In April, Academy scholars will be given two opportunities to help faculty, students,
and parents evaluate the effectiveness of the learning process that takes place every day in both school and home. The two opportunities are Spring Recitation and national testing. I am looking forward to these events with a sense of excitement, and in the next few paragraphs I will explain why.
During the week of April 13th, many of our students will be taking one of two national exams that will demonstrate their progress from last year. (1st-8th grade blended will take the Core Battery of the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, ITBS, and 1st-11th grade traditional will take the Educational Records Bureau, ERB.) The classical Christian curriculum that your scholars have been taught, perhaps struggled with some, and accomplished this year (and for several years) has prepared them well for this special time of assessment.
Each learner is like a God-designed tapestry that He is continually weaving and perfecting through those He has assigned to assist your students in their educational growth (the partnership at The Academy of teachers and parents being one). Allowing for a time to do a yearly check on that “tapestry” provides both the school and parents an awareness of where there is need of reinforcement in specific areas of learning or even holes in the knowledge thought to have been acquired. More often, the test results confirm that our mission to give our Academy students an education that rises to meet a higher standard of academic success is being done. It is not a scary adventure nor does it need to be a “hard” time for students, parents, or teachers.
Testing is simply that check up for the brain not unlike yearly physicals for the body. Your children, I will repeat, are well prepared, but there are some things that can help prepare them for their days of testing. Studies have show that the brain operates best when it is first and foremost well rested. Planning now to provide a regular bedtime the week prior to testing (do not wait until the night before testing starts) will allow for the optimal sleep your child needs to perform his/her best. This will be the greatest assistance you can provide your student. In addition, do not make a big deal out of the testing. Instead, help your learner to enter the process with a growth mindset, relaxed, and confident that he will be able to focus and perform so all of us can see how he is progressing. Remember, education (life-long) is a process, not a product, and testing is one tool to measure progress as well as indicate any support that might be needed.
In addition to our test week, during the week of April 27th, all of our grammar students will be participating in the Spring Recitation Day for their cohort and campus with the central theme of the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta. Recitation provides a rich vocabulary, trains the brain for critical thought processes, and builds complex language patterns. The act of standing and reciting pieces of literature or historical information cements that information in the mind. It also provides other valuable skills including developing solid presentation techniques, strengthening communication skills, and providing a strong foundation for later rhetoric-level skills. Memorization and recitation are not boring. Whether we are enjoying Shurley English jingles, history chronology songs, Bible events set to tunes, math fact refrains, or practicing selections for a specific public presentation, all can be rewarding.
Assisting your student’s preparation for the Recitation Day is similar to his/her preparation for testing. The process of memorizing any piece of literature, scripture, or set of facts is best done in small, focused chunks of time and material. Taking the time each evening this month to review the material for the class’ portion of the program will far better enhance the learning and retention process than doing a last minute, lengthy “memory crunch time” prior to the special day. Studies (again – I know I probably read too much on learning and the how the brain God has created functions) have shown that moving from working memory to long-term memory is best accomplished in focused, short study periods (no distractions for 10-20 minutes). This may entail going into a room without TV, radio, other people, etc., to provide the best atmosphere. In addition, once the memory process has begun, actually changing locations and activities to review assists in recall. This might mean taking a walk with your student and allowing them to share the memorized piece with you as you walk at a steady pace or providing an audience of family members to practice in front of. Again, establishing a growth mindset of the joy of sharing their acquired rhetoric skills for this special day and not creating a nervous anticipation will greatly assist all our students to delight in their participation in the Spring Recitation.
Although these two special spring events may seem unrelated, in actuality they are strongly connected. The classical education model of The Academy couched in a strong Christian faith provides the best environment for students to develop their unique, God-given abilities and talents. I hope you, along with your student(s), can delight in the privilege of walking through the preparations and participation in both the annual assessment week and Spring Recitation Day to bring honor and glory to our Lord in all things.
North Campus Principal
The Academy of Classical Christian Studies