Thursday, April 16, 2009
Hurry Up and Slow Down
Last week was standardized testing week for my daughter, Beckie, who is 16. My friend who is a certified teacher and fellow homeschooler administered the test to Beckie while I administered the test to her son. We have teamed up to do this for several years now, and although the test is different as the kids progress other things remain the same. For example, Beckie is impulsive and likes to do things quickly and get them over with so she can do something else. She is a "big picture" and "close enough" kind of kid. When careless mistakes are pointed out to her, she is quick to point to all her correct responses and as for the error? Well, she knows what the answer should be, and that should be good enough in her opinion. Her attitude tends toward, "Oh, well" and she quickly gets over it. My friend's son is very focused and meticulous about his test responses. He is detail-oriented and methodical. When told to "make your marks heavy and dark" on the bubble answer sheet, he does so with the result that the back of his scoring sheet has raised bumps that you can feel as you handle the paper. My friend and I teach our children the usual test-taking strategies: read the directions carefully, eliminate wrong answers to narrow down your choices, skip hard questions and come back to them if you have time, if you have time left at the end of a section go back and review your answers, and so on. Both of us still feel that these are good test-taking strategies, so we review them every year prior to testing. Our children can parrot the strategies back to us because by now they have them memorized. Yet every year during the test, we find ourselves telling my friend's son to hurry up a bit so he will finish a section before time runs out. Then we tell Beckie to slow down and take her time. And every year Beckie finishes every section early, and her friend is working through the final minute to complete his section. My friend urges, exhorts, and begs Beckie to go back over her work in the time remaining and make sure she has not missed any important detail. Since Beckie reads at a rapid rate, I worry that she will skim over a small word like "not" and won't realize that she missed a vital piece of information. Gentle reminders prior to each subtest result in Beckie's demanding question, "Do you think I'm dumb or something?" I also don't want her upset while she's taking a test, since strong emotions can also interfere with her performance. The "Hurry Up" friend and the "Slow Down" Beckie both completed all the sections on their test within the time limits given. The scoring sheets have been mailed in and it will be a few weeks before we get the results. I anticipate that my friend's son will do very well as he has in years past. Beckie will probably be okay with her test results, and will tell me "I told you I did well" to further her case for proceeding with her own method of test taking. Stay tuned!