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Status update, what teachers talk about, and more

July 28, 2010

This blog is about three disparate things. First, I will give an update on the summer reading project, next I will recount a discussion in the teachers’ room, and I will end with a note about something I am trying with a struggling student.

The Reading Project Update

The reading project involves revising the curriculum for the highest level reading class by adding 10 Academic Word List quizzes and eight reading comprehension tests as well as revising the unit tests. I was lucky in a way because my student worker decided to go home for summer B, so I was able to hire my teacher who has been helping write the materials for the tests. We now have completed all but one of the reading comprehension tests, all the unit tests, and all the vocabulary tests. So far, we have seen an improvement on the vocabulary tests with averages improving from 12 out of 20 to around 16 out of 20. We conjecture that the students had to get used to the kind of test in order to know how to study for them. To review the process, the tests were constructed using the sublists of the Academic Word List, searching for sample sentences from The Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA), and using sentences containing the words for test items. The AWL word was deleted from the sentence and made one of the four choices of the missing word in the sentence. This seems to be working well, as I noted, with improvement of student scores as students become accustomed to the tests.

The reading comprehension test scores have improved though not as much as the vocabulary scores. These tests are meant to be cumulative, so we add reading skills with each test. By that I mean the first test has items that test the first skills we teach such as vocabulary in context, main idea, and supporting details. The second test assesses the same items plus another one or two skills such as organizational patterns. Each subsequent test then includes more skills. We have done okay with the tests and scores are improving. The teacher teaching the class has a mixed level class, so it will be interesting to see how the test results have come out. Since our goal was to get the tests done and fit them into the schedule, we have succeeded with that step. The teacher likes them because the students are doing something. The tests are written for the curriculum we teach which prepares students for academic study and for the Florida State Exit Exam in reading which they must pass in order to take most of their college classes.

We are making the changes to make the class more challenging and closer to the demands of the final exam and exit test. Usually, the final exam, a college preparation department wide exam is more difficult than the state exit test. Our students need to pass both tests, and we have done well so far. However, the materials that come with our textbook are not as difficult as the state or final exams. Complaints from the students and teachers triggered the change.

Now that we see that they seem to be working, I would like to get more information. What I would still like to do is to be able to gather data on student results according to skills on reading comprehension tests, midterm exams, and final exams according to skills. This is why I am trying to find out how to do item analysis as I discussed in the last post. I think this data would inform our teaching better, give students more useful feedback, and help us design better tests.

What teachers talk about

We (the teacher working on the tests and I) were in the teachers room discussing the reading tests when the reading teacher came back from class. She brought up a student who has a difficult family situation. The student started off the semester very energetic and excited about school, but she has been going down, has been looking tired and worn down. The teacher found out that this student has a six year old autistic child who screams all day and night. We spent a long time discussing where the student might get help for herself with a support group and through the counseling center on campus. We came up with several suggestions that the teacher will relay to the student.

and More

We have a student who has been struggling with his writing. He seems to have ADHD, but since he has not record of it, school policy does not allow him to be considered ADHD and get consideration for it. He is repeating our highest level pre-college writing class and is not doing well. He works in the lab each day and studies with a strong student outside of this and on the weekends. However, he doesn’t seem to be able to break through. Today, I told him to do a think aloud with an assignment recording the think aloud on his iPhone, and we would go over it and see if we can find some clue as to how to help him. I hope that this activity will give us a handle on how he goes about solving problems such as identifying and correcting run-ons. We have run out of ideas and would really hate for him to fail again.

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