Tests and Success!

Tests, tests, tests!!!!! Everything is so test driven these days! I get it...but...is this really what’s best for our students with language impairments or academic delays?!?!?! Some people may not like my answer to that question, but I say NO! NO, it is not what is best for some of our students! This year, I have seen more of my children break down crying because they feel like they are drowning and they feel like everyone thinks they are “stupid”. Not kidding...one of my kids told me he thinks all the kids in his class think that he is stupid! That absolutely BROKE my heart! Don’t get me wrong, our teachers and special education teachers are amazing! They are doing everything they can to make sure all of our kids are as successful as possible. 

This got me thinking...What can I do to make sure even if my students are struggling, they feel like they are accomplishing something? 

Some of my students are required to take AR tests on books they have read. Before they are allowed to take the AR test they have to write a summary of the book. My first thought was, AR points may make them feel more successful. If they are able to keep up with the amount of points others are getting maybe they will feel like they are on a level playing field. I have one student who figured this out on his own. He reads short, simple books, takes a lot of tests and has the most AR points in his class every week. 

This is where my journey has begun...

Here are some initial observations (I doubt they surprise you)...
  1. Even though we spend tons of time working on main ideas and important details, my kids can’t write summaries (at least not very well). 
  2. My kids have extreme difficulty taking notes from a book.
  3. The questions aren’t always the same “type” of comprehension questions we ask in therapy sessions. 
  4. One test had a questions that wasn’t even in the book! Good thing my kid guessed correctly because my guess was wrong!
  5. Some of my kids are trying to read books that are too high for them so they “look” like their peers. Unfortunately, this is also why they have no to few AR points...they can’t pass the tests. (I think we’ve solved this problem.)
Here is how I am trying to improve this problem (I'm going to use these tests to my advantage!)...
  1. I talked to all of the teachers and we came up with a plan...When I see the students I will work on one specific book for 2 weeks (every kid hears the book at least 2-4 times, unless they are absent). During these sessions we work on comprehension and inferential questions, as well as other skills related to their goals. All the goals are somehow related to the book we are reading...I make sure of it. If they are working on defining words, the words come from the book. If they are working on synonyms and antonyms the words all come from the book.
  2. At the end of the second week we sit down as a group and discuss the sequence of events and important information from the book. The students all contribute sentences to write a summary. I write the summary and then they copy the summary in their notebooks. For my higher group, they write the summary on their own and I check to make sure it includes the appropriate information.
  3. While students are writing the summary we start a group rotation. One student will come to me and take the AR test. I read the AR test aloud to all of the students in a one on one situation. When that student finishes the test they return to continue writing the summary and send the next student over. 
  4. When the student has finished the AR test and finished writing the summary there is another skill center set up. 
Somehow, we have managed to fit all of it neatly into our 30 minute session and I can get data every single day! And guess what....All but one kid made a 100% on the test and earned 0.5 AR points. One student made an 80%, but still...up to that point the student had 0.0 AR points. They were ALL so proud of themselves!!! One of the kids has even started to take his own “real” notes on his nonfiction texts! If the kids catch me before the day starts or at the end of the day before they leave (if I’ve finished seeing kids) we will sit down with a new book, read it, write our summary then take another test. My kids beg me to take AR tests now! 

This is why I do what I do! I love seeing the excitement in their eyes when they know they just did something AMAZING!!!

The Speech Owl