Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Last Week of IB Test Prep 2013

It's full-on test-prep season, and this year I feel very satisfied with how the test prep went for my Grade 12s (who are off on their study leave this week and have requested for just one last voluntary class session with me on Friday), as well as for my Grade 11s (who are starting their mock IB exams tomorrow).

Some things that I've done throughout the year that I found helpful:

  • Sequence of repetitive quiz prep/practice, building up to a fairly complex quiz. I did this with my Grade 11s throughout the year, and I found it immensely helpful in repetitively drilling into them ways to think about incorporating graphical analysis into algebraic processes flexibly. I also did this with my Grade 12s regularly throughout this year, in order to go back and fill in some of their procedural gaps from last year. The Grade 12s have said to me that these quizzes have been very helpful, and more importantly, as they began to do mixed review this spring, I didn't feel like they had really any major gaps from last year yet to be filled or reviewed.
  • Review packets organized by topic for Grade 12s, spiralling back through topics from last year. This year, instead of waiting until the spring to do review for old topics, I started handing out monthly review packets in August and giving detailed written feedback as the packets were handed in to me. I felt that these packets were very useful for me to have a written dialogue with each kid to get them thinking just a little bit further on each studied topic, and the threat of contacting their parents when they laxed on the completion meant that the kids were responding and at least doing some amount of review during the year instead of waiting until April to think about those old concepts.
  • Weekly lunch time review sessions for Grade 12s starting in January, where they just did full-length old exams. Each week, I would pass out either a new calculator exam or a new non-calculator exam paper (I alternated which type to give them), and we would go over the previous week's exam paper problem-by-problem. The effect of this was that the motivated kids had a chance to try mixed problems on a regular basis, well before we finished learning all the topics in the IB syllabus. So, they got used to looking at full-length papers and feeling that sense of anxiety/uncertainty in their stomach during February, instead of during April. This was immensely helpful in building the confidence of those motivated kids over time.
  • During the final weeks of concentrated old-exam practice during class, I asked the Grade 12s to identify orally at the start of each class the most common mistakes they tend to make within each topic. (ie. in circle sector problems, not using the correct radian mode; or in solving equations, forgetting that you can solve a complicated equation by simply graphing for intersection) This list helped to provide them with some mental focus even as they sat down for a mixed-problem practice session. 
  • Skimming over/discussing the last semester's mock exam problem-by-problem with my Grade 11s, right before the end of our last class before their new mock exams. Although we had gone over these problems immediately after January, they were more focused now that the stakes were up again. Taking a fresh look at old problems after a few months helped them to focus on thinking about access points into each old problem that they had struggled with, in order to encourage them 1. to go back and revisit the last semester's mock exam and topics during their review 2. to think strategically and flexibly about how to approach each problem type during the test 3. to see how far along they have come in building confidence within those old topics.
I am EXCITED!!!!! I won't find out until July how my Grade 12s will do, but I feel very encouraged by their positive efforts, their confidence, and their general outlook. I also am excited to find out how my Grade 11s will improve from last time. Even a new girl in our class (who has been with us only for about a month, after transferring over from another teacher's class, and who has been seeing me a few times at lunch for help to fill in basic gaps) is shooting for a significant growth from her last test in January. Keeping fingers crossed all around!

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