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.
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.
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.