Is there anyone who looks forward to the dreaded “standardized test” season? You know what I mean. That time of year when our students are expected to demonstrate what they’ve learned so far. As the scheduled test date approaches, teachers scramble to get their students ready. As they do so, they bemoan how much teaching time is lost as they prep for the test. It didn’t use to be like this.
When I first began teaching, eons ago, test prep was extremely easy. Why? Because the test was exactly the same every single year. Nothing changed. They read the same passages and answered the same multiple-choice questions. We didn’t need to worry about our students’ ability to explain their thinking since there was NO writing involved.
I had a copy of the test in my files. Each year I pulled it out and used it to get my students ready. Others even gave their students copies of the test to study. Our students were very successful. Have to admit, I understand why this might not be considered the best approach.
So what does the test look like now? Well, let’s think about the current test format. It consists of reading passages, multiple-choice questions, and constructed response writing prompts. Are these tests exactly the same every year? No, they are not. The passages change as do the questions. And to make it more challenging, there can be more than one correct answer for each question asked.
So, how do we get ready for that? First, let’s look at the format of the current test. At first glance, it looks like our students just need to be able to read something and answer questions about it. What’s the big deal? Well, let’s take a deeper look. Our students need to be able to:
- closely read a passage
- analyze a question to determine what they’re being asked to think about
- brainstorm/choose an answer
- identify text evidence that supports their response
- rethink their answer if they cannot identify supporting text evidence
- plan and write a response explaining how the evidence supports their analysis
How do we get ready for that? Do we need to purchase special test prep resources? Should we use released test questions? This takes time and can be extremely boring. So what should we do?
Perhaps we should consider using our current ELA units. If we just make some modifications, we could provide our students with the opportunity to develop the critical thinking skills and background knowledge necessary to be successful. If we did this, beginning with using our first ELA unit, test prep would no longer be an issue. What do you think? Would this work for you? Share your thoughts in the comments below.