Test Prep as a Genre

This year, for the first time, I taught test reading and test writing as genres.  We did brief two-week units of study for each.  I hate test prep and think it takes away from valuable real-life learning, but you gotta do what you gotta do.  A few months back, I read Better Answers after seeing Stacey mention it on her blog.  I used many of the ideas and suggestions in the book to put together a unit on test-reading as a genre and test-writing as a genre.  

This week is our standardized testing.  While walking around (bored out of my mind….) I was thrilled to see my students putting many of the strategies  we had learned into practice.  I saw them using the “hamburger” method of answering open-ended questions, the R-U-P-R method of reading and planning responses to writing prompts, and a few other strategies.  I walked around the room with a stupid grin on my face all morning.  

Even better?  Kids who came to me this year as non-writers WROTE.  And wrote well!  I am so very proud of them!

I also noticed that my non-readers who have grown into readers this year were much more relaxed during testing this year.  They have confidence in their abilities now and even told me that today’s reading selections were “easy”!  Of course they weren’t easy- my students just had confidence in themselves as readers and their ability to correctly answer the questions put before them.  

So while I despise focusing on the test for an entire unit, I know that it’s necessary.  This year it served as a great reinforcement of the reading and writing they have done all year.  Standardized testing is a part of this generation’s life- the least we can do is give them the tools and strategies to succeed.  But without devoting too much time to “teaching to the test”.  It’s a fine line.

And now- the language arts portion of the test is over.  WOOOOOHOOO!

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5 Responses

  1. I teach test-writing & test-reading as a separate unit, too, and found that it really empowers kids to think about it as a unique skill to be tackled. They recognize that the kind of writing they do on these tests isn’t authentic, and I find that by acknowledging that out loud, I go a long way toward earning their respect and attention when it comes time to learn the skills they do need for the test. Then we spend the other 38 weeks of the school year doing real reading & writing, which helps not only the test, but everywhere.

    I’m glad this worked out so well for your students, too. You have good reason to be proud of them – and proud of yourself!

  2. How is testing in your state? Is it still paper pencil? Ours is all computerized (except writing, which I guess was piloting on the computer this year). Since reading and math are computerized the students have three chances to meet during the year. For some students it ends up being a LOT of testing if they end up doing three math, three reading, in addition to potentially having English language proficiency, science, and writing depending. I am glad that students have more than one chance, but it is so much time out of the classroom too.

  3. I also taught a test-taking genre unit for 2 weeks. I agree that it’s unfortunate, but necessary.

    I had many students say to me after the tests were done that the study of how to read and interpret questions really helped them.

  4. Hi!

    Just a quick question: what is the R-U-P-R strategy? By the way, totally love your blog!

    Laura Meili

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