search navigation
August 29. 2017

4 Steps to Cope with Testing Demands

Students in school are tested continually, and their success is most often measured by their performance on paper-and-pencil tests. The stakes are also high for teachers because their performance is judged by how many students meet the criteria for success. The demand for accountability is intense and has the potential to reduce the language and literacy continuum to a very narrow set of exercises. If we care about our students, we need to make sure test taking has positive outcomes.

While we cannot ignore tests, we cannot let them control our lives and the lives of our students. We need to find ways to cope with the demands of the testing environment and still help our students have happy, productive, and satisfying literacy experiences. To cope with testing demands:

  1. Analyze the genuine underlying skills that students need in order to be able to perform well on comprehensive proficiency tests.
  2. Create an ongoing curriculum to help students develop the genuine reading and writing abilities that will provide a foundation for good test performance (as well as all the benefits of a literate life).
  3. Analyze the ways of reading, writing, and displaying knowledge that tests require.
  4. Familiarize students with the ways to display knowledge and skills that will be expected of them in test performance.

Without the first two steps, the others are ineffective. Being a competent reader and writer is basic to performing well on tests.

From Guiding Readers & Writers by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Copyright (c) 2001 by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Published by Heinemann.

August 23. 2017

Ask Meli! August, 2017

Ask Meli is back!! Meli has received SO many wonderful questions and loves reading them all! It’s her favorite thing to do besides playing with her rubber chicken. She is so eager to answer them, so keep them coming!

Below are questions sent in from Gwen, Mila, Keandra, and Jaykub from Graham Elementary in Graham, WA.

Q: Dear Meli, I am a student in Graham, Washington. I know you like to go to the park. I like to go to the park too. Do you like to play in the backyard? ~Gwen

: Thank you for your letter. It was interesting to hear that you like to play in the park just like me! I like to run around in my backyard, too. Do you? Woof! Meli More...


August 22. 2017

Track Student Progress with Literacy Portfolios

Portfolios are a popular way to present students' work over time so that progress is evident. Many assessments can be part of a writing portfolio. The goal is to guide the process carefully so portfolios don't become unwieldy and time-consuming collections of "stuff" that no one examines or uses to inform teaching.

You will collect reading data and writing projects throughout the year. Many teachers keep all products for the year, selecting materials for the “pass on” portfolio in the spring. Others identify particular times when the portfolio is examined in conjunction with the child; some pieces are sent home and others remain in the portfolio. Some general considerations for the type of the information to include in the portfolio follow:

  • Include a list of the books the student read and the writing projects he completed.
  • Feature “best work” or a range of writing projects and poetry (e.g. several pieces that you and the student have selected for a particular reason).
  • Document the level of texts the student read during the year as well as the range of the genres he attempted.
  • Illustrate the student’s growth and progress through a thoughtful selection of writing samples.
  • Include writing projects of investigations that demonstrate the student’s ability to use knowledge in content areas.
  • Encourage self-reflection by asking the student to write rationales for his portfolio selections: Why he chose to include writing samples, how he chose books to read, and his reflections on his growth as a writer and reader.
  • Feature writing samples from all the genres the student studied and explored in his own writing.
  • Weave in written evaluations by the student about his growth as a reader, writer, and learner.

From Guiding Readers & Writers by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Copyright (c) 2001 by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Published by Heinemann.