It ALL Counts…

MS Update: Mid-Marking Period (MP4)

“Youth is the seed-time of full age, the molding season in the little space of human life, the turning-point in the history of man’s mind.”
-J.C. Ryle, Thoughts for Young Men

When I was a math teacher for 6th and 7th graders, I often came across the following comment from parents: “My child studies does his homework and studies. He seems to know the material before a test, but over and over he comes home disappointed. How can my child improve on your tests?”

My answer was always the same: Great in class habits are supported by great homework habits. Great homework habits beget strong scores on quizzes. Success on quizzes provide the foundation necessary to excel on tests. Putting together a string of great tests builds the Honor Roll and Dean’s List transcript. The answer seems simple, but there is quite a bit to each part. Let’s itemize the process:

Great Homework Habits
When teachers assign homework, they do expect a child to complete as much of it as possible. Assigning homework does not mean “just do it.” Instead, “use it” to analyze work. Homework reviews material presented in class, and should be analyzed for conceptual errors. Notes taken in class help in this analysis (teachers all say that taking notes in class, even on the general conversation, only helps to analyze one’s work). Are there patterns in your student’s mistakes? You or your student can highlight these consistent mistakes to see them occurring and avoid them (this works particularly well on math problems and on grammar worksheets). Directed effort in each subject is also important; remember, the goal for your student should be working for 20-25 minutes on one subject before moving to the next. If time permits, circle back at the end to finish any remaining work. An 85% on homework in multiple subjects is better than a 50% on one in order to make a 95% on another. Lastly, the phrase “We don’t have any homework in _____ tonight” NEVER applies. Review of concepts, even for 5 minutes, is vital to keeping material fresh.

Success on Quizzes
These “mini tests” pop up all of the time. Sometimes, a teacher announces them so that students may prepare. Other times, these quizzes appear unannounced for the purpose of measuring how well students are focusing each day on the homework stage (mentioned above). For the former, students can analyze the trends in their homework and the expectations of a teacher (by asking in class or setting up time to review material after school or during lunch – reviewing at home is NOT the same as reviewing with the teacher!). Quizzes are built to test for chinks in the armor. I believe the main issue students have with quizzes is that they do not treat them with enough respect. Quizzes are directly related to a test, so they should be treated with equal importance. 

Excelling on Tests
At the culmination of concepts presented in class, a teacher will need to assess understanding, proficiency, and mastery of material. Note that these are three distinct levels of success. Our hope is that children understand the material (to obtain a passing grade) unconditionally, most are proficient in that material (scoring a B or higher), and that many can display mastery of the concepts (scoring in the A’s). This is our scale at school. Teachers aim for all students to be proficient in the material, and they provide ample opportunity (via tutorials, in class guidance, response to emails, etc.) for students to aim as high as they would like to. However, reflecting on errors from quizzes, keeping up with daily work to identify confusion, and practice (practice, practice, practice) will lead to the path of success.

Helping with the Minutiae
In the midst of daily preparation, studying for assessments, and reflecting on performance, there are the “little things” that often get in the way, especially for our younger students. Here are a few tips to create a positive working environment for your child, at home and at school

  1. Check the pencil bag! Check the binder!
    As mentioned in earlier posts, the supplied student is a young person ready for learning. Please take a moment and look for yourself . The pencil bag should contain enough pencils, pens, and highlighters for the remainder of the year. Binders should also have notebook paper, and spirals need to have ample paper in them.
  2. The academic planner is the HUB for all communication.
    Does your child have one? Teachers will start giving pink slips as this item is required for each class. Save for PE and lunch, planners should accompany students at all times.

While this post is not comprehensive, it does cover the pitfalls that students trigger based when not holding themselves accountable to the work they are required to do, to the analysis of that work so that they understand mistakes, and to the effort taken to meet with teachers to further explain concerns. Our teachers do not give out grades haphazardly; rather, St. Thomas’ faculty empower students to earn the grades they deserve. Care and dedication to learning is the key to maximize this offering.

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