As a NYS teacher, I create assessments based on the 5th grade NYS social studies curriculum. Although, we often stay away from the textbook in our classroom, I know that a unit within the text is composed of multiple chapters and covers the information I need to share with my students on a particular topic based on the standards. My goal as the teacher is not only to teach my intermediate novice learners the core curriculum but to help them to develop the skills of a meta-cognition and self-regulation as well.
Often, I start new units with a pre-test to establish what information my students know about the topic to be covered. This type of assessment helps me twofold. One, it helps me to determine the areas of weakness and strength among my students and two, it helps me to decide what study strategies I can teach my students to use in class and out to foster their understanding and learning of the content. I discuss this information openly with my students to help them to better understand what their needs are and to encourage the students to think about their own thinking and learning.
A learning style inventory given to the students at the beginning of the school year helps to determine what types of individual learners my students are. This is not only helpful to me, but to them as well. The majority of my students are visual and kinesthetic learners. Therefore, my lessons encompass face to face and technology based activities that address those learning styles. With consistent exposure throughout the year, my students are better able to understand how they think and how to assess their own learning, albeit on an introductory, basic level. Ten is the average age of the students in my class.
During a social studies unit, I share with my students an outline of their expectations for their learning. In order to pass the unit assessment students need to understand the major events of the unit, themes and vocabulary which are all outlined in their handout.
Using a calendar template for the month, the students and I fill out a pacing calendar for them to follow as they prepare for the test outside of school. We break down the unit based on the number of days or weeks before the test in order to set goals on what information they need to have retained prior to the assessment. Study strategies are also discussed, reviewed and modeled in class, and the students are encouraged to write down their strategy preferences as notes on their calendar with the intention of using those strategies at home.
In my class, I would encourage students to share a description and intention of their individualized pacing calendars on their blog. I would want them to write about their learning style preference, how he or she is preparing for the test and what goals they have set for the unit and assessment.
When it comes to studying, some students could scan the unit outline into Microsoft Word. Using the Readiris program, the scanned text is immediately converted to editable text. The students could then manipulate the outline into a question and answer format. The students could also copy and paste the text into an excel program as questions and answers. They could return to Microsoft Word Mail Merge to create labels to affix to flash cards or they could copy and paste the questions and answers into an online flash card generator like http://www.studystack.com/ or http://flashcarddb.com
For students who require a visual approach, they may watch videos on the unit themes and events at www.brainpop.com, www.unitedstreaming.com, and www.wliw.org/itv.
Students can also study with family and friends online via instant messaging, e-mail or skype, and they might also consider leaving test questions as comments for their peers on their blog sites. Students can also monitor their own progress by commenting to their original blog posts about how their plan for success is working. They can receive feedback from their online network of peers who could encourage them and/or offer feedback or suggestions.
Lastly, I would encourage my students to continue studying with their parents in a face-to-face context by trying to successfully answer the questions they find at the end of each textbook chapter and unit. Having the students write down their answers using pencil and paper helps them to utilize motor memory as another strategy for them to be successful. This multi-sensory strategy also helps students to monitor and reflect on their studying practices in a context that more closely resembles the in class test taking experience.
While getting their test results may be the final result for my novice learners, I would conclude this learning experience by asking the student to write a blog entry or create a pod cast that answers the following questions: What did you learn about yourself while preparing for this unit test and what skills did you learn that you can use again and again?