Writing the Book on Test Prep

I don’t think the answer to improving student achievement is by narrowing the curriculum to devote more time to test prep. As I said in a prior posting.. “as if being a struggling learner is not punishment enough, increasing numbers are pulled out of classes that offer hands-on learning and outlets for their creativity. What awaits them is likely “drill and kill’ that doesn’t sound like much fun for students or their teachers.” More

I’m pleased to have just concluded a project that turns test prep on its head. In this case, eighth grade students designed and published their own guide to passing the eighth grade NYS English Language Arts exam. I was joined on the project by Pat Martin. We worked with the nearby Albion Middle School. Ten sections of students spent about 6 weeks reviewing various literacy and test taking strategies with their teachers. As they did, they generated their own guide to the strategies they felt worked best. Thus learning strategies find audience and propose. Students had the opportunity to reflect on strategies and rework them for a peer audience of “seventh graders.” And don’t kids love to give each other advice!

A team of student editors from each class worked to do the final edits with the three teachers who supervised the project. Each class designed its own 100-page book using Lulu.com’s web-based, print-on-demand publishing technology.  The publication cost was about $6 per book. (color covers and interior b/w pages.) Ten editions of the guide were published and a finished book for each student author arrived about a week before the exam.  This gave students time to take pride in their accomplishments and refocus their thinking to the task of the taking the exam.

The state test is given in mid January, but it will be months before we see the final results. As Albion’s superintendent said to me – this project isn’t just about higher test scores. It’s about giving the students and their teachers a chance to see themselves as innovative creators of content, not just a passive audience. Already there is talk about starting a new test taking guide written by the seventh graders.

For more on student publishing see our website Read > Think > Write > Publish. Check my blog entries under the Commentary heading for more on students and 21st century literacy skills.

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