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2012-11-20

Testing, Testing....

The funny thing about graduating high school and university... you think, at that moment, that your days (and nights) of study-drudgery are over.....

Then you have kids...


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You have kids... and you are back at it. Teaching them how to study.... and getting them to do it. It is exhausting! A mommy friend has had a minimum of one test per week to study with her little girl - every week since the beginning of October! And another friend had a two week period with 4 tests and 3 assignments due (we were almost as bad with 3 tests and 2 assignments :-S).... and another had three tests in 2 days (2 on the first day and one on the second)! The pressure!

Our recent barrage of tests has had me giving a lot of thought to balancing study expectations with my kids' personalities and the often-forgotten notion of being a kid. I strive to do everything in my power to help my children succeed at school AND am a firm believer in ensuring my kids have their down time and know their value is not measured on a test mark or report card.

So, I am at the stage now where I am establishing {hopefully} good test study practices and expectations with the kids. Here is some of the stuff that is working in our house:

  • Our first step for any quiz is to review the study guide. It may be a handout from the teacher, or a "chapter review" section in the text. When there is no study guide given, or if a book has been forgotten, I will go to the Dept of Education's Curriculum Outcomes page for an idea of expectations. 
  • I've also been known to request a copy of the text for home use - if you have a child who forgets books frequently or needs a lot of help at home in a particular subject area, it makes things so much easier! Also: I looked up the publisher websites for the math texts used at our school - they have great online reviews!
  • For "booky" subjects (Science, Socials), we will create notes, based on the study guide/review. To do this we discuss the question/answer and identify the important points. I then write down our answer (for speed and simplicity at this stage - once they know the process, the kids can take this on as well!). I have also been using a highlighter to identify key words/ideas and I write definitions "dictionary" style. Once we have their notes complete (it may take a few nights based on the subject), the kids review it and I question them on it (after study time, but also driving somewhere or in the grocery line ... "so, how does a plant get energy again?").... and I'll get them to fill in my rough diagrams or time lines if appropriate. 
  • For practice subjects (i.e.: Maths) I get them do a few examples of each of the main ideas (chapter reviews are great for this) - this helps to identify their problem areas which we can then work on together, or with the teacher or a tutor if need be. 
  • Here is a great study tip I got from my Dad - always try to end on a high note! Have the last task be something you know they can answer or do well, that way they finish off on an I-can-do-it! note instead of a why-can't-i-get-it? one - it DOES make a big difference!
  • For my elementary school kids, I find they zone out after a while and need a break, so I rarely keep them "on task" for more than 15-20 minutes.... Then they come back at it 20 - 30 min later. Our "on task"periods usually add up to 40-60 min total over the course of the evening. 
  • On that note: Know your kid - they are all different! With mine, if I "go over" it often backfires.... I may want to get one more equation in, but end up frying the boy's brain for the evening :-) Your child may not need as many breaks... or s/he could need more!
  • During study time, I encourage concentration and effort.... and I encourage play and a change of scenery with the same vigor during their "break" periods. Kids need to burn off energy, and we all need some time to devote to our own interests and move at our own speed. I find the best breaks are a complete gear shift....I will kick them out the door, make them go to another room, or force feed them a snack if I have to! I find it energizes them and makes the next study session go quicker and easier. I also try to limit their extra-curricular commitments for the same reason - I think they need their "down" time!
  • Lastly, because they work hard, I don't put the added pressure of "you better get an A or else" or "if you get a 100% we'll get you a present" or "if you don't get at least a 90% you will loose your DS for the weekend" - all threats I have overheard, no lie! My message to the kids is this: if they work hard and do their best, that is all that matters. A test is just a snapshot of their abilities to answer a specific set of questions at a certain point in time...some days are better than others. A low mark resulting from a true effort is no less important or pleasing than a high one and just means we need to work on that area in the future :-)

So.... that is what works for us right now. I know my involvement will change over time and hope that, with guidance, my children will develop the skills to study independently in higher grades and/or university.

What works in your house?

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