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!