Testing Demands and Writing Workshop

Literacy Spark asked:

Do you have to deal with testing in writing…if not how would you deal with?  I’m trying to teach it as an immersion genre, like everything else but I’m meeting resistance from administration that wants “test prep.”

In short, I do deal with testing.  In fact, fourth graders in Rhode Island have to take three NECAP Tests (Reading and Math in October; Science in May; They’re taking Science now.) during the school year.

I’m presently doing a mini-unit of study on writing for tests so that my students will be adequately prepared to take the fifth grade NECAP Writing Test in the Fall.  However, the reason we are teaching this unit isn’t just so the students do well on the fifth grade writing test; it’s so that they understand how to respond to prompts given to them on all standardized tests.

As any teacher knows, you have to take LOTS of standardized tests in order to obtain a higher education (degree), to get certified, etc.  Therefore, understanding test language (e.g., key words and what they really mean so that you can respond to a question properly) is just as important as writing with conventions so that your message is understood.  Hence, while I might not love teaching my students how to write responses to prompts that they might encounter on standardized tests, I recognize the importance of it and therefore am glad to teach it to them so that they will know what to do going-forward whenever they encounter a writing task outside of our classroom.

We don’t spend all year teaching the kids how to take Writing Tests.  We spend the year teaching our kids how to become better writers through Writing Workshop.  However, we do carve out time to teach them about the genre of writing for tests since it is, afterall, a genre unlike any other that they need to be prepared to handle.

Everything in moderation, right?