09 August 2015

SAT Prep Goals: Teach beyond the test

SAT Prep doesn't have to be about the test.

Especially with the new format, it comes down to what students need and why. If they need to parse scientific, literary, or historical texts, WHY do they need to do it? What situation in their lives might demand it? What do they WANT to use those skills to understand, to accomplish?

As English electives go, SAT Prep is no Creative Writing or Film & Literature; my principal is still giving me a chance to stretch my Spanglishy wings in new directions, though, so I've got to give her that. Plus I know from my work with this group of kiddos last year that this course was something they explicitly said they wanted and needed.

Also, when I asked if I needed to address the math side of things, she just asked, "Can you?"

I take that to mean I have a fair degree of freedom--though Boss Lady did indicate she doesn't want the class to turn into just "SAT Lab." And I can dig that.

Personalized teaching to the test

College Board & Khan Academy
have automated personalized
testing practice.
Now the College Board has gone and made my life--and presumably the lives of students across the socioeconomic spectrum--easier by hooking up with Khan Academy. Much like my Day 1 experience of this summer's Pinnacle session, Khan Academy provides diagnostic test chunks  and then directs you to how-to example videos and further practice by indicating your performance level in each area. And I, as a coach, can keep track of my students' progress (though their gamification is too easily gamed to, say, assign grades for)!

Believe me, I will be taking full advantage of the almost flipped personalization Khan Academy offers! I will conference with students to determine two areas to work on (reading, writing and language, math with a calculator, math without a calculator) each grading period, offering quiz grades for...

  1. watching a video in designated focus areas
  2. completing the practice questions
  3. creating a video (probably with the Explain Everything app) showing how THEY work through the same problem after watching the video
  4. showing improvement in the designated areas on another sample test section
I also intend to invoke the 21st Century Skill of collaboration to help students form Growth Teams with different strengths and weaknesses to work through problems aloud together.

Real-world goals and application beyond the test

Early in the semester, students are going to select an overarching theme related to a future profession that they seriously intend to pursue: medicine, computers, art history, military--doesn't matter. They will then complete a research essay each grading period connecting this theme to the new subscore categories:
  • 1st 6 weeks - theme + social studies
  • 2nd 6 weeks - theme + sciences
  • 3rd 6 weeks - theme + social studies + sciences
In their college studies and professional fields, students will have to find their own resources to continue growing, be they mechanics, doctors, or, you know, Spanish teachers, so why not start exploring now? Plus I can't think of a single profession that does not somehow connect to both fields.

The idea is that this process will also prepare the young ones not only for the (now optional) writing section, as well as for the reading and the writing and language! To say nothing of the exercise 21st Century information literacy skills!

Now, the redesigned test will not actually be available until March 2016--months after everything is finalized in ye olde gradebooks. I do plan to administer another sample test for the final exam and evaluate based on individual growth and goals we decided on together.

However, there will be presentations each six weeks in addition to the essays, presentations that won't require extra research, really, but that will stretch students' understanding of why we're doing all this. They'll start with college goals to help guide their goal setting for their scores, put together fun videos on their test-taking secrets, and then before that final exam, they'll analyze their professional strengths

They will look at what the test has to tell them about what they do well, and then try to sell themselves to potential employers in their desired fields.

After all, why even have a test if it doesn't give us information we can use?

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