Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Lesson learnt

Despite the fact that it is a universally accepted truth that children in Primary One have no exams, there are these things called mini-tests. And in my book, when we are told ahead of time that there is a 'mini' test, files are sent home so that they can revise for it and that we are told that it will be a certain percentage of their final grade, IT IS AN EXAM. An exam by any other name is still an exam.

They did it mid-year too but since they had only been in school 5 months give or take at that point, the twins had no problems with it. This recent one, culminating the entire year's work required much more revision and because there was more to test, it was also a longer paper.

They survived relatively unscathed, except for their Chinese paper.

What we took away from it.

a. There is actually wisdom in setting practice papers for the children to do. Mistakes that were carelessly made were not specific to but more endemic to the end of the paper where I suspect they were mentally exhausted from the effort. Practice papers however, have to be timed. I should have known this. I have spent a lot of time doing this with my students but I had been under the false impression that kidlet exams didn't require the same amount of mental endurance.

b. Being pedantic is important. So many marks were lost because of punctuation and where upper case letters were required but were absent.

c. Reading instructions are important, even if it were in a language they aren't competent in. Or, the level of competence needed for Chinese had to be at least where they could read the instructions. Jordan dropped an entire grade because she chose to write the characters of the words rather than the number of the word, as specified. And because she had written the word inaccurately (see pt b.), marks got docked for it despite her knowing the answer.

d. We ought to allow our kids to get what they deserve. I wanted badly to go to school and take it up (see pt c.) with the teacher. After all, she did get the answer right. But two things stopped me.

i. The teacher could easily have decided that she should have docked all the marks in the section because Jordan hadn't followed instructions. Then, rather than helping her gain a better grade, I would have caused her to drop yet another grade.

ii. The girl's gotta learn. Stupid things like that can cost dearly. And in national exams eventually, the papers do not get returned for checking so making a mistake like that would mean irrevocable consequences.

So, she has had to stick with her- 1 mark shy of a higher grade- mark.

e. We know where their weaknesses are now. One of the things about assessment is that if done properly (meaning they test what has been taught rather than toss something out from left field at them), it can act as an indicator of what the child knows and doesn't know. So, instead of teaching ahead as Singaporean logic would dictate, we're going to spend an hour every day during the holidays building on what they haven't got a good grasp of. That way, they'll still have to listen in class at the beginning of next year and they might get a bit better at their multiplication and division. That's the plan.

Of course, the egos of my two 7 yos have deigned P1 work for babies. They can't wait to not be at the bottom of the school. Our response thus far has been, show me work with no mistakes then we'll break out some P2 stuff. Though in truth, if they could show us stuff without mistakes then they ought to use that time to read all those wonderful books on the shelves.


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