Whether you call them assessments, exams, quizzes, or benchmarks, periodically we need to find out what our students have learned from our teaching. If your students are at all like the high-schoolers I have worked with, they may not really know how to study. That's why the work I assign to students gives them repeated exposure to important concepts from biology class. In this post I will share with you the "proper prior planning" I use which encourages student preparedness for tests.
My high school biology class has generally consisted of ten units. Students also have traditionally needed to perform a lab component before taking the Living Environment Regents at the end of the school year. But, regardless of the name of the exam, I have constructed my unit tests using the type of questions given on the culminating final so that students are better prepared for what to expect in June. Beyond that, your district may also administer “common assessments” during the year, which, hopefully, are also composed of the same types of questions, for added practice.
To prepare for unit tests, students are encouraged to review their note packet. If they completed their Questions on Notes sheets, they had the opportunity to actively review their notes as they worked. Additionally, I give students a Review Crossword Puzzle at the end of each unit. The puzzles were constructed with the note packets, so they provide excellent review of unit concepts. Many units also have "Write Abouts" which provide students with practice organizing their thoughts and completing extended response questions.
Of course, when I go over segments of a sample final exam with students, we discuss the merits of possible answers to each question. In June, prior to test day, students take an "practice final" to better learn what to expect. I also display a State Lab Review PowerPoint and have students describe what each lab involved. Finally, I also give students a Living Environment Fill-In Review Packet to prepare for the big day.
Here are links to my unit tests, note packets, QNs, crossword puzzles, "write abouts", and Regents Review (culminating exam) materials.
With a little prior planning, you too can give your students the tools they need and encourage them to use those tools to prepare for their tests.
Gertrude Katz has spent over 30 years teaching K-12 public school students all major subjects. She has taught biology and education at the college level. The majority of her career has been spent instructing biology at the secondary level.