…innovative teaching techniques, MoE ‘Mock exams’ among successful strategies
ON Wednesday and Thursday thousands of pupils will sit the annual National Grade Six Assessment (NGSA) after months of focused preparation, which included innovative teaching techniques.
The NGSA will last two days, beginning on April 17 and culminating on April 18. The pupils will be writing four subjects: English Language, Mathematics, Social Studies and Science. “That is an exit examination for the primary level, and so you start to prepare for the NGSA when you enter Grade One,” Minister of Education, Dr. Nicolette Henry, told the Guyana Chronicle recently.
On Monday, the Guyana Chronicle visited the North Georgetown Primary school which- like many other schools- held classes for the pupils writing the examinations. At this school, about 128 children are expected to sit the examinations. “We are very confident with the amount of work that we would have put in and the strategies that we would have used with the children in order to go fully confident into their NGSA,” Grade Six teacher, Abiola Clarke related.
According to her, the teachers at the school employed several innovative teaching techniques to ensure that all pupils are adequately prepared for the NGSA. “We would have realised that the children had certain shortcomings, especially in Math, Science and Social-Studies, and what we did we went on a trial and error basis to see if we would’ve covered and get the children back in order,” she explained.
But this was not a ‘one size fits all’ strategy, and the teachers had to turn towards engaging in remedial classes for the children also. These classes began at 07:30 hours and here, the teachers would focus more specifically on areas that seemed problematic for the children. And these problematic areas were identified from in-class tests done every Friday.
Even so, Clarke and the Grade Six teachers began conducting “one-on- one” sessions, where the teachers opted to work with pupils individually. And finally, the teachers separated the children who garnered more than 60 per cent in the mid-term and end-of-term examinations into one classroom. Here, each Grade Six teacher focused on teaching one of the four subjects, depending on their subject strengths.
In addition to the individual techniques teachers engaged in at their respective schools, the Ministry of Education (MoE) continued the use of its ‘Mock Exams’.
“It’s been a long journey and specifically at the Grade Six level, my Ministry, in much more recent times, would have implemented some diagnostic examinations, which we generally call ‘Mock Examinations’ to give the children the opportunity to be exposed to the examination environment prior to the actual day of the examination,” Minister Henry also highlighted.
These examinations were given twice in the months leading up to the examination, and Dr. Henry explained that these examinations helped the MoE to understand what gaps exist in the pupils’ learning and what areas the ministry and the schools should focus on specifically.
As such, Minister Henry affirmed: “We’ve done the groundwork, the hard work and we expect that the children will go out there and they will do well.” “The mock exams that the MoE gave helped in that it gave guidance in what is expected- the kinds of questions [and] the structures of the questions, and helped the children to adjust to answering those kinds of questions,” Grade Six teacher at the Mae’s Primary School Claire Assannah indicated.
Added to that, Assannah shared that the mock examination results were reviewed and the children would have had the opportunity to understand the areas they did well in and the ones they needed to work more on.
At North Georgetown, Clarke related, “In the first one (Mock exam), the children were kind of shaky but the second one they did pretty well– we saw great improvements and we saw the children would’ve really excelled and that made us more confident too that we would’ve covered the concepts that the ministry tested on.”
In addition to these examinations, primary schools would have conducted their own end-of-term examinations as mandated by the MoE, and would have also done in-class tests as the teachers thought best. “On yearly basis we would do our own mock examinations,” another Grade Six teacher at Mae’s, Penelope Favorite, disclosed.
But tests and mock exams aside, teachers shared that creating a comfortable environment for the children is critical to a good learning experience. “Some of (the children) would be nervous but one way of putting them at ease was engaging them in outdoor activities,” Kelvin Lewis, another Mae’s teacher, said. He explained that through his teaching experience, he has found that engaging children outside of the classroom, in ways that allow them to relax is usually conducive to greater learning.
Assannah, like her colleague, indicated that engaging in outdoor and co-curricular activities were techniques employed to ensure that the children at Mae’s were able to learn better. She also shared that rewarding the pupils for even the smallest achievement helped to boost morale and fostered learning overall. As classes came to an end on Monday at North Georgetown primary, Odetta Chan went to the school at midday to take her son home.
Chan shared with the Guyana Chronicle that her son was not one that is at the top of his class, but she knows that he works hard and the most she expects out of him is for him to do his best at the examinations.
She works as a janitor and though some days she would get home feeling drained from her day’s work, Chan places emphasis on helping her son with his studies. “I sit and help him with whatever I can help him with and whatever he can take in. I’m just there and sitting there with him and just encouraging him to do his best,” the mother explained. “Every child is different, so as a mom, I just want him to do his best. I’m not going to pressure him because I know Grade Six Assessment is not easy…,” she said also. “I just want him to do his best and we’ll take it from there.”
It is this support from parents that teacher Penelope affirmed is the final piece of support that children preparing for the NGSA need. “To my mind, nervousness can never be truly removed from the mind of a child as he or she prepares for this exams,” Favorite shared. “I have found that in assisting them, you constantly talk to them, constantly reassure them, let them know that you believe in them and seek to bring them to the place where they begin to believe in themselves.”