Why teach to the test when you can teach with the test?
The Massachusetts ESE has released hundreds of test
questions. These questions are well written, have been pilot
tested, and have undergone multiple reviews by teachers and other
curriculum specialists. They are directly matched to
the Massachusetts curriculum frameworks. Best of all, since they
come from actual MCAS tests, they are a great resource for preparing
for the test. But why only use them as test prep a few weeks
before the test? Why not use them as another tool for
teaching? Perhaps you are teaching a unit on finding the volume
of cones and pyramids. Why not integrate MCAS questions into the
lesson, perhaps as an introduction, as classwork, or as homework?
Why not use MCAS questions in your classes throughout the year?
Below are some suggestions for using MCAS questions
in the classroom.
START UP: Use a question at the start of class. Use it as a springboard for going over Polya's
problem solving strategies. Have students read the question, determine
what information is given, what they know, and what they need to find
out. Perhaps they need to draw a diagram. Maybe they can
relate it to another similar problem they have solved in class.
THE COVER UP: Take a multiple choice
question. Cover up the answers (this can be done by using a blank
piece of paper to cover the response options and then making a
photocopy). Have the students solve the problem, and then ask
them to figure out some incorrect answers. Point out that the
incorrect answers are chosen to represent common errors or
misconceptions. Students should think about what kind of errors
they might make in solving the problem. In this way, students can
engage in metacognitive thinking about their own problem solving strengths and weaknesses.
GET IT WRONG: Give the students a multiple
choice question with all of the answer choices. Have them solve
the problem and then try to get one of more of the incorrect
answers. This can be a fun small-group or whole-class
activity. It can also introduce students to some good test taking
WRITE IT UP: In addition to open response
questions, students can also write up detailed solutions to multiple
choice or short answer questions. Ask students to explain their
reasoning and to justify the steps taken in finding a solution to a
POW: Why not use MCAS questions as the Problem
of the Week (POW)? Open response items or multiple choice
questions are great problems for students to work on outside of
CLASS WORK: Allow students to work on MCAS
questions during class. Students can work alone, in small groups,
or at the board. Students can be asked to explain to the
class how they solved a given problem.
HOMEWORK: Give MCAS problems for
homework. Going over a MCAS problem the next day is good way to
start a math class.
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