Class Openers

Class Opener – Day 13 – Serenity Now!

Is Mr. Lochel asleep?

Today is the first major test for my freshman classes, and for all of them it is their first big test as high schoolers. And after a Back-to-School Night the evening before where I discussed some study strategies for the 9th graders, it’s a pretty stressful day for the young ones.

As students entered I heard the usual cacophony of frenzied papers being shuffled and concept cramming. It’s just too much noise and too much distraction before a test. Time to change the culture some with a video:

5 minutes of restful waves and ocean breezes to clear the mind. But it took a few minutes to take hold. At the start, as I sat in the front, eyes closed, silently contemplating the day, most students continued their frenzied studying. But eventually a few joined in, resting their heads, shushing each other, and taking advantage of a few moments away from math.

I’m hoping that today’s test will mark improvement for a number of my struggling students. I find that students coming from middle school often suffer from a similar mindset when it comes to taking math assessments: every problem must be done rigidly, teachers grade with an eye for missign nuance (arrows at the ends of lines, that sort of thing), papers are returned and go into a folder, and we move on.

This cycle isn’t good enough if we want students to reflect on their progress and grow.  The usual test study formula, where students shuffle through notes and seek more practice problems, isn’t sufficient. And while it is difficult to cause students to completely change study habits, I provided some tips for students as they progressed through the unit:

  • Every time you encounter a sticky classroom or homework problem, place a star next to it. In the days leading up to a test, redo these problems. Have the concepts had time to marinate? Are you now able to complete these problems with less difficulty?
  • Reflecting upon past classroom quizzes is essential. This year, my students are required to re-do all missed quiz items (excluding minor errors) as homework and attach them to their original quiz. I’m happy that a handful of students visited to discuss their corrections, while many more re-visited their previous math sins.
  • Deep breaths and long pauses matter. Undo obsession over that one test question, the one you have been working on for 20 minutes, is probably not healthy. Think about the warm ocean breezes, move on to items you CAN do well, and remain upbeat.

By Bob Lochel

HS Math Teacher. Hatboro-Horsham School District, Horsham, PA.

One reply on “Class Opener – Day 13 – Serenity Now!”

That’s clever, I had played classical music at the beginning of class before, but never tried modeling the relaxation before the assessment. Well done, I’ll have to try that tomorrow.

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