whether that's a .com or .edu or what).
     
  20. EmptyClassroom

    EmptyClassroom Rookie

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    Sep 28, 2011

    I do a lot of test prep, not all in my content areas. I've found that teaching them to analyze the question is effective, especially if they're strong in reading assessment. Once they learn reading strategies, they often don't think about applying them in other subjects; however, if they do, they can break down questions and realize it's probably asking something the already know.
     
  21. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Sep 29, 2011

    Also, I do a lot of SAT prep-- one course over the summer, another during the school year.

    Some of the strategies we talk about:
    -- when to guess, when not to. (On the SAT, quesitons are arranged by level of difficulty. So it makes sense to go with your gut on the easy questions, but to go counter to your gut on the hard ones.)

    -- directions. Harder than it appears; the directions on the Free Response questions are actually pretty confusing.

    -- "guessing penalty"-- for the free response questions, there is none. For the multiple choice, the law of averages says that random guessing is unlikely to improve your score. So we talk about the difference between random guessing and taking an educated guess.

    -- Tracking the types of questions you consistently miss, and avoiding them

    --which formulas you're given, which you're likely to need

    -- identifying questions whose whole purpose is to cost you time-- these you avoid and come back to if you can

    -- when it makes more sense to just plug in each of the answers, as opposed to an algebraic approach, and which you plug in first. (The middle one. That way, if you're too high or low, you can make an educated second guess.)

    - calculators-- when to use them, when mental math is quicker
     
  22. ciounoi

    ciounoi Cohort

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    Sep 29, 2011

    Thanks again for all the advice! I did manage to get a Smartboard to use in my class, so I will probably use that to show videos, lead discussions, do interactive test prep, etc. :)
     

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