I recently read a post on Active Rain by my good friend Chris Ann Cleland in Prince William County in Virginia... just west of the Fairfax area. In it she wrote, and then discussed with her commentors about a more traditional grading system for high schools versus a more currently used one. It spoke of "dumbing down" (my words) the score required for an "A" from "93 to 100" to "90 to 100."
Chris Ann's post, and the ensuing comments reminded me of something I used to do when I was teaching in the seventh and eight grades many years ago.
It involved my periodic use of tests... those nasty things that provided the basis for the grades my "kids" would get every six weeks.
Many teachers try to keep what they are going to ask on the tests... (the questions) very hidden. "We sure wouldn't want the kids to know what was going to be on the tests... would we."
Well... I always took a different approach... my own approach... when it came to math tests. I gave the kids the problems that were going to be on the test... about a week before the test was to be given. I know it sounds crazy... but I actually gave my students a "list" of all the things I wanted them to learn... to master... for that grading period... and then told them that in their hands... they had all the problems that were going to be on the upcoming test.
They gasped... at least the first time each year I did this... they did. I gave them a list of about twenty five problems, concepts, word problems, and formulas... and that is what we all studied together for the ensuing week... the week just before I was to give the test.
I told them that if they could master all these concepts, problems, formulas and other stuff... the stuff that I said I was actually going to give them... that they could be assured of getting an "A" on my test.
They of course wanted to know if I was really serious.
I told them that YES... I really was. What they had was the test. Or more truthfully... close to it. I then shared with them that the only thing different about what was going to be on the test... was that all the numbers were going to be different... but the type of problems would be the same. So... if they could learn how to "work" and "solve" the problems on the list they had... with the numbers they had... all they had to do on my test was work the problems using the different numbers I used for the test... and they'd get their "A."
The week between my giving them "the test" and them actually "taking" the slightly different test... was pretty frantic. They'd come into class each day, and from what they tried to do at home the night before... they'd frantically raise their hands... wanting to learn.
In about a week... when the real test was over... not only did just about everyone in the class do well... they all pretty much knew exactly what they needed to know... to get along in life using the math concepts they had learned.
Funny thing. When I first used this tactic on them for the first six-week grading period... they thought I was more than a little bit crazy. But... somewhere along the way during the year... maybe at about the fourth of the six week grading periods... they figured out that they had become better in math than they ever had before.
It was also funny when I would get little notes from their parents telling me that their kids used to hate math... and now it had become their favorite subject.
Isn't it interesting what happens when a child actually realizes that they are really capable of learning something they never thought possible before.