“Test Flashbacks”: Science Lab Safety

This is my third year of teaching. One of the things I’ve neglected to do in the past two years is to to take up tests.

Often, I felt that students didn’t care about correcting their mistakes and/or it would take too long to go through every single question. But was this a projection of my own feelings? It really is the responsibility of the teacher to set the right tone if a task is important; just because I get the impression that they don’t care doesn’t justify not doing it.

And we started with the most important unit: science lab safety. I have an obligation to fix major misconceptions. I cannot afford to have students misunderstand a major safety rule when working with chemicals and dangerous lab equipment.

So today, I told Grade 10s and the 11s that I’d like to improve as a teacher, because having a growth mindset is important. I said that this year, we will always have a “test flashback” to discuss where we went wrong. This is how we learn and this is how I can enhance students’ metacognition.

There are four main purposes to the flashback:

  1. To note major mistakes – Which part did I struggle with?
  2. To learn from our mistakes – How can I improve next time?
  3. To see how the class did as a whole – Did everyone flunk? Did everyone do really well? How did I do?
  4. To review important ideas – What were the “big ideas” in this unit? What should I remember?

I don’t go through every single question. I look at the larger trends and identify the strengths and weaknesses of the group. I take photos of actually answers but never, ever reveal who wrote an incorrect responses; however, I might point out a nice drawing Joe or Sally made.

Screen Shot 2015-08-31 at 7.57.46 PM

I asked students, “How many got at least 8 out of 10 on the lab equipment section?” Nearly everyone raised their hand. I asked them to think, “Why was this an easy section?” We discussed how we had used digital flashcards on Quizlet to play a game and familarize ourselves with the equipment. We had talked and practiced saying words aloud (most of my students are English Language Learners so verbal practice is important).

Then we looked at “My Favourite Mistakes” and discussed the correct answers as a class. This idea comes from “My Favourite No” from the Teaching Channel.

Here’s one example:

Screen Shot 2015-08-31 at 7.41.03 PM

I made a joke out of this one. I held my coffee mug in my hand, turned it upside down and said, would this be a good way of heating my cup over the fire? Everyone laughed. Will they remember it? Of course!  Laughter helps with your memory.

At the end of the Powerpoint presentations, I gave everyone a slip of green paper. They were asked to choose one of the three mistakes and write an explanation of the correct answer. They were given thumbtacks and stuck it up on the bulletin board, which acted as “The Parking Lot”. Students were asked to write their response on the back and others could come and see what other responses were written.

It was a great little lesson and an easy way to give another mark!

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