I’ve got (my last) post up over at Simple Homeschool today all about why we decided to start using tests, despite my initial staunch No Test policy. Here’s an “outtake” I wrote and cut that I thought y’all might enjoy…
When I was in junior high, I had an english/history teacher named Mrs. Livingston. She used something called The Game to help us prep for quizzes and tests. It was very cutthroat in my class of 13. Being in first chair meant EVERYTHING. Of course, in junior high, who had the highest bangs and who held hands under the lunch table meant EVERYTHING, too, so take that with a grain of salt.
To help prepare the kids for an end-of-year review, I printed out all the unit tests they’d already taken. I kept them on a clipboard at my place at table. The first few nights, we simply threw questions out over dinner to see what they knew. Andrew would quiz me or vice versa, so the kids could enjoy watching us squirm.
And then, I implemented “The Game.”
When I played in school, a desk on the front row was named 1st chair. Behind it was 2nd chair. And so on… The goal was to be in 1st chair at the end of the game. The teacher asks a question to 1st chair. If they can answer it, they stay put. If they can’t answer it, 2nd chair has a chance. If they get it right, 2nd chair moves to 1st chair and 1st chair person moves ALL THE WAY TO THE BACK.
The teacher would move down the rows in order and we would rearrange according to who missed. The key is to send whoever misses the question to the back and everyone else moves up, staying in order.
So I taught the kids. Since we’ve all studied the same thing this year (reason #820 why I love my curriculum) Ellen and Adam could play along if I asked them easy questions. We played at our kitchen table. And the kids loved it. They asked to play again at dinner time.
I began to notice that they were remembering questions they’d missed earlier in the day. We played long after everyone was done eating and they spent the rest of the evening trash talking and planning for the next day’s Game. They begged for more the next day and the next. And then they all aced their tests.
Even after we finished school, they fought over who got to sit in the 1st chair spot, just in case I pop quizzed them on Latin. (Ellen and Adam aren’t taking Latin, but they learned the latest verb conjugation by osmosis just so they could participate in The Game.)
It’s a simple idea, really, but there’s something about making it competitive that helped the children retain information. And it made me nostalgic for the day when I named the fourth island of Japan (Honshu) and beat out Jonathan Magness for 1st chair. My triumph was short-lived, but the victory lives on my heart.
Oh, alright, so maybe The Game really was EVERYTHING…