Recent Popular Posts

November 03, 2013

An exam that didn't end

One of the attitudes that some of the children have is 'finished', not an idea that something was completed, but just that something was done and effort can cease. This is particularly an issue with math when sums are finished and often nothing is learnt in the process. At the end of the first term exams are conducted at Isai Ambalam School. I decided to challenge this attitude...

A week before the exam I announced to the children that it would be a 'cheat sheet' examination i.e. they can bring one sheet of small/large notebook paper with whatever they needed help with to remember to the examination. To me this was groundwork for them to assimilate the information they had (which most of them didn't do).

I also created a question paper that favored word problems vs 'sums'. I created a paper for 120 marks to and in addition, I created bonus questions that would build on the understanding of a question. The children didn't attempt the bonus questions, but it gave me an opportunity to talk about it later and point to where our knowledge will grow in time.

I let them see the paper for a short time on a couple of days before the examination and I went over any questions with the English a day before the examination (as comprehension of English text is also a challenge).

The examination itself lasted for the standard 2-1/2 hrs, but many children were unsatisfied with this morning session, so they got another 1-1/2 hrs in the afternoon class as well. While the kids were happy they got extra time, I was smiling inside as this was the first time they did math for 4 hrs in a day and that too after they 'finished' with the examination! By the end of it though a child had reached the limit of his mental stamina and said he didn't need extra time even if it was available.

Nope, we were not done. Self-evaluation! I asked the children to grade their work and write down 'Yes', 'No' or 'Maybe' indicating they had confidence they had done it right, wrong or didn't know on their question papers. They would get an additional 2 marks for every correct assessment of their attempts with 'Yes' and 'No' and loose 2 marks for every incorrect assessment. They could play it safe with 'Maybe' and neither loose or gain marks.
This exercise was really good to understand attitude of children to their work. It also brought up some interesting introspection from the children regarding how they perceive their own work.

The examinations were week long and some of the days they would study for the next exam. But the next day I solved all the questions on the board and they did a self evaluation.

For the week long holiday after the exams their only homework was to understand and be in a position to answer the question papers (which they didn't do).

The context of word problems help revisit these questions even in the classes we do now when we revisit decimals or need to clarify a topic by making a story out of it.

Here is some of the feedback from the kids:
"I have never been able to solve word problems and this gave me the confidence that I can approach them."
"I guessed that I did things wrong when I got them right and right when I got them wrong. I don't trust myself enough."

Of course, two kids didn't do well and their performance was stark both in ability and in self assessment. One of them left her morning work of 2-1/2 hrs and restarted the paper in the 1-1/2 hrs I gave in the afternoon. Both did what they knew repeatedly without attempting something new. But, the fake confidence she displayed in class was broken and she has been more awake and engaged in class since...

No comments: