4 ways to spice up testing teens

4 ways to spice up testing teens

Testing is an integral part of teaching. Tests show what has been achieved during the course or some specific period of time, reveal students’ strengths and weaknesses and might help teachers to finetune the course according to learners’ needs. However, how often have you seen your teens groaning and cringing at the mere sound of the word ‘test’? In today’s article, we’ll have a look at 4 ways to vary test-writing routines in a teenage class.

During an average studying year, our students have to write a number of unit tests and progress tests, leave alone dictations, mock tests and real exams. The procedure is typical: revise in class, revise at home, close everything, take your pen, time is over. How exciting (not). Don’t forget that variety is the spice and try out some of the following ideas next time your teenagers have a test.

  • Turn it into a game

Add a number of options to the test. You can take them from popular TV game shows where they are called ‘lifelines’ or invent something suitable for your particular group: 

50/50 gives an opportunity to limit 4 answers in multiple-choice questions to 2.

Ask the Audience lets a student discuss a tricky question with the group.

Ask the Expert enables learners to ask the teacher.

Jump the Question completely bypasses any question other than, probably, writing with no strings attached.

Ask students to look through all the test before they decide which lifelines to use. This works really well because it encourages students to use test-taking strategies like planning the time, looking for cues or analyzing their own performance. 

  • Promote cooperation

Why don’t you offer teens to write a test in pairs for a change? Arrange the seating so that each pair or little group could work without disturbing the others. Let them work through all the questions together, allow some buzz time to discuss listening questions after the track is over. Writing part, in this case, can be assigned as homework. If time allows, they can plan it together and then write and edit, using a piece of paper or Google Docs. You can read more about collaborative writing activities here. If you opt for such a model of test writing, you should think about proper scoring. The easiest way is to give an equal number of points to each of the students of the same team. It might be tricky, though, if you pair weaker and stronger students. So, don’t forget to monitor the process and take some notes on personal performance – just for your information.

  • Use tests as a peer teaching tool

When the test is done, ask students to go through their work again and mark all the questions with +, – or ? If they are totally sure about the answer they have given, they mark the question with a +. The ones done at random (they are not quite sure of the answer) get a -. Questions that leave your teens some doubts are marked with a ?.

After the marking, students have to mingle and help each other, explaining and correcting their answers. This activity is great to use. Not only it promotes cooperation and encourages peer learning, but also teaches teenagers to evaluate information critically. They should bear in mind that the final choice of the answer is all theirs, despite all the opinions and options they’ve collected from their peers. We usually discuss it with my teenage students before using such an activity for the first time. It prevents a number of ‘That’s all his fault!!!’, ‘Why did I listen to this stupid answer?!’ and other likely kinds of comments.

  • Offer a choice

If you still want students to work individually but feel less restricted, offer them a choice of tasks they can do or even skip. Provide options for topics in the writing part. Or combine two variants of the test in one so that students could choose one of two similar tasks provided. If you test vocabulary, add some open-ended tasks. For example, ask students to think of 10 words they’ve learnt and write them down with a definition or an example for each.

Teens can also ‘buy’ a chance to skip one of the tasks. For example, if you monitor students’ progress during the unit and give them bonus points for hard work and participation, they can later exchange these points for test points in a task they’d like to skip. 

One important thing to mention: there are always those diligent ones who complete all the tasks and never use any bonus points even if they’ve earned some. Don’t forget about some kind of reward to praise these students.

It might seem that the only way to administer a test without students’ groaning about it is to give them a dozen chances to skip the tasks. However, it’s not what it seems. All the ideas mentioned above teach teenagers to assess their own knowledge and track their progress. It’s beneficial to discuss their choices afterwards: ‘Why have you skipped this particular task?”, ‘Has grammar been hard for you this time?’, ‘Need more vocabulary revision, right?’. All in all, these little tricks can lighten up our teens, help them look at testing from another angle and – probably – even enjoy it.

Happy testing!

Надежда Попова

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