If you are a teacher in the south, Spring Break is right around the corner, so I sincerely hope you get the rest and recharge you so desperately need and deserve! But with that being said, if you teach an assessed grade level and subject, the big fat elephant awaits you when you return from that relaxing week at the beach or week on your couch – preparation for state assessment.
Your students have no doubt taken about 100 different assessments throughout the year to get them labeled on a tier, to show the standards they are weakest in, and to have mounds of data to try to plow through in order to make a plan.
Now please hear me. I love data. I really do. I think that data is a major factor when determining where to go with instruction. But I don’t know that we can solely rely on data. I think we have to also rely on qualitative observations – are your students understanding the skill when you teach it in a different way? Are they able to answer the question in their own words? Are they able to explain it to a peer?
But then they get it wrong on the curriculum assessment. Ugh. Not much is more frustrating as a teacher.
So I want to look at this through the lens of culturally responsive teaching (because that’s what we do, right?) We have just released a FREE 3 part state assessment mini-training, Stress Down, Scores UP! that dives in a little deeper on a point I want to make right here.
When we are working with students who don’t have a high language proficiency, either because they have English as a second language or because they are behind in literacy and have academic vocabulary gaps, it may not be the content or skill that is causing them to miss the question – it’s the language in which it is written.
Remember BICS and CALP? We’ve mentioned this a few times. BICS is social language, and CALP is academic language, or the ability to acquire new academic language. State assessments are generally written in this academic language. But what is academic language? To be safe, I like to think of this as any word that you don’t hear the kids saying in the hallway. So I’m sure you’ve done a fabulous job of teaching the content academic words, but what about the rest of the words they may encounter.
Now I get asked a lot about the random context words that are found in word problems or stories, and how we counteract the lack of background knowledge in our students – in short – we can’t always do that. We continue to teach the skill of context clues and reading strategies to help with comprehension, but we can’t possibly know which words are going to be found in every story and word problem.
However, there are some common academic words that are found repeatedly year after year. I believe these are the words that are stumping our students more than anything else!
Here are some examples:
In our FREE course, we have pulled the Tier 2 words from the last 3 years of STAAR tests in every subject and listed them for you in PDF form by content and grade level. This is a super valuable resource that can help guide your instruction during this time before the state assessments!
I think there’s one more really important thing to mention: our goal is for the students to build the language of the test – therefore the students need to be reading, writing, listening and speaking the language of the test. So as we plan our activities to prepare students for the state assessment, do they facilitate the students building the language of the test?
For ideas on how to build this language, click here to register for the FREE Course!
And share it with every teacher you know! This is a crucial time in the school year for students! We don’t want to waste it!