What can we do to help our students pass state assessments now?
Your students are listening. They are even engaged. You are prepared. You’ve worked hard. Most of your students are making decent grades in your classroom. You love your kids. You love being a teacher.
But you are tired, and your students aren’t making the scores. Not on district assessments, benchmarks or state assessments. WHY? What are you doing wrong? Why don’t your students seem to care? How can you change the dynamics of instruction and the classroom to get your students to show what they’ve learned?
At this point in the year, in most content areas, you have taught all, if not almost all, of the content. Now, it’s review time. You are probably looking at data from previous tests, maybe even looking at frequency distribution tables to see how many times those standards have been assessed in the past, and you are getting ready to reteach the standards you’ve already taught!
For Long-Term ELs and students of poverty, we know that academic language continues to be a an issue that affects their academic progress. We teach vocabulary, post word walls and anchor charts, and do our best to intentionally teach vocabulary every chance we get.
But what about the language of the test? Any word that is found on the assessments (especially across multiple questions) that is not used in every day language from our students MUST BE TAUGHT. The test is full of “academic” terms that are not content based terms.
For example, on the ELA test, particularly in middle grades, we see words like “emphasize”, “selection”, “urge”, “highlight”, and “represent.”
In math, we see words like “method”, “represent”, “express”, and “based on.”
And the list could go on…
At this point in the game, I encourage you to teach, use, model, and facilitate the students using these types of words as they describe the content. Don’t reteach the skill! You’ve already taught that. Facilitate discussions with question stems and sentence frames that have these assessment vocabulary words.
So here are some practical steps to use between now and the state assessment:
- Go through a few of the released tests. Highlight all of the content words in 1 color. Highlight all of the non-content, academic words in another color.
- Make an anchor chart, vocabulary cloud, or word wall of these non-content, academic words. For even more connection, have the students add to it as they come across these words in their practice. (Note**- do not have students look up the words, define, or illustrate these words – just get them visual and have the students USE the words in speaking and listening. The point is that students don’t freak out when they see them on the test).
- As you ask questions and facilitate your students’ practice before the test, make sure that you are asking questions in the same manner and format they are asked on the test.
- PROVIDE MULTIPLE CHOICES for answers. Although we’d like to think that if a student can write their own summary, make their own inference, or answer another open-ended question, then surely they can answer a multiple choice question-that should be even EASIER. BUT IT’S NOT! Again, the answer choices are written in a language that is often unfamiliar to our students as well! They may understand the question, but NOT the answer choices! They have to become familiar with this language and format as well!
To practice, here’s a strategy:
- Put a question on the board (without the answer choices). Have students read the question and independently answer on a white board or desk.
- Ask students to point out any words that could be added to the Visual Vocab Cloud at the front of the room.
- Give students multiple choice answer choices. Have students then compare their answers with the group to determine which answer choice is correct. Group members must come to a consensus on the correct answer choice.
- Then call on one member of the group to explain their group’s answer.
- If all or most of the groups got the correct answer, have one person from the group explain their answer, and move on!
- If multiple groups got it wrong, go over the wording of the question and answer choice. If they still don’t understand, then and only then, reteach the skill.
For more ideas on what to do in the crunch time before state assessments, or to chat about how I can partner with your district, EMAIL ME now!
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