The stress has been palatable this week in Room 204. State testing begins next week. This will also be the first year that we take the test online instead of using paper and pencil. As we prepared this week, I began by asking my students, "How is reading for the test different than the kind of reading we do for pleasure or when we are researching?"
Right away, the room was abuzz with conversation. I quickly began to chart their thinking.
Reading for the Test
- It can be nerve wracking.
- The paragraphs are numbered.
- We have to go back and reread to find answers.
- We get timed.
- We have to choose the best answer for multiple choice questions.
- We don't get to pick what we read.
- We have to answer the test questions, not our own questions.
These last two stood out for me, because they speak to choice. There is no choice when taking the test. This is the complete opposite of what goes on in our classroom. All year long, our students have been given choice. They choose what they research. They ask their own questions. They choose what they want to read. They choose their goals. They choose how to respond to their reading. They choose if they are going to read and write digitally or traditionally.
In a brief moment of weakness, I began to question myself. Have I done a disservice to our students by not doing more contrived activities that mimic test taking? Are they going to be prepared for the test? As soon as the questions surfaced, I cringed. Everything about those questions goes against what I believe to be true about educating children. My job is not to create test takers. My job is to give students opportunities to learn and find joy through reading and writing. My most important work is to support my students in being curious and finding their way as learners.
Today I celebrate choice because...
- H excitedly shared with me that for the first time, she finished a book this year. At this time, she's read several books and is finding who she is as a reader.
- Book clubs spring up without any involvement from me or my co-teacher. Readers with similar interests are finding each other.
- Graphic novels have hooked several of our readers who thought they didn't like to read. Even my co-teacher found out that she likes them.
- R discovered that poetry isn't so bad. :)
- Writing groups are forming as students with similar interests research topics and create digital compositions.
- Real conversations are occurring about important topics that students initiate.
- Parents are asking what we're doing...their kids are reading without a fight at home.
I believe with all my heart that having choice as a foundation in our classroom is what will bring success to our students. They will use what they've learned this year to do their best over the next several weeks of testing. I'll be glad when it's done so we can put it behind us and get back to what we know is best for kids and let them get back to the business of learning.