July 2008
Vol 5 No 7

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Teachers.Net Gazette Vol.5 No.7 July 2008

Cover Story by Sue Gruber
It’s Summer…Time to Shift Gears and Re-energize!
A lighthearted perspective on what summer break can and should be.

Harry & Rosemary Wong: Effective Teaching
Eight Year Summary of Articles

»To Tell the TruthLeah Davies
»Discipline Without Stress, Inc.Marvin Marshall
»Teaching through Summer TV ViewingCheryl Sigmon
»A New Unified Field TheoryTodd R. Nelson
»The Busy Educator's Monthly FiveMarjan Glavac
»Get the Most Out of Being MentoredHal Portner
»Dear Barbara - Advice for SubsBarbara Pressman
»Keyboarding: Some Assembly RequiredRob Reilly

»Who’s Cheating Whom?
»Dealing with Dishonesty
»How To Prevent Cheating in Middle and High School
»When Is Student Failure The Teacher’s Fault
»Frogs Predict Massive Chinese Quake of 2008
»July 2008 Writing Prompts
»What Are We Doing? And Why Are We Doing It?
»"Boys Read" Effort Aims to Turn Boys Into Readers
»A Teaching Guide for Summer Song
»12 Test Taking Strategies that Boost Student Scores!
»Gardner-Style Lesson Plan: Molecular Basis of Heredity
»Federal Government Resources for Educators
»You Be the Chemist Activity Guides

»Cheaters! Teachers talk about their experiences
»Printable Worksheets & Teaching Aids
»Candles of Inspiration: July 2008
»Lessons, Resources and Theme Activities: July 2008
»Video Bytes: The "Impotence" of Proofreading and More
»Today Is... Daily Commemoration for July 2008
»Live on Teachers.Net: July 2008
»The Lighter Side of Teaching
»Apple Seeds: Inspiring Quotes for Teachers
»Using Test "Cheat Sheets" To Enhance Student Learning
»"Those Who Can, Do; Those Who Can't, Teach"
»Newsdesk: Events & Opportunities for Teachers


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Cover Story by Sue Gruber

Effective Teaching by Harry & Rosemary Wong

Contributors this month: Alfie Kohn, Marvin Marshall, Cheryl Sigmon, Marjan Glavac, Todd R. Nelson, Hal Portner, Leah Davies, Barbara Pressman, Tim Newlin, James Wayne, Alan Haskvitz, Bill Page, Susan Fitzell, Meryl D. Joseph, John Martin, Barb Stutesman, Ron Victoria, L. Swilley, and YENDOR.

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Collective Wisdom

Teachers.Net Community

Using Test "Cheat Sheets" To Enhance Student Learning

Teachers share their student "cheat sheets" procedures
Teachers.Net Community
Regular Feature in the Gazette
July 1, 2008

An interesting discussion ensued when "wondering" posted the following on the Science Teachers Chatboard:

Index Card cheat-sheet for test / study guides

Posted by Wondering

I am allowing my 9th grade physical science class to take the next test using an index card on which they can write anything they want. This card can be used for 15 minutes.

I'm wondering...

1) Will this make them actually study for a test?

2) Will it be more a hindrance vs. help for them?

3) Is a time limit a good idea?

4) What is your experience with this?

5) Do you create a study guide for tests? I create one, often using the same exact questions and answers on tests. When I was in school, there was no such thing as a study guide.

My kids usually don't study much, if at all, for tests despite my urgings.

Posted by Zhel

What is your test like? I can see those of your more intelligent students who happen also to be quick readers, breezing through the multiple-choice text just by quickly reading both papers and matching the answers. If they photocopied their cheat sheet from one of their friends instead of writing it down themselves, they may ace the test without actually studying for one minute outside the class (I assume that they sat in your classes so they are vaguely familiar with the scheme of the lesson). It would not be "fair" for your other smart students who are slower readers.

I think it would be better idea to have them make the cheat sheet / study guide in class, you grade it for your homework (give it 10-20 points), then they take a "normal" test the next day (without cheat sheets/study guides) and you add the scores 20+80=100. This way you know each of them did make their own study guide.

Posted by Ms P

I use the index card all the time in my chemistry class and I used it a couple of times for physical science class last year. I think I am going back to the note cards. I also have a hard time getting kids to study but if I allow them to use a note card I find that they are at least studying a bit. I do have a couple of rules. The note card must be of a specific size. The note card must be hand written in their own writing. The note card will be turned in with the test, that way one note card isn't being passed from friend to friend. Also, having it hand written I won't get a mass produced note card (done by the computer).

Posted by Waski_the_Squirrel

It depends a bit on the test.

My solution has been to make my tests 1/2 open notes, 1/2 closed notes. I copy the two halves on different colors just so I can tell. I'm big on applications, not memorization. I want kids to be able to explain, apply, and do things.

For formulas, I especially see no problem. I really don't care if a kid memorizes formulas. He'll forget them soon enough anyway. I care if he can apply them and know which ones to apply.

One suggestion: have them submit the card with the test.

Posted by slmk56

I think it's a good idea to let them write anything they want on an index card and then use it on the test for 15 minutes. I think many of your students will spend time trying to figure out exactly what to put on such a small card and for them to figure out the necessary info for the card, they have to research (study) the topic.

One time, a professor passed out an index card and told us that we could write as much as we wanted on the card and use it on the upcoming test. Well, I can tell you that I spent more time studying the material and trying to figure out how I could get the most important info on that small card. I know many of my classmates did the same thing.

Posted by Rebecca

I have learned more information when the professor allowed me to use a note card (the smaller the better) than when I had nothing, or a study guide I couldn't use on the test. The amount of time it takes to be able to identify the information deemed most important and then figuring out how to synthesize the information to fit on the card is priceless.

I have let my students use a card for tests as well. I find those that go the extra mile and do the card never even need it as the information has already been stored in their brain. When I taught 7th grade social studies last year, I let them use the note card. I gave them a study guide and we worked on it in class. The students first completed the study guide then transferred over any information they wanted.

I was able to go around the room and help any struggling student and guide them to find the information in the text.

Then, if the student chose to go the step further and complete the note card, they could use it on the test without a time limit. If a student completed the study guide but didn't take the time to do the note card they couldn't use anything.But if a student did the note card and chose not to use it I gave them extra credit. I collected both the study guide and note card along with each student's test even if they chose to get the extra credit and not use the card.

Posted by Great Idea you had!

I think this idea is great! Extra credit for making, but not usingthe card! Thanks!

Posted by Juliana

I had a teacher once who didn't collect math homework every day -- he had us do math notebooks instead. Naturally many of us didn't always do the homework, but took notes in class and wrote up the homework later. I once re-did half a term's homework right before the test. Well, wouldn't you know it, I finally figured out that paying close attention in class to get the right answers, plus working hard to make the notebook look perfect, all this stuff I thought was cheating? I actually studied HARDER than I would have otherwise! Now, that wouldn't have worked in a typical school, but in the private school, small-class setting, it was brilliant.

I also remember hearing an anecdote about a teacher who allowed something like one 8x11 page of notes for the first exam, a half page of notes for the second, down to an index card for the final. The practice in figuring out what to put on those notes, condensing and condensing, writing smaller and smaller coded hints, was actually fabulous practice for getting the ideas into the students' heads.

Posted by Great Idea!

I really like this idea! In fact, I think I'll do this on my next science test. I give kids a study guide anyway (which are the exact questions that are on the test for the most part). They also take Cornell notes in, which they can use on the test. However, I think that I will only allow them to use one index card and that's it!

Posted by Sara

I'd say first so you know, I don't like memorization-based tests. Memorization isn't learning. So I'd have no problem with kids writing things on cards. My tests have broad ranging, thought demanding questions on them so I don't know how much help an index card of information would be anyway.

But I wouldn't mind them having it. Some will write very small and jam a lot onto the card - others won't do it at all. I don't understand the time limit - that makes little sense to me. If you think the index card is a good idea then it's a good idea all period not just for 15 minutes. It suggests that you want them to shift back into memorized information after 15 minutes - why?

And why put that kind of rushed stress into the stressful process that already is a test? You can have this aid but only for 15 minutes - do you want to taunt them?

Study guides are new, it's true but there are other new things in education. When my grandfather was in school, there were no such things as antibiotics and people died of strep throat and bad colds. That something is new and didn't exist in other times doesn't make it automatically bad.

When I give study guides, I make them brief. I see so many study guides that are basically rewrites of the chapter that I don't understand the point of study guides even though I think the practice is a well-intended one.

Posted by Great tool!

I have to be honest: when my 10th grade geometry teacher allowed us a single note card (he marked one secretly so we could only use the one he gave us) required a great deal of preparation on my part. I had to practice writing and rewriting the info I wanted to go on that ONE card. By the time it was exam time, I'd done WAY more studying than I would have ever thought to do. That one 3"x5" card was an outstanding way to trick us into putting in REAL effort and care into teat prep.

Posted by Louise Primer

The index card idea does force students to focus on what's important and what's not. This in and of itself could be the best way to prepare for an upcoming exam. They may even get clever and type of loads of information and shrink it down to print on the index card. Are they allowed a magnifying glass to use during the test? LOL

Posted by Ms. P

I don't allow them to type their index cards. It must be hand written in their own handwriting. That eliminates the chance of mass production of note cards.

Posted by Kevin

What do you do about the students how have an IEP giving them a legal right to accommodations that do not require handwriting?

Posted by Ms P

I work with the special ed teachers closely. What has worked was instead of a note card they could use a piece of paper. In 7 years of long term subbing and 2 yrs of teaching, I have never had a student that said they couldn't write. If they did have it stated in their IEP, I would let them use a type written note card but it would be only for those students who have the IEP.

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