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Thread: U1 exam results

  1. #1
    I did something I probably shouldn't have done, but now that I've done it, I'm not sure what to do about it! We finished week 9 this week, and after our discussion, I handed my D kids the exam for U1. We purposely did not review as I'm not giving grades for TOG at this point in time. This is our first time with TOG, and I told them, I'm giving you this to see how well I'm doing at teaching it. I want to know what I need to change about how we are studying history so they will retain the big ideas.

    We did not do a timeline (I found that a little overwhelming right at first), but I was distressed that one of my students put Moses before the Exodus. They got about half of the geography (map) questions right, and about half of the multiple choice. The week we studied Sumeria didn't go well, so I expected wrong answers there, but so many of the others, I definitely recall discussing.

    So what do I assume from this? I've come up with the following questions:
    1) If I want them to do well on the exam, I've got to help them prepare for it. But, do I really want that right now? Since they are learning to take exams in science (Apologia) for the first time, do I need to do more in the realm of test-taking? The idea isn't very fun right now.
    2) Is it worth the time it would take to review 9 weeks worth of material to help them to do well? I have come to realize how crucial it is to help my students learn to sift through material and decide what is important, so maybe it is.
    3) Being a formal classroom teacher, I remember NEVER using the tests that came with the textbooks as written, because they didn't match what I thought was important or what I had time to cover in my class. But when I have so many subjects to cover with so many children, there is no way I can rewrite every test I give to reflect exactly what we covered. So what do I do? I always heard that "teaching to the test" is wrong, but if I read Marcia's notes correctly, that is exactly what she recommends. And admittedly I'm doing this in Apologia's general science right now. I don't give them exact test questions, but I do let them know exactly what is required of them to know. (I think that grammar wasn't exactly right...)

    I'm thinking as I'm typing, so this post may be rambling on and difficult to follow. I love TOG and am still trying to figure out how best to make it work for us. I feel we are having good discussions for the limited amount of time we've been doing it. Or, at least, I don't have any trouble asking leading questions! If, as you've read this, anything just pops out at you, please share your thoughts. I would like to have a refined battle plan before starting week 10!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2003
    New Jersey
    What about giving oral exams?
    __________________________________________________ _____________________________________
    Perfer et obdura; dolor hic tibi proderit olim ~ Ovid
    For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison ~ Paul

  3. #3
    Well, this is what I did with the first unit we just finished. I gave a big Egypt test for my dialectic boys at the end of week 3. I gave another test of the material for weeks 4-6. Both tests had vocabulary, people matching, map, short answer and essay. My boys are 5th and 7th, so I thought that each of those were pretty thorough. For weeks 7-9 I just decided to have them recite the 10 Commandments and take me through the design of the Tabernacle. I eventually decided not to do a unit exam since we had done the other tests. Most children do not take a test over 9 weeks worth of material until they reach high school. My 7th grader is doing Apologia Physical Science and is taking the quarter and semester exam tests for that so I think that is fine. For the tests I did say...make sure you can identify all of the people in your people section in Egypt. What do you think we studied about them is most important? (Mummies- how to make them, pyramids, the gods, plagues and 10 commandments) Yes, that's right. You forgot one thing... (OH, the NIle.) Yes. Go over your maps and be able to label them. I will also test you over the vocabulary. That was it. That was my review. It took maybe 5 minutes and they aced both exams when I gave them. So...that is what I did. It isn't the only way or maybe even the right way, but that is the way I chose to do it. I think I will give a test over weeks 10 & 11 and then another one over 12 & 13. I haven't really looked past that. I think I am going to continue making my own tests over the major divisions and forget about the unit tests.


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2002
    Hey, Michelle.

    Every family is different, and if you asked ten of us, you would probably get ten different experiences. But for what it's worth, I thought I would tell you about our experience.

    For the first three years we used TOG, I only did informal oral quizes/tests, initially because I didn't think my kids would do very well, and I didn't want them to get discouraged, and later because I was too overwhelmed to do anything else.

    The fall after our oldest daughter graduated, we joined a small co-op and decided to do formal unit tests. Since I lead the history discussions, and since there weren't published unit tests at that time, I was responsible for writing the unit tests as well.

    We are now on our forth year doing formal unit tests, and I must admit that I can see a huge difference in my younger kids' understanding of major threads in history, and in their ability to think deeply about world events and apply their worldview to the circumstances they find themselves in.

    Our oldest daughter has done very well in college, but I can see that our second daughter (who is now a sophomore in college) and our son (who is a high school sophomore) have a much better retention of major threads. They recall events better, and better understand how one event relates to another.

    We have found that the formal exams forced me (as the discussion leader) to have a better understanding of the most important elements each week. I prefer to use some repetition each week, so I usually start each discussion by reviewing at a high level one or two of the most important threads leading up to the current discussion. That way, by the end of the unit, they have reviewed a little at a time.

    That's just what our experience has been. Either way you choose to handle it, I think you'll find that your kids are much more well prepared than the average bear.

    Wishing you peace and success!
    "Grace is but glory begun, and glory is but grace perfected."
    --Jonathan Edwards

  5. #5
    Thanks for all the replies! Here's what I've decided for now (in case this helps someone else!)
    1. My oldest is in 7th grade, and they will all go through Year 1 at least one more time. That realization alone helped reassure me!
    2. I'm NOT going to try to go backwards (those perfectionistic tendencies can really get me bogged down sometimes! ) As stated before, they will hit this again. The intro. notes for Unit 2 specifically mentioned the "if you didn't do a timeline for Unit 1..." scenario, so I'm going to take that advice for the coming unit. Since we ARE still studying, comparing, and contrasting ancient civilizations, I'll probably be able to bring in Egypt and Sumeria again in our discussions as we learn about India, China, and the ancient Americas.
    3. From an event last week with our Apologia science, I'm realizing yet again how important it is to get them to digest the material and figure out what is most important. So after our discussion, I'm going to have them summarize the main points ON PAPER, either in outline form or sentence form. I'll help them with this. (I'm pretty sure I read this somewhere else on these forums, so it's not an original idea, but I've no idea whom to credit. )
    4. I'll get another unit under my belt and then revisit the idea of exams again. My dh and I had a good discussion about this topic this morning, so I'll continue to involve him. Basically he said he wasn't sure exams were necessary, as long as I had some way to be sure they were learning the material. I'm not sure what other options he thinks there are, so I'll keep asking him to brainstorm with me. Just in the interest of time, I'm hoping he comes up with a really good idea so I don't have to write any more tests than I already am!

    Thanks for thinking through this with me and sharing your experiences! Your comments--all of them--were very helpful!

  6. #6
    If I may chime in here (as I only have a little one and no formal testing going on here.).

    I second the suggestion to continue to review the highlights you think are important over the 9 weeks. My style is to ask review questions at the beginning of the week. These questions are designed to see if he can narrate the key points and for me to see where the holes are. This review is repetition and helps put us in context - we know where we've been and can see how it ties to where we are going. It also allows me to expand on something I may have wanted to cover in more depth.

    From experience other than Tapestry, I know this intentional review can really solidify concepts. By the end of a unit, they could be reciting the threads you've put before them.


  7. #7
    I have some thoughts about whether it is bad to "teach to the test."

    This depends on the test. If tests are poorly designed, then teaching to the test is a bad idea. On the other hand, a well-designed test focuses on just what you wanted a student to know anyway.

    The problem, of course, is that it's very hard to design a good test. My experience with teaching AP classes was that teaching to the test and teaching the subject well were close to synonymous. But that isn't true of most tests.

    I don't have enough experience with the Tapestry tests to be able to make a judgement about them, but they're probably pretty good to teach to - as long as you're not ONLY teaching to the test.

    My own experience: I intended to give the tests this year, but I haven't done it. I hope to start it up sometime later in the year. We'll see.

    But whatever you do, it is important to get the students into a situation where they themselves are having to pull facts out of their heads. During a read-aloud (biography) we did earlier this year, I got into the habit of stopping in the middle of sentences to see whether my kids knew enough to predict what was coming next. They had great success at this. At the beginning of the next chapter, I would have them narrate what had happened in previous chapters. This seemed to really increase their understanding.

    Reading increases our knowledge, but the different thought processes that go into recall help to cement our understanding.
    TOG Year 1
    Doing TOG since 2005
    R (17), D (14), UG (9)
    Math: Singapore Primary Mathematics, Discovering Mathematics
    German, Spanish

  8. #8
    President, Lampstand Press
    Join Date
    Apr 2002
    Hi, all!

    I am sorry to have been so absent from the boards lately, but we have had a really challenging time bringing Unit 3 in on time. I'm thrilled to say it's right on schedule (maybe will be a week early out our door) so, whew, I'd love to share a few thoughts on evaluations.

    Me, myself, I never tested any of my kids all the way through EXCEPT in order to TEACH them HOW to take tests. (I reasoned that they needed to know how to take a variety of standard tests in order to pass academic courses out in "the world" so I would be doing a disservice to my kids if they didn't even know how to answer a multiple choice or essay test.) I have taught co-ops for years, and my co-op kids can tell you that I state for the record that there is only one stupid question in my classes-- "Will this be on the test?" I was SO concerned with the PS syndrome of learning only to get a grade and then promptly forgetting all they've learned that I fought tests (and writing tests to accompany TOG) for YEARS.

    However, I never fought reviews. To start with, we've always had Unit Celebrations for the hidden purpose of reviews! As kids were getting maps or time line books or art work or crafts ready for their UC's, I'd always be prompting them to remember what they'd learned in connection with the display. In my co-op classes, I devoted half of my two-hour slot to a systematic review of the unit we'd just studied. I helped them pull out and see themes we'd studied, threads we'd followed, and key ideas or events we'd learned about.

    Furthermore, as with all TOG, I was preparing my students for life in college, so I sought to teach students HOW to review independently. If you read our discussion outlines in the last week-plan of any given year-plan, you'll see something like "teach your student HOW to review" or "teach these review strategies..." I feel that review is where all the details fall into place and get cemented for good... or, for as long as they're going to get stuck in the brains until the next rotation!

    All that said, as I've matured as a teacher and author, and talked to a variety of moms, I have also come to see that there's also a value in having unit tests (or mini-unit tests, like on on Egypt after a three week sub-unit) that do hold students accountable for diligence. Though I fear that over testing can kill a love for learning, if our kids are loving learning, sometimes they can also become a bit sloppy without regular accountability.

    Let me analogize: how many of you have kids that love a project but don't put their supplies away properly? Or how about those who love to write, but not to polish or edit their writing? Discipline and details are part of the stuff of a successful life. I have seen that when we started to have regular accountability, students actually put a portion of their energies into memorizing key information (yes, FOR THE TEST) that they stuck better than it had with my more laissez-faire approach.

    Now, one more thing and then I'll hush. About teaching to the test, there's a bunch of detail on this in our Evaluations CD Intros (which are free online--as well as samples of several weeks so you can see if they will serve your kids)--but my basic reasoning is as follows:
    1. Each family will use different resources and have different discussions over the same basic lesson plans, so NO published test will be "just right" for all homeschooled students. I see this as a positive: TOG is a Spirit-powered plan of study that DEPENDS on the Spirit filling unique moms with differing experiences and passions to teach THEIR WAY to THEIR KIDS.

    2. If we're going to test, we may as well use the test as an organizing tool for reivew. Someone above said it depends on the test, and that good tests are useful to teach to because they ARE the essence of the unit. Well said, and we aimed to produce this kind of test. When you look at our suggested review strategies, they involve looking at major themes, central facts and dates, and important ideas that the students have PROBABLY covered. Therefore, to review is in some ways to teach, or re-teach the central information of the unit as we suggested it. BTW, we made weekly tests, but we hope you don't test your kids every week! As our Evaluations CD Intro's say, we suggest no more than a couple of tests per unit, and the rest to be used as means of teaching or review (either during the week or at the unit's end). Many people use most of our quizzes as worksheets, or as tools to teach their kids how to take tests. This makes us very happy!

    In the end, it's your call. There are families who could benefit from more discipline, and families for whom the offering of tests puts one more burden on overworked kids. You alone, with God's help, know what is right for your unique kids, so my advice is to trust yourself and ask your husband if things get murkey.

    No one can do me a greater kindness in this world than to pray for me.
    --Charles Spurgeon

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