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No matter what the fall school semester brings, students are going to have to prepare for the beginning of a new academic year. In order for them to start strong, they need the right mindset to go in with a positive attitude. Here are eight simple actions your child can take to ensure academic success this school year, at any grade level.
Whether your student is in elementary, middle or high school, physical activity is key to helping them maintain focus and motivation. Try to make sure that they exercise a little bit each day. Walking, running, riding a bicycle or swimming will all help your student refresh their mind and boost their mood. Physical activity after class and before studying or homework staves off fatigue and mental exhaustion by giving them a break in between tasks.
Taking a break after each subject is also vital to make the most of their academic time. Have them get up to stretch or walk around every half an hour. This action relieves nervous energy and allows them to return to their work with fresh eyes and new focus. Likewise, if they are feeling frustrated by a confusing math problem or word they struggle to remember, encourage them to stand and move around briefly. Besides stretching, they can do jumping jacks, pushups, situps or jog in place to increase blood flow and stimulate their mind.
Manage Time Effectively
Have your student create a study plan and make specific goals. Help them create goals that are clear and easily attainable in the short term. Instead of a goal to “study for Biology 1,” choose to study notes from specific class days or chapters in the textbook. Making a word or page count goal for an essay will also be more effective than trying to finish the whole thing at once. If your student enjoys to-do lists, have them create a physical list or digital note. Actually checking the item off will bring them satisfaction, and the little victories add up to huge academic success.
Encourage your student to put their phone away during homework time and avoid multitasking. Pausing to check social media can lead to a larger and longer distraction than originally intended; one Tiktok may turn into 12, and 10 minutes of scrolling Twitter can easily become 30. Taking mental breaks is healthy and encouraged, but they should take care to ensure that a break does not become a distraction from the goals they want to achieve for the day.
Large goals are still encouraged; smaller daily goals can stack into these bigger tasks. For example, if your student is studying for the ACT with a practice book, their smaller goal could be to work on a practice test every other day with the ultimate intent of finishing the entire book. Crossing off the big goals will show your student the results of their hard work and daily diligence.
Ask for Help When Needed
There should be no shame in asking for help when your student is confused by a problem, assignment or concept. Encourage them to come to you with questions; if you are unsure of the answer, do not be afraid to acknowledge this fact. Being open and honest develops trust, and you have the opportunity to learn alongside your student as you work with them to answer their question.
College professors maintain office hours for the express purpose of working with students who have questions or otherwise require assistance, so the earlier your student gets in the habit of reaching out, the better. Reinforce the concept that asking for help is beneficial and does not reflect badly on the confused person; instead, it shows the student cares about the material and has a willingness to learn.
Discussing difficult concepts from a course with their peers will also help them, as it improves their communication and analytical skills. Creating small study groups may help your student, so long as the members of the group practice good time management and take care to avoid major distractions like a prolonged conversation on other topics. Such gatherings also improve your student’s ability to work as a team with others. Once the overall task is complete, a fun break with friends can prove a wonderful reward.
Hold Yourself Accountable
Accountability goes hand in hand with time management. Losing track of time or dropping focus every so often is normal, but your student can choose how they react to being distracted or experiencing setbacks. If they realize they have started daydreaming, they should take stock of what has been accomplished so far and their progress towards their goal for the day. Your student should then prioritize: What needs to happen most urgently? Do they need to rework their plans for the day to make those goals a reality? Would it be best for them to get up and refocus before returning to work? Maintaining a positive mindset is key to academic success, so if they appear frustrated, encourage them to take a small break and return to their task after a brief period of time, ideally 15 to 20 minutes.
Working in large chunks is an easy way to lose focus. If your student sits down to write an eight-page paper in one sitting, they may find themselves struggling to maintain motivation after about 45 minutes. Every hour or so, or half an hour for younger students, they should take a break to refresh their minds with a different activity. This may easily be achieved with exercise, with the added benefit of engaging their muscles and improving their mood, but other activities well-suited to the individual student can also help. They might read a few chapters of a book, go outside for a little while, practice art or spend some time with family, friends or pets.
Remember that your student should hold themself accountable for returning to work when they need to, and they should keep an eye on their social media use during study time. Make sure they take time to have fun when the studying is over! Without downtime and an opportunity for their mind to relax, your student will have trouble focusing and feeling rested for the next day. Your student needs ample time to pursue recreational activities they love and take time for themselves to truly ensure academic success.
Write Things Down
Although it may seem counterproductive at first, your student should rewrite their notes after each class. The physical act of writing the notes again reinforces their memory of the content, especially for any diagrams or charts they may have created. They should star, highlight or otherwise denote material that confuses them during their rewriting process, so they can ask questions at their next opportunity.
Your student should also write down each assignment or important date they receive, even if they are confident that they will remember without reference. It is far better to have the information saved and never need it than to realize two days later that they are unsure whether their exam will be this or next Friday.
Organize Work Space
If your student’s workspace is cluttered, they will be less likely to focus. Make sure that the space they are working in provides them with enough room for all of their materials, and that they can sit comfortably without slouching. If your student has to lean over constantly, they will become unsettled and will probably experience neck or back pain after sitting.
Encourage your student to avoid sitting on their bed to do homework or studying if they are using their room as a workplace. They need a designated place to work so that their brain can focus and compartmentalize better. Sometimes, a change of scenery may also work wonders. If they feel stagnant after a while of working in one area, try moving them to a new spot, such as a coffee shop or table in the backyard. To subconsciously promote a positive mood, look for an environment that affords some form of natural light, like a large window.
Challenge and Test Outside of Class
In order to grow and learn, your student needs to challenge themself. If their homework is completed, they should try self-quizzing with flash cards to ensure they thoroughly understand the material. Especially when preparing for a test like the ACT or SAT, they should take advantage of outside study materials like online practice modules and mock tests. Flexing their mental muscles beyond the classroom will help them excel, but they should make sure to take time for fun, too! Leisure activities can also challenge your student’s mind and outlook: games like chess and checkers stimulate a student’s sense of logic, as do puzzles.
Ensure Academic Success with mAke the grAde
No matter what age your student is, following these eight actions will set them on the path towards academic success in their endeavors. Should you need further guidance, contact mAke the grAde. Remember that they should never be afraid to ask questions and request help. Their continued learning and improvement is the overall goal of education.
Although many students, teachers and parents don’t like the process, testing is an essential part of every educational program. Assessments provide much-needed data. They allow educators to track their students’ progress and let concerned parties know what skills and content a student might be struggling with. In addition, they even provide data that helps make future academic decisions easier. They also give institutions like colleges and universities a way to measure potential candidates for future admission.
Testing is important. A whole field of research and practice accommodates it. This field is full of terms that, while important, are difficult for most people to understand. It’s impossible to go through each and every one of them. But here are 15 testing terms that everyone should definitely know, in no particular order.
When it comes to testing, there are a lot of different types of assessments out there, and each one does something different. In the classroom, the two most commonly used types of assessments are formative and summative.
Formative assessments are tests given during the course of a lesson or unit and are designed to measure a student’s progress while his or her knowledge is still forming (hence the word “formative”). These might include CFU (Checking for Understanding) moments, quizzes, benchmark tests, diagnostics and other assessments that are meant to measure progress up to a certain point. The teacher uses this information to plan future content.
When a teacher can determine what students know, it’s very helpful. When a teacher can determine what students don’t know, he or she can then help those students better learn and master that content. Formative assessments can be graded, but they don’t have to be, since that is not their main purpose.
In contrast to formative testing, a summative assessment takes place at the end of a unit or lesson. Summative assessments determine or “sum up” what a student does or does not know (hence the word “summative”).
When a student gets a summative assessment, it’s expected that they previously mastered all the content presented up to that point. Usually, these sorts of tests are graded and often weigh pretty heavily. This is because summative assessments are used as the main tool to determine whether or not a student has actually learned what was expected of them. These tests can include final exams and unit tests.
A diagnostic test is a specific form of formative assessment, usually given at the very beginning of a class, term or unit of study. This kind of test finds out what a student knows and what a student doesn’t know.
Many students get upset when they get items wrong on a diagnostic exam, but that is actually the point – it’s the wrong answers that allow a teacher to design lessons that will meet the needs of the students in the class. For this reason, diagnostic tests should never be counted as a grade.
An aptitude test measures a student’s potential. We often see these sorts of tests, including the SAT and the ACT, being used as part of an entrance package to colleges and universities.
The idea is that these tests do not assess what someone knows as much as what they have the potential to learn and do. Colleges then use that information when deciding what sort of person to admit into their institution.
A performance assessment measures a student’s skill in a particular area. These tests are less about knowledge and more about ability. Of course, a performance assessment can only be used if there is some sort of performance aspect to assess. So, you will often see these type of assessments in fields such as art, dance or music.
Many academic activities require skills rather than content. For example, one could argue that being able to successfully construct an argument is an academic piece that requires skill, not just knowledge.
A portfolio is a type of assessment that asks students to collect samples of their work. An artist, for example, might put together a collection of his or her best drawings, or a writer might compile a file of their best short stories or poems. A teacher evaluates this collection of work.
Overall judgement must take into consideration multiple works that showcase a variety of skills and ideas.
With all of the various tests available, it’s important to know whether or not a test is any good. Does the test actually do what it is supposed to do? With that being said, one major quality that test-makers and users look for in an assessment is validity.
Validity pertains to what the test actually measures. Does the vocabulary test actually show if the student knows those words? Does the math test actually show if a student knows the math concepts being tested? This might seem easy to figure out, but it isn’t always so. Sometimes, a test is full of “hidden” issues that make it unreliable.
Many assessments use a rubric to help the teacher determine a grade. A rubric is nothing more than a matrix that determines what should be present in an answer for the student to earn a specific score. These are often great ways to take a seemingly subjective process (like writing, for example) and make it graded on more objective standards.
In addition, a rubric is great for breaking down large pieces into smaller, more gradable bits. For example, rather than just grade an essay as a whole, a teacher can look at grammar, vocabulary, organization, etc. The teacher then gives each element its own individual score based on its criteria.
A scaffolded assessment is a sequential type of test that starts off easy and then progressively gets more difficult as the test continues. Each item gets more and more difficult and relies more on student knowledge and skill.
These assessments measure how far a student progresses in a particular area. Or summatively, to see whether or not a student has mastered something to the level required by the course standards.
The term “authentic assessment” refers to any sort of test that seeks to recreate real-world situations. Think of language learning, for example. Instead of practicing awkward conversations about food in a classroom, an authentic assessment might involve setting up a fake restaurant table and simulating a customer and waiter having a conversation about the menu. This technique makes the skill easier for the student to apply and learn outside of the classroom.
A benchmark is a specific type of formative assessment. These are most commonly used when a unit of study has a predetermined set of standards that are supposed to be met by the end of the unit.
The benchmark is used along the way to see how close students are to meeting those standards. It also determines what learning gaps need to be addressed. The teacher uses this knowledge to help plan future content.
Many standardized tests, report student ability in the form of a percentile. This is a number between 1 and 100 (like a percent) that shows how the student compares to other similar students across the area. A student in the 75th percentile on a skill can be said to have performed better than 75% of all the students who took that same assessment.
A standards-based assessment is a test that specifically measures a student’s progress or understanding of certain standards. The standards might be teacher-chosen, school-wide or created by some other governing entity. In today’s educational system, it’s usually a state-wide government choice.
The assessment then measures a student’s knowledge of those particular standards. Other content or skills don’t undergo assessment.
The statistics of a test reveal the standard deviation. Standard deviation measures how varied the scores on a particular assessment might be. A test with a wide distribution of scores, from very low to very high, has a high deviation. A test where most students all score similarly to one another has a low standard deviation.
A student’s individualized needs will determine if they need accommodations. Most often, students with a disability receive allowances. The accommodation is an exception to the normal testing rules. It gives the student a more even playing field and compensates for the disadvantages that stem from that disability.
Common accommodations include extra time on tests, special seating, a change in a testing environment (a small group setting, for example) or the use of extra tools such as a calculator. It is only after a medical professional documents a disability that students receive accommodations.
Contact Make the Grade
Of course, experts use many other terms when it comes to testing and assessment. If you would like to know more about testing and how Make the Grade can help you, please don’t hesitate to contact us today!