We’ve hit that point in the year when the first units are starting to wrap up and all of my students are starting to panic about tests. Most of them have no reason to panic: They know what they need to do, but they have some sort of test anxiety. Many students, however, don’t really know how to study, which increases this anxiety. They spend most of their time working on what they already know how to do and not enough working on what they don’t know. Most likely they do this because they’re just not sure how to study what they don’t know or understand.
This year I decided to try to explicitly teach these skills, starting with knowing what to study. I created a study guide for the students in my learning support class. It’s essentially a self-assessment rubric that lists the various topics on the test and allows students to sort themselves into one of three categories: Got it!, Working on it!, or I need more practice. Each category is defined (see below–it’s not pretty, but it did the job). What made me really excited was that when I shared it with the general ed math teachers, they all chose to use it with their classes.
Once the student completed the form, we looked at the areas that they thought were the weakest and created plans for how they would study. My original idea was to have them actually make a plan using their studybook or a calendar with activities they would do in order to study for each of the concepts they were unsure of, but it became clear pretty quickly that my students we they not sure what to study, they also weren’t sure how to study. We had to do a lesson about how to study, and how to study for math tests in particular.
We discussed that the best way to study for math was to practice doing problems that are similar to what will be on the test and discussed places to find questions with answers (our textbook being the main source). The other important piece was making sure to refer to notes and other sources either while completing a problem (if you are having difficulty remembering the steps) or after completing a problem. Because note taking is another area we’re working on, I created these checklists to help students practice.
I laminated copies of the checklist for each student so that they could use a dry-erase marker to check off the steps as they completed them. As they worked with the checklists, they became more confident in their abilities and were able to practice the steps of the process. Eventually, I’d like to get them to the point where they can make their own checklists from their notes, but before that can happen we need to work on note taking skills.
The last step in this whole process is going to be reflection. Once students have taken the test, they will be allowed to do corrections. I created this test corrections sheet and shared it with the math teachers.
I like this test corrections sheet because it asks students to think about what might have gone wrong during an assessment, whether it is careless errors or really not understanding a concept or a process. I’m hoping that this will help us with reteaching and intervention, and that maybe we can offer students another opportunity to show what they know after reteaching in the form of a retest or another assignment.
How do you teach study skills? What do you do about test corrections or retakes? What opportunities do you offer students to demonstrate mastery of a topic after the assessment is done?