Any Given Sunday

Fortunately or unfortunately, I have nothing good to say about standardized testing other than it exists.

In theory, I believe in it.  As teachers, we need to have a baseline that can measure growth and can help guide our teaching.  If a student does poorly on the section entitled, “Craft and Structure”, we can spend valuable time using research based strategies that demonstrate specific skill building within Informational Text: annotation, main idea and detail, summarizing, compare/contrast, cause/effect, and inferences.

In theory, it sounds good.

In reality, it goes against everything we believe.  A standardized test is merely a snapshot of what a student can do on a particular day at a particular time.  As I always say, “Any given Sunday.”  Think about it, on any given day of the week, our students might perform differently.  Did Johnny get a good night’s sleep?  Did he get to school in time for breakfast?  Did he have to take care of his siblings that morning and miss the first test?

In reality, I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know.  Hopefully, standardized testing is used as part of a triangulation method utilizing anecdotal data as well.  Observation, formative assessments, and one-on-one conferencing are just as critical (and sometimes more so) as the standardized test.

As the Instructional Coach/Reading Specialist in my building, I recently wrote a literacy column for the Parent Newsletter.  This particular column focused on pre-reading, during reading, and after reading strategies.  These resources can help give our kids a leg up when any test – standardized or otherwise – shows up on their desk.  As teachers and coaches, we want to make sure that on any “Sunday,” they have been taught the best possible strategies to face the challenge of any assessment and face it with confidence!

I’m sharing the column I wrote with you.  I encourage you to write a column or article for your school’s newsletter.  Share best practice and research-based interventions with your parents.  They need to know that their children have been given a solid base in which to tackle that test and purposeful reading strategies are the right place to start!

Reading for Testing for Beyond!

The school year is off to a great start and students have been working enthusiastically in their academics and their behavior.

As the learning becomes more rigorous, it is important that your son or daughter have strategies to assist them in that learning.  As the Instructional Coach and as a certified Reading Specialist, I want to provide some research-based reading strategies that will offer your son or daughter the opportunity to build success when reading difficult text.

Reading cannot be a passive exercise; in other words, to be fully engaged in reading, students have to interact with the text.  A student who interacts with text uses various strategies to help them understand the text, and apply the text to their lives in some meaningful way.

Here are some strategies to help your son or daughter next time he/she is faced with some difficult reading:

Pre-reading Strategies  (You Know More Than You Think You Do!)

  • Pre-write some questions before you start reading the text. What do you already know about the subject?  What are you interested in regarding this subject?
  • Pay attention to the text features: pictures, captions, bolded print, italics. These text features are meant to help identify important topics and concepts.
  • Before you read, share with your peers your perceived importance of this topic.

During Reading Strategies  (Don’t Be a Passive Reader!)

  • Use post-it notes to capture your thoughts as you’re reading.
  • If you find yourself drifting off as you’re reading, stop the reading and verbally share with a partner what you’ve read up to that point.  When you can explain what you’ve read, it’s more likely you understand it.
  • Re-read.  Yes, it takes more time, but re-reading helps you make sense of the text and helps build confidence!

After Reading Strategies  (Just Because You’re Done Reading, You’re Not Finished!)

  • Capture your ideas in a quick-write or in a journal
  • Verbally share your ideas with a classmate
  • Use a mnemonic to help you remember material (Question: What are the names of the Great Lakes: Answer: HOMES H= Huron, O= Ontario, M=Michigan, E=Erie, S = Superior)
  • Create a graphic organizer or mind map of what you have read. A visual picture can help you understand the material in another way!

While the season of standardized testing is most certainly here (does it ever really go away?), let’s work together to make sure that “any given Sunday” not only happens every day, but is the expectation we have for every one of our students.