Christmas Tests

by admin on 15/12/2011

Christmas Tests

Christmas Tests – a necessary evil or the spoilsport of the classroom Christmas Spirit?

I’ve been reading on the internet recently about teachers giving “Christmas Tests” to their pupils in a variety of different curricular areas. It reminded me of when I was in primary school myself and the results of the Christmas tests were posted home along with the dreaded Christmas School Report. It got me thinking again about the purpose and value of “Christmas Tests”. Who are they for and what purpose do they serve? I’m all for assessment and I’m certainly not against testing pupils in school, but why is there the need to test such young pupils bang in the middle of the most exciting time of the year for them?

I don’t mind admitting that I’m now old enough to say that I taught in the last century and during all those years in the classroom I don’t recall ever giving Christmas Tests. I’ve always been of the opinion that to burden young children, even those in senior classes in the primary school, with learning by rote and revision for tests during the exciting Christmas season is a terrible Christmas present from the teacher. I’ve been teaching in more junior classes for the past few years, however even when I taught in middle and senior classes I still did not inflict upon the pupils the dreaded Christmas Tests. There was no pressure from either the school or the parents to give pupils tests and I don’t believe that the pupils missed out by being “deprived” of Christmas Tests.

I know that some teachers will argue that, by giving Christmas Tests, they are preparing their pupils for the advent of secondary school and the culture of examinations. This may be a valid point, but why would teachers decide to test pupils recall of work covered in a curricular area at a time when their minds are most distracted by the excitement of Christmas? Testing pupils in the fortnight before Christmas is surely fraught with frustration. Pupils are too excited to give of their best, resulting in the teacher becoming frustrated with disappointing marks. Why not do as I sometimes did with senior classes and test the pupils towards the end of January when they are back in “work mode”?

I believe that the lead-up to Christmas in the classroom should be filled with preparing for Nativity and other plays; singing carols and Christmas songs; doing lots of Christmassy visual arts activities; using the season of Christmas as a theme to integrate curricular areas; learning about Christmas traditions and customs in other parts of the world. Christmas is a time of excitement, wonder and joy for primary school-aged children. Let’s leave the testing for another time of the year.

What’s your opinion? Do you agree or disagree? Please join the debate by leaving a comment below. (If it’s your first time to comment on the site, your comment will not appear automatically until it’s been verified that the comment is not spam. After that, you’ll be able to comment as much as you wish.)

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Toni December 15, 2011 at 9:03 pm

Was talking about this a couple of days ago and totally agree with you. There’s too much emphasis put on ‘preparing them for secondary’. Let them enjoy primary whilst they’re there! I regularly give tests and assessments so I have an up to date idea of what kids have understood or not understood and then I can focus on covering that asap with them.

Terence December 15, 2011 at 10:52 pm

Christmas tests are a waste of time . We are falling into the trap of over testing the kids in primary school. Primary children are just that , kids of Primary school age, not secondary . I would refer people to Sir Ken Robinson’s talk on Ted.com where he talks about schools killing creativity.
Also Richard Gerver has a good book titled “creating Tomorrow’s Schools Today” where he states
‘Some of the highest performing schools in our national league tables are offering our pupils some of the poorest educational experiences’ and he continues ‘The tragedy is that schools that run run this way know what they are doing and feel trapped by the system ‘
He is referring to standardised testing . We just have to be careful how we use testing and answer the basic question of why test and how.

Stephen Hayes December 16, 2011 at 9:35 am

Nollag shona dhaoibh! Good topic for debate. Overall the Christmas spirit should resonate throughout the school. As we know, childhood is a distinct and essential phase of a person’s life and forms the basis for your life beyond those years, so have some fun. I think that some revision tests given in the spirit of looking back over a term can be valuable. In my experience (25 yrs next year) the brilliant Primary School teachers this country possesses, get the balance right. I’ve been ringing the morning bell with a Ho Ho Ho for the last week or so!
A sincere Happy Christmas to all my fellow teachers!

Tom December 17, 2011 at 8:49 pm

An excellent post. I couldn’t agree more. Let’s leave the testing until the new year and enjoy the last week by using the Christmas theme to integrate all the subjects in an enjoyable way.

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