So, I am reading Rafe Esquith’s Teach Like Your Hair’s on Fire: The Methods and Madness Inside Room 56 (well actually I’m listening to it on CD while I drive). I’ll do a review on it when I’m done because I don’t know how anyone can read this book and NOT react to it in some way, probably several ways. But that is for another post.
One of the strategies he uses that I like is his approach to multiple test questions. Instead of just teaching students to choose the correct answer, he teaches them to analyze all of the answers to see why the incorrect ones are wrong. In most cases, the wrong answers are what a child is likely to come up with if he makes a common mistake – for example adding instead of subtracting. When a child sees her answer as one of the choices, it increases her confidence that she got it correct, when of course, she did not.
Esquith says that his kids love to discover how the people who created the test try to trip up the test taker with wrong answers. I can totally see that…how cool is it for a fifth grader to outsmart an adult? It puts a fun little twist into test taking. Of course, when there is a time constraint on a real test, analyzing each answer might not be the best strategy, but in many cases, it could be a great way for students to think more critically about the test itself as well as their own problem-solving process.
One way he teaches this is to write a math problem on the board with the letters, a,b,c, and d under it. After the students have solved the problem, he makes the correct answer one of the choices. Then the students suggest what could be used for the three wrong answers, with the reason why each would make a good wrong answer. Creating the questions themselves helps the students to understand how the test is designed on a deeper level than simply taking a test.