January is here, which means it’s Grade 9 EQAO assessment of mathematics season (sigh). I’m not a huge advocate of standardized testing, but I’ve spent a large chunk of my teaching career working on resources and ways to help my students succeed on them. Why? Because achievement on these tests, whether we like it or not, is arguably the most heavily scrutinized benchmark for student learning, teacher competency, and school effectiveness. Politically, the results of these assessments either tell the world that the kids are alright, or that we have a full-blown educational crisis on our hands and we need to scream, flail our arms and run in circles.
For students (as you all might remember from your days of schooling), the greatest challenge of an end-of-semester test is remembering everything that they have learned over the last five months. I devote about a week to try to go over all the main concepts that we’ve done as a class over the course of the semester. In previous years, these review sessions would consist of some teacher-led examples, students working on questions to try to jolt their memory, and some form of summary. It was a bit dull, but I felt that it was the most effective use of time. This year, I’ve decided to appeal to students’ desires to have fun while learning. That’s where the gifts come to play.
Today, I centered the (re)learning of linear relations around Kahoot!, a web-based game that students play using mobile devices. In a nutshell, Kahoot! allows teachers to create a multiple-choice quiz and students answer the questions using their devices. For each question, a correct answer earns points, and the faster students answer, the more points they receive. Whoever has the most points at the end wins the right to choose from the wrapped prizes. I created a quiz that contained questions regarding linear relations, with the hope that students were more motivated to learn during class in order to be prepared for the game at the end of the period. To some degree it was a success; I’m trying it for the rest of the week to see if the motivational factor increases or decreases. The game itself was a success – students definitely enjoyed themselves, and I feel that many of them consolidated their learning through engaging with the questions.
Is this a game-changing approach? Probably not, but at least it’s way more fun and positive compared to the alternative. After all, it’s not just about the content we teach, but the positive attitudes that we should try to instill upon our students. If you can have a good time and prepare for a standardized test all at once, then why not do it, right? You can’t spell fundamentals without “fun.”