How to implement a comprehensive test while still keeping your middle / high school classroom running smoothly
I think that it's important to do final exams at the end of the school year, even for 6th graders. Knowing they will have to retain the information all year keeps students accountable and helps them prepare for final exams in the future. Here are some ideas for writing the test, grading the test, and everything else in between.
Read the tips for organizing testing week - what to do before, during, and after the actual exam.
Hand out sample tests to students ahead of time. Before you even start your week of reviewing in class, students can look over a practice test and know what to expect. They can study on their own at home. This will not even take you much extra prep if you use last year's test as the sample and make it optional. Do not grade it. Just distribute an answer key. It is simply a resource for those who wish to prepare this way. Students are accountable for this on their own.
Write the tests so that they will be quick to grade. When you finally have the completed tests, you'll be in a time crunch to get report cards put together. Throughout the year, I have students write complete sentences and essays on math tests and I grade all partial credit. However, the final is not the time to grade this type of question. Try some "always true," "sometimes true," or "never true" questions to challenge students on the final while keeping grading quick.
Students get overwhelmed when you cram the review into the one or two days before the test. Instead, hold a review tournament in the 5-10 days leading up to the final. Use only 10 minutes of class time each day to have students compete in an "event" practicing one set of material. I have students keep the same team throughout the tournament and track points throughout the week. Check out my 7th grade tournament here.
When you prepare the test, put easier questions at the beginning. This gives students confidence as they progress through the exam. It will also offer better preparation for tests like the SAT.
Give students some tips for test prep. Try these links:
Grade student notebooks. This is a great time to get a final notebook grade for the quarter. I have students lay the closed notebook on the floor and I walk around to each desk. This way, I never have to take them home, and the students never have to part with the notebooks during a time they may need them. Read more about notebook grades here.
Have sudoku puzzles, crosswords, or good paperback books on hand to quietly deliver to students who finish the test and have nothing to do.
As homework the night after the exam, have the students identify the one topic that they felt least confident about this year. Students must write up a signed contract to themselves that they will spend just two hours at some point this summer reviewing that one topic so that they will be prepared for next year.
In the days following the test, keep the content flowing! Do not allow students to "quit" because the test is over. This is a great time to do extension activities or enrichment lessons. Find a couple of stand-alone lessons that the kids will love. Try my (free) Mayan Number System lesson that can be used in a wide range of grades at the end of the year.
Grab a big glass of wine and a set of pretty colored pens and make grading finals an event. Flip one page at a time and think about the fact that in just a few short days you will be sipping a lemonade in your flip-flops.
Have a "discussion day" to follow up the exam with your students. Make sure they know that they will still be accountable for the math skills they learned this year. The final exam is the test that students are most likely to drop in the trash without a glance.
Give plenty of help to students who still have trouble with certain concepts, but do NOT offer test corrections on this one. I use a great test correction procedure all year, but students know from the start that this offer is not available for the final exam. There is not enough time, and the cumulative assessment is the last chance for them to demonstrate that now they do understand what they missed in previous tests.