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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Genre of a Test

The month of September was a busy one!  In our Reader's Workshop we focused on two main areas--a quick review of the genre of a test, and getting to know ourselves as readers.

Frank Serafini states the following, "When students are familiar with the tasks required by the tests, they are better able to focus their attention and energy on the content of the test and to demonstrate their abilities."  He continues to point out in his short article that the skills needed for a standardized test may be different than the skills supported in the reader’s (and writer’s) workshop.  Think about it, when do you give children a question and ask them to pick the least likely answer or the most likely answer?  Most of the time we are having deep discussions and conversations about text-what we agree or disagree with in the story or article, symbolism, inferring and synthesizing information, and among other things, making connections between stories, articles, and the media.

I agree that we must show that a test has value if our students are to take it seriously.  On my end, we do discuss in our workshop unit all the ways that tests can be useful and brainstorm ways that the test helps my teaching. Between you, the Internet, and me it’s not the test that’s the problem it’s the crazy directions (Really, no water bottles on tables for 4th graders testing for 80 and 60 minutes??) and the way the tests are used.  (Home real estate values, teacher evaluations..)

My unit, the genre of a test, includes the following lessons:
  • Test vocabulary and language
  • How tests are set-up
  • What we know about tests
  • Test reading tips (Using deductive reasoning to evaluate answers)
  • Using the QAR strategy (which becomes a BIG strategy for the whole school year!)

Frank Serafini calls this demystifying the test—it’s an excellent description.  I am teaching the kids it’s just another unit of study!  This year I added one additional element to my mini-lesson, which was to make a connection from the daily mini-lesson to our study of non-fiction.  For example, we do and will use the QAR method quite a bit when we are reading non-fiction.

To read more of Frank Serafini’s short article on the genre of a standardized test go to the following link:

Happy Reading!

Mrs. Perrien

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