## Group Warm Up – Community of Learners

A few weeks back I blogged about a new testing strategy I used in my elementary algebra class. Students completed 4 word problems with their group before taking the individual portion of the test. The group portion was worth 20% of the overall score and the individual portion was worth 80% of the overall score.

My students told me that the chance to warm up together, and ask each other questions, was more important than the grade they got from the group portion. (Again, only 3 students improved their letter grade on the test because of the group portion.) So I decided for the most recent test (on exponents and polynomials) to give the students a warm up period of 20 minutes with 8 problems to work on and discuss. I put the answers on the board after 10 minutes so the students could determine if they were doing them correctly.

This went really well. OK, that’s an understatement. I had 36 students that took the test and there were 21(!) A’s, 8 B’s, 3 C’s, 3 D’s, and 1 F. The class average was 87.3%, and the median was 91.5%. One type of problem that traditionally gives students a hard time is polynomial long division, and this class seemed to breeze through this topic with few difficulties.

We talked about this warm up during the next class session, and the students told me that it was helpful in many ways. For students who usually have test anxiety, it helped them to relax before the test because they are so comfortable with their group members. Some reported that they had questions about some of the problems, and the help they received was very helpful.

The class I am teaching meets twice a week for two hours a day, so I do have plenty of time on test day for this approach. I am thinking about replacing the review session in my daily classes with this sort of warm up activity next semester because it has been so successful in this class.

Summary

Have you tried having a warm up group period before giving a test? If so, please share your experience by leaving a comment or reaching me through the contact page at my web site – georgewoodbury.com.

-George

I am a math instructor at College of the Sequoias in Visalia, CA. Each Thursday I will be blogging about the importance of community in the classroom. If there’s a particular topic you’d like me to address, or if you have a question or a comment, please let me know. You can reach me through the contact page on my website – http://georgewoodbury.com.