Test Better

After reading my post on Reading Makes You Smarter, my children asked me to blog about how they learned to take tests by how I answered questions and make them think of other answers. Their request led to a brief post about Teaching Kids to Test Better Starts Early. They had several other test stories I’ll share here, because I want to blog about some other topics instead of focusing on teaching kids to test better at home.

What is “headless?”

How do you explain “headless” to a pre-schooler and not freak them out? I tackled it as a vocabulary question, “When you add -less to the end of a word that changes its meaning to ‘without,’ so headless means ‘without a head.’ Footless would mean without a foot. What do you think hairless means?” The kids caught on and we made up more real and nonsense combinations like wristless, legless, ringless, shoeless, and braceletless, then had some fun with neckless versus necklace. After a few minutes, they tired of the game and thought of something else to talk about. Years later, we realized our “headless” conversation was actually a test scenario. Two pre-schoolers had just successfully completed a test without knowing it; plus, we had taken the “test” in stride, without stressing the importance of the test in relationship to the rest of the car conversation.

How long is briefly?

Another test scenario that has become a favorite memory occurred about two years after the headless discussion. “How long is briefly?”  The car was still in park at day care, so before I started up the engine, I rummaged around in my purse.  I rarely seem to have cash, but I was just given some money this morning to make a school fund-raiser purchase.  I hand a piece of paper money into the back seat.  “Hold it for one second and pass it to the next person. Ready?  Go.  Next person.  Go.  Hand it back to me. Go!”  I put the piece of paper money back in my wallet and turn around and answer their question.  “Briefly means a short amount of time. You both got to hold a $100 bill briefly.”  After expressing their shock and awe and requesting to hold it again (“No, you already know what briefly means”), we talk about other things that occur briefly (fireworks, lightning) and things that aren’t brief (trains).

Why do cuts bleed?

Sometimes your teaching moments occur in public.

“Why do cuts bleed?” As it happened, I was washing my hands and our early elementary age kids were in different stalls in a public restroom when the “bleeding” question came floating up and over one of their doors.  A quick look down the row of bathroom doors confirmed my answer would be heard by several people attached to the feet and shoes I could see there.  I confess, I bought a little time by slowly repeating the question, “Why do cuts bleed?”  I was still drawing a blank on how to explain human anatomy to second and third graders so I started thinking out loud.  “Well, there are a lot of little tubes that carry blood around your body.  The blood carries good stuff out to your body parts and picks up trash to get rid of.”  I bought a little more time by asking, “Does that make sense so far?”  Getting an affirmative and listening to the dead silence from the other stalls, I took a deep breath and reached for an example.  “Okay, you know when Dad ran over the garden hose this morning with the lawnmower?  Well if we had the water running, water would have come out of the hose where it was cut. So if you cut through one of those tubes that carry blood around in your body, the blood comes out the same way.”

What do worms eat?

“I don’t know” is not a bad answer, but you can make it a better answer by thinking out loud.

“What do worms eat?” I have no idea, but if kids can hear Mom and Dad thinking out loud as they answer questions, they learn how to reason and apply logic to questions when they don’t immediately know an answer. This particular question is not one I’ve had to answer, but I would probably respond with something like this. “I never thought about that.  Let’s see if we can figure it out.  Worms live in dirt and they eat where they live since there aren’t any worm restaurants that I know of.  So they must be eating dirt around them, like taking a bite out of their bed or their car seat. I wonder if different kinds of dirt taste different to worms. What do you think dirt smells like or tastes like to a worm?”

Read more at Suite101: Parents Can Help Children Improve Tests Scores: Students Can Learn Much From Mom and Dad About Testing http://www.suite101.com/content/parents-can-help-children-improve-tests-scores-a213602#ixzz1CpLGIZgC


One Response to Test Better

  1. Pingback: Teaching kids to test better starts early | buffalobayoumom

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