Monday, January 4, 2016

3 Reasons Why You Shouldn't & 1 Reason Why You Should Teach to the Test

"To be prepared is half the victory."
-- Miguel Cervantes

I hate teaching to the test but sometimes it is necessary.  Here are my top three reasons why I dislike doing test prep and also one reason why I think it’s important.  As the testing season for administering the annual standardized assessments that all English Language Learners in Kindergarten through Grade 12 must take in the U.S. begins, I think it would be helpful to share materials that can help ELLs do well on whatever tests they have to take.  Please add one or two resources to the linky at the end of this post.

My #3 Reason Why I Dislike Teaching to the Test:
It’s ineffective.  Teaching skills in isolation is not the best way to provide instruction that sticks with students.  Skills need to be taught in context and test prep often isn’t.  I know that when I did it, I interrupted whatever I was teaching at the time and spent a week giving practice questions to my students.  Such a review might help some students but if they really don’t know the material a week before the test is given, it’s not likely a cram session can make up for that.  Expressing an opinion is a common type of response question so I've created this resource to teach students how to write an opinion or persuasive composition.
Reasons Why You Should & Shouldn't Teach to the Test | The ESL Connection
Click HERE for more info; source: The ESL Nexus
My #2 Reason Why I Dislike Teaching to the Test:
It’s boring.  For students and for teachers both.  If teachers are primarily doing drill-type exercises, students won’t see the relevance of what they supposedly are learning.  And if teachers don’t like what they are teaching, students will pick up on that attitude and have an even harder time staying interested.  Doing the same thing over and over and getting a different result may happen occasionally but spending one week before the test probably isn’t going to make that much of a difference.  Nevertheless, I felt obligated to do it.
The poor student...and her poor teacher!  Source: Pixabay
My #1 Reason Why I Dislike Teaching to the Test:
It takes time away from real learning.  Teaching to the test usually means spending more than just one class period on it so all the time spent doing test prep means less time devoted to something else.  I much preferred to spend the limited amount of class time I had with my students teaching them the skills they needed for success on the tests throughout the school year.  Teaching them the skills they need for success on the tests over a longer period of time by embedding them in the regular curriculum is much more productive.  Comparing and contrasting is another common form of writing on standardized tests and I used the materials in this resource throughout the school year to teach my students how to do that kind of writing well.
Reasons Why You Should & Shouldn't Teach to the Test | The ESL Connection
Click HERE for more info; source: The ESL Nexus

The one reason why I do think offering some test preparation is necessary is because, when students are taking the test for the first time, they need to become familiar with the types of questions on the test and with the technology they will have to use to take the test.  So if, as is the case this year, your state is part of the WIDA Consortium and will be taking the new ACCESS for ELLs tests online, then I think it is actually a disservice to the students not to prepare them for the tests.

* The WIDA Consortium includes 37 states and for them the annual testing begins in early January,
* Washington State will administer the ELAP21 beginning on February 2nd,
* Arizona its AZELLA test on February 8th,
* The TELPAS will be administered in Texas starting March 16th,
* New York’s NYESLAT begins on April 12th.

To help prepare your ELLs who will be taking these tests and other tests in other states later in the year, and to also support other students who must take some form of standardized assessment, the theme for this month’s linky party is: Providing support to enable students to be successful on standardized ESL tests.  This could be anything from a product specifically aimed at preparing students to take these ESL tests, a resource that teaches skills assessed by these ESL tests, or some kind of product that can help students mentally or psychologically prepare for or sustain them during these tests.  Links can be for materials for any grade and proficiency level.  Please link up a maximum of two resources.

Good luck with your testing!

January 2016 Linky Party | The ESL Connection