Problem Attic

The state of New York routinely gives high school regents exams.  Like our Iowa Assessments, I presume.  What if there was a place online that contained every exam and every individual question from these exams, categorized by each topic or concept?  And teachers could use those questions to build their own tests?

Welcome toProblem Attic!

Problem Attic has thousands of questions for Math, Science, Social Studies and Language Arts from the New York Regents Exam.  It’s more at the secondary level (def. not elementary).  Teachers use these questions to build their own exams and activities.

The first thing you do is create a blank document.  I decided to make a pretend test.  There are over 9,500 math questions.  Then I saw there were 22,000 science questions.  I was amazed by the inclusion of drawings and diagrams, so I picked some of them too.  I noticed that while most of the questions are multiple choice, some are essay, short answer type questions.  Makes for a nice variety.  The Language Arts sections are accompanied by reading passages and questions.

After picking all your questions, you can decide how you want to print.  They even include nice options like making each question a flashcard for activities or ACT test prep rather than just a standard test.

HIGHLY recommended that you check this out (especially for ACT Prep)


Race to the Top

Keeping students motivated at the end of the term can be a struggle.  In the final weeks of a semester, I would see that a large majority of my students knew that they had their grade “locked up” and just coasted through our semester review.  And I don’t completely blame them.  When you have maintained a high A all quarter, you feel pretty confident about your chances.  The students that acted the most motivated in those final days were the students concerned about their low grades.

So I introduced the Race to the Top Ten in my Spanish 1 and Spanish 2 courses.  I have multiple sections of each course, and at the end of the 2nd quarter and 4th quarter, I create a list of the Top Ten highest grades in the course and these students are exempt from the semester test.  I figure, if students are able to do that well all quarter, they have proved their competency on anything the semester test would assess.  It’s a little thank you gift to them for their hard work.  Throughout the quarter I update a Top Ten list and include a list of students that are “In the Hunt”.  In the final weeks of the quarter, I update the list daily so that students know if they should reasonably expect to take the semester test or not.  The list is finalized two days before the semester test.

This is the Spanish 1 Top Ten. This is with 2 days left to go, so it isn't finalized. The students in the hunt still have a chance.

Every time I have done this, it generates a huge amount of buzz and motivation for my top students.  As you can see by some of these Spanish 1 students, it isn’t enough for them to just do well in class, but they also want to do extra and go above and beyond expectations to earn extra credit and ensure their position in the Top Ten.  I have  some fantastic students that do well on all quizzes and tests but don’t push themselves to do anything extra.  The students that do challenge themselves to do more are rewarded, and I love to see them so energetic and motivated in the days before the end of the quarter.

And kids love competition of all kinds.  We had a test on Friday and after the test students were asking each other how they did and how many they think they missed.  If they are in the Top Ten or In the Hunt, they know that it could come down to missing one question on a quiz or test.  It’s like the playoffs; one mistake and you’re out.  For those that miss out on the Top Ten by a tenth of a percentage point it’s like losing by a three pointer at the buzzer.  It seems unfair and it hurts, but you played your best and you just have to be happy about it.

I have to finalize this year’s Top Ten lists by Tuesday, which means I have to be 100% on top of grading.  I guess it also creates a little motivation for the teacher too!

(My high school American History teacher Mr. Coffey used to do the Top Ten, so it isn’t an original idea.  I totally stole it from him, even though I was never lucky enough to rank in the top.)

*I do tell students at the beginning of the quarter that I will be posting their names and scores and if they are uncomfortable with that, they can come and see me and I will respect their privacy.  So far I have never had a student concern with privacy.