I posted earlier about the difficulty my students have had learning about the theory of evolution. It is a really complicated concept to understand - there are plenty of adults who don't fully understand it. Realizing that my students were not ready to do their best on a test I pushed it back from Friday to the Tuesday before we got out for break.
On Tuesday my kids came in from their other classes where they watched movies and had little parties. Needless to say they were quite disappointed that we were still having the test. However, once their initial complaining was completed (a necessary step in middle school), they did awesome! This was not an easy test - it was 8 short essay questions.
I wasn't trying to be mean, I just wanted to give them as much opportunity to score well on the standards - multiple choice and matching don't tell me much about what they know about the standards we are covering.
I expected many of the kids to race through as fast as they could, like they usually do. Not on Tuesday. Every kid in the classroom worked diligently until they completely finished the test. It was one of the most amazing things I have ever seen. You could actually see the wheels turning in their minds as they worked.
I have two theories as to why they worked so hard on this test. First, we had a very successful review session the day before during which we talked about how the different ideas fit together - I think this helped them understand the topic (instead of memorizing facts which they still want to do instead of thinking and understanding). Second, the past few tests they have taken have had the shortest possible answers to my questions - a few words where I was expecting a paragraph. I realized that I needed to tell them exactly what I wanted so I put sentence suggestions on each question. I told the kids these were not requirements, but I wouldn't be able to give anyone full credit for less than the minimum sentence suggestion because they wouldn't be able to get all of the information covered in less than that. Walking around I saw kids going way above my suggested sentences and that was awesome.
I haven't looked at the tests yet - too busy getting ready for Christmas - but I am so proud of my students for working so hard. I don't care how much trouble a student has with a subject, I will work until they get it, as long as they are working too. So, no matter how high or low their test scores - my class was successful on this test.