At Oak Hill Academy, our learning environment is built around one-on-one instruction in small classes. This structure helps students improve their focus during class time. We also know that studying is a learned skill, and so we provide extra support to help students build their study skills. This is especially important during examination periods. Leading up to the mid-term exams this week, our teachers and advisors worked together to help each student prepare for their tests.
Exam preparation year-round
Our small group structure is built into our exam prep, and all students are placed in groups of approximately 10 students and assigned a faculty advisor. This faculty member serves as their homeroom teacher, and a whole lot more! Faculty advisors work with their advisees throughout the year to complete various projects, to participate in social outings together and, most of all, to ensure the students are thriving.
Preparation for exams in mid-December officially began in the December 1 advisee meetings. Before diving into specific study strategies, the faculty advisors first laid out the basics of how to plan for taking exams.
Teaching the skill of planning ahead is truly best educational practice. For students with executive functioning challenges, planning ahead can be exceptionally hard to navigate, so direct instruction in this area is vital. Our advisors tackle this issue head on, leading students the students in creating individual exam planning calendars.
This learn-by-doing exercise requires students to map out the times and dates of each of their exams on these calendars and bolsters their organizational skills. By working with their faculty advisors to address the exam planning process itself, all of the students gained experience with this important skill.
Test taking strategies
The teachers then discussed various exam strategies and guided students to select appropriate study tools for each of their classes. The students used the visual organizer of their calendars to map out details of when and how they plan to study for each of their exams.
For example, instead of writing the word study on the planner, the students would instead list how they would study for each content area. “Review social studies notes” or “meet study group to crosscheck notes,” or “attend office hours on Tuesday” became their new directives. In this way, students not only develop their study skills, but they also reinforce positive planning skills and strengthen their executive functioning and planning skills.
Oak Hill’s teachers take pride in being available for additional exam review, and they will facilitate meetings with students who may be struggling. As exams approach, a number of teachers also conduct afternoon and evening review sessions, in addition to the review sessions that are built into the school schedule.
During the exam week, Mondays and Tuesdays are regular class days, while Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays are exam days. Monday and Tuesday are dedicated to exam preparation sessions, with several options to schedule sessions with teachers and advisors. For example, Mrs. Dacons, Oak Hill’s learning specialist, assists students after school until 6 p.m.
There are also special peer sessions on Monday and Tuesday. This year, teachers and advisors noticed a specific need for Spanish and math mentoring, and have respectively dedicated Monday and Tuesday to those topics. Teachers join students and assist with peer tutoring on these days, while the rest of the week, peer tutoring continues as normal for other subject areas.
Through our dedicated exam preparation, we are able to reinforce our one-on-one, relational approach to education and to support all of our students, especially those with learning differences who may need an executive functioning boost.