We all want our students to do well on the standardized tests that are coming our way. But let’s teach them how to take tests in a smart way. Our main job is to help our kids become strong, strategic readers. In this way, they will be able to navigate the test language and do well.
We agree with what Greene and Melton say, “In order to be effective test takers, students must first be effective readers” (2007, p. 15). There is so much more to being a proficient reader than a passing standardized test score.
Test preparation can be easily integrated into the daily reading workshop if standardized tests are viewed as a specific genre. We use the language, format, and structure of tests in our mini-lessons during our regular reading workshop. But we do this for only a few weeks before the tests. We don’t sacrifice months of quality teaching in a sound reading workshop for test preparation.
In their wonderful book Test Talk (2007), Greene and Melton show how teachers can teach the test genre while maintaining best practice teaching. Test Talk includes sections on finding the main idea, identifying author’s intent, and inferring with very specific classroom lessons.
In this era of testing frenzy, teachers need to take a stand for keeping the teaching of literacy at the heart of our day — not test preparation. You do not need to purchase expensive workbooks or test prep software. Teaching children how to be good test takers can be done on the same material they are reading each day in reading workshop without giving up the essential elements of a comprehensive literacy approach.
How do you feel about the balance you provide between time spent on test prep and time spent on supporting students to be strong, strategic readers?