Friday, April 25, 2014

FEATURE FRIDAY - ELA Test Prep, It can be done, and FUN, with Teacher's Craft!

Hi, I'm Gina of PerfettoWritingRoom and welcome to FEATURE FRIDAY! Is is me, or are these Fridays just whizzing by?
    It is test prep time, and since it is still April, poetry is on the menu. Because teachers love poetry, we have this idea that students are going to naturally love it too. But if you add to the mix the nervous energy of test taking and the pull of vacation, you have a volatile and often disappointing recipe that will leave you frustrated.
      I have a few ideas that I have implemented in the classroom that might work well to keep students engaged in poetry and also serve as test prep. Additonally, I INVITE ALL READERS to SUBMIT their IDEAS!    And today I wanted to share with you an idea from my newest friend, Laney Farrugia, known as Teacher's Craft, who has something she implements regularly and finds works wonders for poetry knowledge, appreciation and test prep, too.

If you want to get a cup of coffee, now is the time . . . 
 are ya ready? Good!
Poetry Test Prep - Fun and Easy

I champion creative writing and poetry, and little wonder. Do you have any idea how many skills are transferred over to other areas of thinking and writing - you know, the areas that we consider "important"?

There are many standardized tests for secondary students, to name one might lead you to think that I am only talking about that test, so let's include them all. English language arts includes many skills, and often, the ones tested may include:

  • Grammar
  • Language usage
  • Word choice
  • Essay construction
  • Sentence mechanics
  • Organization
Critical Reading
  • Vocabulary
  • Main idea
  • Inference
  • Fact vs. Opinion
  • Logic
  • Semantics
This does not include Subject tests. Students benefit from knowing how essays work, how to find meaning and subtext and of course to understand terminology. As April is poetry month, you can make the most of the time when things are in bloom by using poetry's transferable and plastic capabilities. Nearly ALL OF THE SKILLS needed in critical reading can be applied either to essays and large swathes of text, or to more manageable but equally challenging poems. If you organize your year so that you are doing poetry in April your students will thank you. 

1. Let students TEACH EACH OTHER. - We are all about getting the sage off the stage, right?
I love being the sage, don't get me wrong, but once you present the necessary components of a poem, and the terminology that might be asked on a test (some examples might be the parts of a poem, figures of speech, other literary tropes), students can create questions on TASK CARDS and ask them of each other. Students can make educational videos, be the teacher for the day, be in charge of ONE major element you (or they) choose or decide upon, or more. 

2. Play a GAME. Whether you up the stakes with a special privilege to the team winner, give one team bragging rights, or prefer a more community helping vibe, it's your call. It is spring. Can you and your students leave the room? In the game above where students ask questions about a poem, students can actually hide some of the task cards they created, and you can allot points for how fast the other team finds them and then answers them correctly (this ensures the students WANT to find the cards, ha ha). 

3.  Make the students WORK HARD. A poem is a thing that comes to life the more you look at it, read it, ask questions of it, and unravel its layers. And yes, test makers know this too. So everything from meter and rhyme scheme, connotation and denotation, simile and meter, reader response, tone - questions that are analytical to questions about simple vocabulary - it is ALL fair game.  And the more students do this, and the more they take the lead and challenge each other, the better. 

The point is in the end students are BETTER at analyzing poetry and understanding how a poem works and what a poem is. They are more prepared for a test, but even if they are given a short story or essay in the future on a standardized test . . . they will be significantly better prepared to tackle whatever is in front of them. They will be better, more critical thinkers. Poetry has a way of doing this because of its compact nature. It is to an even greater degree than short fiction, very complicated. There is great reward to be had in teaching short fiction and poetry in your classroom, and yes, the skill required in working with poetry transfers to other forms of reading and writing.

Poetry Test Prep with My New Friend

Also known as Laney

You know how I get when I meet other wonderful English teachers. Some of my very best friends are English folks. And there's nothing better than a cup of coffee and a new friend. Laney, who lives in Naples Florida, was an intensive Reading/Language Arts teacher in a Title I school for five years. During that time, Laney was consistently on the Top-10 List of reading teachers in her county. In fact, she actually ranked number one in her third year, which is quite an accomplishment!
        Awards and accolades aside Laney Farrugia told me that "What really made my heart swell as a teacher was hearing students say to me, 'You’re the first teacher who has ever told me I’m smart.' or when former students would tell me that I am the reason that they love to read." 

Like me, Laney Farrugia, aka Teacher's Craft, loves adding items to her store, and she has recently added hard goods like craft items and teacher decor - something I know that she is excited about. What most excited me was how SHE ENGAGES STUDENTS WITH POETRY and INCORPORATES TEST READINESS

Oh, Let's Take a look . . .Poetry Standardized Test Prep


Teacher Craft's (Laney's) Poetry Standardized Test Prep is wonderful for so many reasons. It not only teaches important poetry components, it teaches test components and then allows students to practice in class as if it were a standardized test. It is not unlike walking you through your own Kaplan training program, except you don't have to go to school for it or pay for any training at all. Just use the Power Point along with the students and they will benefit.

This is an essential resource that has been successfully used in the classroom. But let's talk about why. 

1. It is not a quick fix - it is a long product that begins with the basics, walking students through the foundation. Rhythm, speaker, line, stanza, etc.

2. You choose how you want to use it. Do you want to do a few slides a day? Fine. If you want to do even more, well you can do that, just review it beforehand and figure out what your game plan will be. Have students take notes (probably an even better idea). If students know the earlier stuff, then you can enhance it by discussing things you have recently done in your own classroom or use the material as a launching point to discuss them in further detail. If they do NOT know it, then you can just go slower.

3. Parts of a Poem - I like that when you are done using this product students will be familiar with all the basic terminology, as well as the more advanced material. It isn't just for test prep. It is for learning about poetry in general.

4. Review and then the tackling of all the types of questions standardized tests ask about poetry. As a teacher, I love providing my students with keys. I know they have to use their own minds to figure out how those keys fit. I also know they may have to run madly around the castle staring at odd and various locks, always wondering how this or that may fit. But the best tools make it easier for students. THIS makes it methodical and so much easier. Clean and organized and dare I say fun?? More like a grand tour around the castle in a group . . .

5. Practice and Examples for each. Ooh La la. There is nothing better than preparing students for examples of what they might see, so they can recognize what type of question it is, understand what is being asked of them, and better figure out how to answer that question. And all of it is in one resource.

6. It has multiple benefits.  It helps students understand poetry on multiple levels, regardless of testing. While the practice questions help students be prepared for a test as stated above in number 5, the fact remains that students are in fact learning the concepts - this is evident from the beginning, as poetry concepts are introduced and demonstrated and the focus in not merely on how to improve one's score.  Very much a "treasury" resource - one you want to hold on to and use for years to come.

Laney of Teacher's Craft is so happy to be tutoring and staying home for awhile with her son until he is old enough to attend school, and of course making wonderful resources for teachers.
Her fantastic product . . .
Poetry Standardized Test Prep is available
 in her store Teacher's Craft along with so many other resources for teachers. It was a true pleasure having her with us today. 

*If you're looking for the mother of all literary term glossaries, and consider yourself a bit of a wordsmith, pick up the Complete Literary Term Glossary by PerfettoWritingRoom, with nine quizzes and keys, and such fascinating and useful terms that it will be a resource you will come to personally treasure. 

We look forward to seeing you next week for TIPS and FEATURES! We'll keep the coffee hot and ready for you!
Be good, PerfettoWritingRoom

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