Are They Ready?

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SWBAT demonstrate prior mathematical skills and content knowledge through successful completion of a screening test of Algebra l and Geometry materials.

Big Idea

Want to know where your students stand before your first big unit. I use a screening test to tell me AND my students what we're good at and what needs work.

Set the Stage

5 minutes

You will need copies of the Algebra ll Screening Assessment ready for this section.  The answer key is the last page of the document.  Since this is the first mathematical assessment most of these students have ever taken from me, I take time at the beginning of class to explain my testing procedures.  I tell them that this particular exam will be individual and that graphing calculators (but not cell phone calculators!) will be allowed.  I assure my students that I will always let them know what kind of assessments they'll be taking and what tools they can use in advance, then go on to explain my expectations for the test itself.  I tell them that they must show all their work, even if they're using a calculator, that they must label the problems on their scratch paper if they want me to look at them, and that if they have any questions during the test they should raise their hand and I'll get to them ASAP.  Because I'm reviewing assessment protocols today, I don't put the tests on desks before class, but I tell my students that ordinarily they will be able to come in and get right to work.  I tell them that I will let them know when there are only ten minutes left, so they can budget their time and add that this assessment is over material that they've covered in previous classes so it should be fairly easy for them, but they can skip difficult problems and come back to them if they want. See the video narrative for a more in-depth explanation. Finally, I reassure my students that this assessment is intended as a measure of what they already know and an indicator of what they need to work on, not just a grade. 

Put it into Action

45 minutes

This is a critical time to create positive atmosphere and culture of quiet, persistance, and courtesy!  I know that some students will bring strong negative attitudes about math to this class so I work hard to ensure a testing environment with minimal distractions and frustrations.  I walk around giving encouragement, answering questions, reinforcing the idea of respect and quiet, and generally being a presence that helps my students stay focused.  Although this assessment is review material, it still pulls into play the ability to reason both abstractly and quantitatively (MP2) as seen in questions #5, 6, and 18 and the ability to use appropriate tools strategically (MP5) as seen in questions #7, 17, and 19 .  The entire assessment requires students to attend to precision as they read and interpret each problem and as they calculate and record responses. (MP6 )  This is also my opportunity to let my students learn how quickly I'll respond to a raised hand and what kind of help I'm willing to give.  It is not unusual to find some students who have experienced, with well-meaning teachers that going particularly slowly and/or asking for reassurance can result in substantial help for the entire assessment. My goal is to eradicate their learned "math self-doubt" and to help them build confidence, persistence (MP1) and skills allowing them to tap into some newly acquired patience and independence.  I think about helping my children learn a new skill and pull from that acquired patience for myself as we work through this process!

Wrap it Up

5 minutes

As students finish the assessment I give them a notecard and ask them to briefly discuss how they think they did, what they felt comfortable about and what they struggled with.  I use this as a ticket out the door, however these notecards are one of my first real windows into how my students feel about their own math abilities.  By reviewing them before I mark the papers, I can see how accurately my students know their own understanding of mathematics.  The notecards also give my students an opportunity to reflect immediately after the assessment, instead of the usual day or two later and to reflect without my input - no grade staring them in the face.  I think that's valuable to my students because it gives them more ownership of how well they do and why.