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terrytan terrytan is offline
 
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terrytan
 
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Reading workshop vs standardized testing
Old 06-19-2011, 04:50 PM
 
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I posted this elsewhere but have received no responses so will try here.
I have been doing RW for 4 years in Grade 2 and love it. I have seen how much my students at all levels progress and how their love of reading grows.
But I have had a problem the past 2 years with the grade 3 teachers. The teachers are concerned about the year-end standardized tests in which students must read long passages of text and then answer multiple choice questions. They want us grade 2 teachers to do more of the reading activities they do with a test taking emphasis so the students are better prepared for the tests at the end of grade 3.
As you can imagine, we have no intention of switching from the wonderful things we do in RW to "teaching to the test" as they want us to do. We have made some concessions in order to have our students know how to do the types of comprehension activities they do (like"STARS"), but it is just enough to expose them to it.
We have also pointed out that our job in grade 2 is to ensure we have good readers with good comprehension who love reading.
They acknowledge that our kids are good readers when they come into grade 3, but some have trouble with some of the testing.
What to do?
Anyone out there who has to deal with standardized tests who also successfully does RW?
I have read Book Whisperer and know it can be done!


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I love your optimism!
Old 06-19-2011, 06:23 PM
 
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First of all, I love that you ended your post the way you did. It seems that so often we get offended when other grades ask us to change something, and I appreciate that you are willing to look at options. Secondly, I agree with you that it is your job to create good readers, not good testers.

Maybe the solution could be as simple as adding one mini-lesson per month on test-taking strategies. I know my second graders almost made a game out of it this year talking about the difference between how real readers read and how test-makers test reading. We would talk about how I know they're good readers - because they choose to read, they can stay in one place and read without getting distracted, they use comprehension strategies and coach their classmates in using strategies, etc. Then we talk about how people that don't get to come into our classroom everyday will be able to know they're good readers - because they answer comprehension questions on a written test.

If that doesn't seem like enough to make a difference for third grade, perhaps you could devote a little more time to it only at the very end of the year. I love that you are creating "good readers with good comprehension who love reading" so I wouldn't change your readers workshop model. Maybe just the last few weeks of school could be used as a "getting ready for third grade" unit.
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a change in questioning?
Old 06-20-2011, 10:23 AM
 
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Perhaps one way you could tackle this is to incorporate more of the question types the students will see on their standardized tests during their year with you. Also, if you are required to perform RTI, fluency checks, or comprehension testing to determine reading group placement, you can incorporate 4-5 state testing-type questions to help fill this gap. It would also be helpful information to show parents at conferences or to pass on to teachers the following year. In our district, we are also required to utilize this information for ESE testing, if applicable.

I'm sure with the wonderful job you're doing creating students who adore reading, you're already covering the main skills: main idea/details, compare & contrast, retelling/summarizing, author's purpose, cause & effect, nonfiction text features, determining importance, vocabulary (esp. context clues), etc. Adjusting questioning during whole group and small group would be a minor change.

It's fantastic that you have such a love of teaching and of reading and instill this in your students! The reality, however, is that many states do not test in a matter that is compatible with how one teaches in order to ensure this love of reading is possible. I'm sure that if you ask the upper grade teachers at your school, you'll find that most have had to adjust their teaching to accommodate the preparation needed to also ensure that successful readers shine on state required tests. Additionally, students who experience success in Reading in the primary grades can become overwhelmed easily in upper elementary when there is more focus on standardized testing and previous exposure and preparation has not occurred. This could damage the love of reading that you have helped develop.

I live and teach in Florida. Previously I taught second grade and then moved to fourth grade where there is much more focus on standardized testing. Our school is high-achieving, earning an "A" for all of the 4 years since I moved to 4th grade. I believe we remain an "A" school because each grade level, (even K!) prepares students for test-taking.
My daughter began K this year and is an advanced reader (she is currently working her way through the Magic Treehouse series and just completed Beezus and Ramona.) To meet my child's instructional needs, her teacher provided a weekly cold read with comprehension questions (usually 3-5) and used these to guide her conferences and instruction and to help direct independent reading choices for the week. I also found printable cold read passages at first and second grade levels to provide additional practice for my daughter for home/school use. (These are largely from Broward County or ABCteach.) This practice is preparing her for testing in the upper grades, but does not interfere with her love of Reading- she continues to show an expansive appetite for books!

I'm sure that you'll do what you feel is best. I would definitely not stop Reader's Workshop, but perhaps work in a few new questioning techniques or test-taking activities.
The third grade teachers in your school would probably be more than willing to get a unit together for you or provide any necessary resources! Imagine how much more comfortable your second graders will be in their third grade classrooms when they realize that standardized testing is something they've already been preparing for since second grade!
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What's wrong with test prep?
Old 06-20-2011, 11:20 AM
 
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Quality reading instruction and test prep are not mutually exclusive. I think you've hit the nail on the head that it is test format rather than reading ability that is the crux of the problem. This is a good thing, and easily remedied. Just because you spend a little time teaching a student HOW to take a test, doesn't mean you are wasting your time teaching THE test.

I use a workshop model all year long in reading and math. I teach 6th and once a month or so, I incorporate a lesson that includes test prep. We look at some sort of passage modeled after a standardized test and analyze the questions asked and answers given. This does not hinder their reading instruction- in fact I believe we are using higher order thinking skills by looking for right/wrong elements in all the answers.

Give it a shot.
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terrytan terrytan is offline
 
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Thanks for the thoughtful responses!
Old 06-21-2011, 07:58 PM
 
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Thank you so much for the great responses. Good points have been made for both sides of this issue from those of you who know what I'm talking about.
I have been feeling that the reading workshop approach in which a love for reading is instilled through lots of real reading time and reading comprehension is taught within this context is mutually exclusive of the test taking approach that our grade 3's emphasize.
When I see how my readers flourish with the approach we use, and how they tend to dislike and not do so well with the other, I have been averse to doing it.
But as was pointed out, test taking can be done in a number of ways that will help the students be ready for Grade 3.
We just don't want that part of it to take any more of the precious time we have with our students.
I guess my point is that what we're doing is preparing the students for many types of reading activities by using the approach we are. What I would really like to see is more teachers faced with testing not be afraid to do a readers workshop approach, as some already do. I feel that the testing preparation often takes the place of quality reading time and instruction.
I really don't want that for my students!


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There is a way!!
Old 06-30-2011, 07:53 AM
 
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I teach 5th grade reading in a school with low students. This past year I did a lot with reading workshop and my kids made HUGE growth on their standardized tests (some even 3-4 years worth). Also, and more importantly, they became better readers. In my opinion, if you can effectively teach a kid to read and analyze what he/she is reading, that child will automatically show growth on tests like that. In order to appease my administrators, I did have to do a weekly testlet in which my students had to complete a readig selection test, I didn't put too much of an emphasis on it, and just encouraged them to use the strategies we'd been talking about during guided reading groups (i.e. summarizing, visualizing, predicting, etc.) They really came through for me, and I plan on doing the same things next year Hope that helps!!! Best of luck!!
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terrytan terrytan is offline
 
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Great to hear!
Old 07-01-2011, 03:58 PM
 
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Lalli82 I love hearing stories like yours!
Reading workshop creates great readers who can ALSO do those kind of tests because they have become more proficient at reading in general. My feeling is if that is all they do for reading activities (reading tests or those types of "comprehension"activities) then the love of reading is not fostered and they do not progress as well.
I am thinking that somehow I will have to show others how well Reading Workshop works because they seem very doubtful as to its validity. It is only this past year (after 4 years of doing it alone in a team of grade 2 teachers) that I have had my team working with me on this because 2 new people coming into the team bought into it and loved it, and then adopted it fully.
I am thinking of doing a publicity thing to broadcast the message so that one and all can get it!
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Old 07-01-2011, 05:32 PM
 
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Please don't get down on the 3rd grade teachers. We cannot allow ourselves to become an "us" against "them" in our schools. (The public already has that market claimed) Right or wrong the standardized test is how the entire school and ALL of its teachers will be graded. If a child can't pass a standardized reading test it is the fault of ALL the teachers that child has had in his school career. These tests are strategic reading exercises and not a reading for pleasure experience. If the kids are coming into 3rd grade without any prior work with cold reading, question disecting, etc. the 3rd grade teachers are fighting all year long to get the kids to be even remotely test sauvy. As a 3rd grade (and next year 4th grade) teacher we love and do mean LOVE getting kids who love to read. And Reading Workshop is great for developing this. However, it is heartbreaking when these same kids are struggling to read quickly and deeply, read questions and answer choices, figure out how even one of the answer possibilities can be correct because he had already decided he wanted it to be something not offered as an answer choice...and do it all in a set time. If kids are ONLY used to a leisurely pace and only practiced at making their own connections etc. they haven't a clue how to tackle these tests. I'm not saying to give up Reader's Workshop, just please be open to a little time each week to practice reading for test taking.
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Old 07-02-2011, 04:12 AM
 
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I totally agree with you. I'm in private school, and even though test scores don't drive us, my 6th graders will be taking the ACT/SAT before they know it. Kids need to know how to take a test. I do believe you can accomplish both- love for quality reading and test analysis.
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I agree with Katnmouse
Old 07-07-2011, 07:06 AM
 
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I totally agree with Katnmouse. I love love love how at my school, when we (3rd grade teachers) have success on our standardized tests, we give credit to ALL of the teachers who were involved in our student's education. I hate the attitude that 3rd grade teachers "teach to the test" and nothing more. I work so hard to get my kids where my state says they have to be. I don't agree with everything in education, but I do know that if I don't get my kids ready for the evil test that they MUST take, they will suffer. Whether or not they love to read won't matter the day you tell them they were not able to meet the state standards for 3rd grade.
That being said, I'm implementing a readers workshop into my classroom this year... as a 3rd grade teacher. I see no reason why I can't do both. We will have a 45 minute block 2 or 3 times per week for test taking practice. That is PLENTY, imo! In 2nd grade, you might only need to do it for 30 minutes a week... and maybe not until the 2nd semester. Good luck!


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terrytan terrytan is offline
 
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Doing both is the key!
Old 07-09-2011, 08:00 AM
 
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I really appreciate and understand the need to know how to properly take a test. I agree that students benefit from test taking instruction and that it is a necessary part of their education.
It is when that is the only approach used to teach reading that I feel students are missing out and that is how many teachers do teach reading.
I love to hear that a teacher is able to successfully combine both. In my experience, teachers who try reading workshop don't go back to the "old" way once they see how well their students do.Any skills they learn can also be applied to a test format.
Balance is the key.
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Testing is a genre that should be taught
Old 07-16-2011, 07:23 PM
 
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as a part of your reading workshop. Even in 2nd grade. You are selling your second graders short if you think you can't make that a meaningful mini lesson or that giving them that knowledge takes away from their love of reading. Look up some mini lessons on the genre - testing. Good luck!
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Stamina
Old 07-18-2011, 07:38 PM
 
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One really great thing that RW is doing to prepare your students for testing is building their reading stamina. We so many kids that poop out before the end of the test because they aren't used to reading that long. Like others said, without actually giving your students tests, you can ask them test-like questions as you conference with then. Through that conversation they can learn some of the testing genre vocabulary. As a former third grade teacher, I would want you to spend minimal time preparing kids for a test that they won't take fir another year. However, it would be GREAT if you studied the released test/ practice test so that you understood and could apply how things are worded.
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a good resource
Old 07-22-2011, 01:14 PM
 
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Read a book called, FOCUS. The author is Mike Schmoker. He gives valid data and reasons why our kids should be READING more. He shows examples of some of the top classroom teachers and how they use whole group mini lessons, small group or partner practice and checking for understanding. They also give their students time to read independently and practice the skills taught. He frowns on teaching to the test and says that its actually a major contributor to the problems with the American education system. Its a quick read and made me think about what I'm doing and how I can improve. I should also say that he says students need to write about what they are reading on a regular basis!
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Focus
Old 07-26-2011, 07:05 PM
 
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Such a powerful book!!! It also helped me wrap brain around Results Now.
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