Last year, I taught a reading class at the ALC in Thief River Falls.... I tried to teach the kids how to love reading. I ended up teaching the kids that they NEED reading. I ended up giving them lots of pointers on how to thnk in the box instead of outside of the box.
Most of the time, the kids who aren't passing these tests are the kids who don't think like anyone else. They see bull when it's in front of them. They never danced for the camera - they'll never dance for the camera. They know standardized tests don't show their potential, and they're only made to make a test making company rich. A lot of these kids don't have the background knowledge other kids have in test-taking. This makes taking a standardized test for lower income students ten times harder.
Here are some tips I gave students about taking the MCAs.
1. The passages on the test are boring. They are not going to put passages on the MCAs about your favorite band. Sorry -
2. Because the passages on the test are boring - you're either going to have to make a personal reason to read the passage or fake a reason.
3. They will always need read for any job or any schooling they take for whatever reason. - and they will need to read passages that are boring. Sorrrrryyyyyyyyy.
4. Different groups will tell you that the answers are clear cut. SORRRRRRRRRRRRRRy they aren't. You need to find ways to think like a test preparer. WWTPD (What Would a Test Preparer DO?)
5. Again, fake interest in what you are reading. REALLLLLLLLLLLLY pretend you like that Emily Dickinson poem because Cee Lo Green's lyrics are not on this test.
6. Take your time. Re-read. Think of the test as a manual to put together the most awesome computer ever. Go back to the passage over and over. If you don't get the question, move on and come back to it later.
7. Ask yourself questions about the material at hand - if the material is about how to make maple syrup - ask yourself "I wonder how much sap will make syrup?" Even if you don't care. Questioning is the only way to learn material.
Tips for teachers;
1. Find things they won't be remotely interested in reading. (Since this is exactly what test preparers do)
2. Give the kids a purpose to reading the article - "We are going to read this article about making maple - I need you to find these vocabulary words (blah, blink, and blue) and define them.
2. Read the article together, model the way your brain works while you read - how do you question yourself. "I'm really wondering what type of trees maple syrup comes from?" "Oh - it's maple trees - oh hehehe"
3. Tell the kids about times you had to read to get information to do things you didn't know how to do. Like maybe --- let's say you had to read up on how to make an awesome patio for your wife - how did you read to get the information - and was it enjoyable - naw - but it was necessary. "How will I make this incredible patio for my loving wife? Will I need lots of patio rock?"
4. Good readers do these things automatically. Struggling readers need to be taught directly how to re-read.
5. Most teachers are good readers already - this is why it's important for us to slow down and figure out how our brain finds the answers.
Reading class is mostly about re-reading and emphasizing to students to slow down.
Some awesome resources for articles we think are interesting but students probably won't.
http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/volunteer/index.html (there's an article on maple syrup in here.)