Tuesday, September 18, 2007

And just how do they manage to cross the street?

On Friday we had a quiz over compounds and elements. It's a pretty basic quiz about the eight compounds and elements that The State says my seventh graders need to know. Basically we want them to recognize them by both name and chemical symbol(s) and to tell if they're an element or a compound just by looking at them. Piece of cake.

So, before the quiz, I put a copy of it on the overhead and walked them through it by reading the directions and pointing out the different sections. In one section they give me the name of the compound or element, in another section they give me the chemical symbols along with circling E for element and C for compound, and in another section they look at five elements and compounds which aren't on the State Mandated List and tell me what they are based on just looking at them. (If it has one capital letter it's an element; two or more and it's a compound).

I figured that by going over the quiz in detail, in full color on a big screen, they wouldn't make any foolish mistakes. After all the directions are written right there on the quiz.

Boy was I wrong.

While grading these quizzes, I realized that a good 20% of my students obviously didn't pay any attention while I walked them through how to do the quiz, and even more obviously didn't read the directions either. My fifth period, the class with all the non-academic promotes and low achievers, had at least half of them that goobered it up. Big time. These were the kids who needed the extra bump the quiz could give them and instead, by not following directions, they missed 8 out of 29 points. And that's assuming they had everything else correct.

"Do you remember me standing up here and showing you the quiz on the screen?" I asked my kids after I'd handed the quizzes back and the kids were looking with horror at their grades. A few heads nodded.

"What did I talk about when I was showing you the quiz?" I asked.

One brave soul raised his hand. "You went over the directions," he said.

"Okay, so how come half of you still didn't manage to follow them?" I asked.

Blank stares.

It was so bad that Mr. Title, the aide that's in my room 5th period looking out for those non-academic promotes and low achievers, created one of those little quizzes that have about 15 questions (general information stuff), but if you actually freaking read the directions (what a novel concept) the last line of the directions reads, "skip numbers 1 through 15 and sign your name at the bottom".

He gave this quiz to the study skills class that the Title Aides teach, later that day.

One kid actually followed the directions. Out of about 18.

One.

These kids are so unaware, so unobservant, so in a fog, that I wonder how they get to school every day, how they manage to find their way home, and how they manage to cross the street without being hit by a car.

11 comments:

Leslie said...

What about the student who answers an "explain" question with "Yes" and no further explanation?

Kari said...

I've got kids who leave T/F and multiple choice questions blank because they don't know the answers.

Karen said...

I teach 7th grade too - it must be a 7th grade thing because I see it all the time.
My favorite is when I put step-by-step instructions for a project or assignment on my web page and have kids asking "What do I do next?". My standard answer "Read the instructions on the web page".

sheldinski said...

i had a similar problem today. i gave a test, but did a review yesterday in which i explained how to answer an essay question (i teach spanish so the concept literally incites terror). instead of taking away the concept of reading the directions and giving a response that answers the question, they took away "memorize the answer." 45% of the class wrote an answer based on the review question instead of the actual question on the test. gah!

Mrs. T said...

I don't know if it's good or bad news, but I'm afraid it's not just a 7th grade thing. I have high schoolers-seniors in fact-who don't follow directions.

Mister Teacher said...

We must be teaching the same kids. I had kids copying a science experiment out of their book today, and at least seven of them called me over when they had reached the bottom of their page to tell me they had no more room. My response?
"Turn the page!"
it's a freakin spiral notebook, and you're on the third page of it!!

Liz said...

Hi, it's Liz from I Speak of Dreams. A bit of a topic hi jack. There's some blogging to-do going on about a fellow, Dan Hodgins, doing professional development for the pre-k to gr. 3 set, grossly misrepresenting the brain and the effect of gender on education.

It made me wonder, the worst, most vapid, most content-free professional development experience of your teaching career, and leave a link in the comments (or post the whole sorry story in the comments, if you'd like).

Contest home is here (also has links that explains the to-do over Hodgins).

graycie said...

A few years ago when I taught on a team in middle school, our science teacher held a review the day before a test. As part of the review, he wrote the material on the board -- and forgot to erase it.

Nobody passed the test.

Darren said...

That's part of the reason I'm much happier teaching high school than I was teaching junior high. By high school, most of them have figured it out, at least a little bit.

Jennie said...

Snort. Well, it's not just a 7th grade thing. I have 8th graders who routinely get 50% on assignments because they don't turn it over and see if there's anything else to do on the back page!
It's ridiculous. It's almost as if they are soooo used to being told exactly what to do that they've lost any impetus to figure things out for themselves.

EHT said...

I promise those of us teaching fourth grade do teach them "how" to take a true/false, multiple choice type test....they simply do what they want to.

The activity you spoke of that the aide gave is one I do the first day of every nine weeks. I've never had more than five students who do it correctly even after they have seen it two or three times.....