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One of the things that I love most about working at my school is that we have a Principal who is committed to providing incredible, frequent training opportunities to our teachers. Sometimes, I have a difficult time figuring out how to apply the material to my Spanish, Elective classroom, but more often than not, I strike gold!! This was the case with today's training by Susan Van Zant. Susan was asked to speak with us because our school, along with ALL other middle schools in our district, did not make AYP this year, and we are looking for ways to help students find greater success on tests. Susan presented the idea of teaching students about the testing "genre", and familiarizing them with the vocabulary and format of tests. Much of the training was focused on questioning, and how to incorporate different levels and kinds of questions in your classroom that will better prepare students to be successful on tests. This was quite timely as I have been focusing on QAR recently (as has Michele) after our training with Carol Gaab at the AFLA Conference this fall. Sample Questions

  • The author would probably (dis)agree with which of the following statements?
  • When the author says, «quote», is that an example of a fact or an opinion?
  • The third paragraph in this reading is mostly about...? - For this question, choose a paragraph that has a slightly different or more specific focus than the essay as a whole. For example, it could be about a person's background, while the rest of the piece is about a specific thing that the person accomplished)
  • Which of the following pairs of words are synonyms (antonyms)? - Choose a word from the reading that is a little tricky and match it with a word that students are very familiar with. This will help reinforce the meaning of the new-ish/tricky word.
  • What is the meaning of the underlined word in this sentence? - Choose a word that can have multiple meanings depending on the context. The example that we were given was "pitch" (baseball, music, sales, tent, etc.)
  • How does (name) feel when (something happens)? - An "Author and Me" question that forces students to make an inference.
  • What would be the best title for this reading?
  • What is the theme of this passage?
  • Which event happened before/after (other event)?
  • This reading is an example of...(types of genres).
  • (word) can best be described as... - Again, focus on newer words.
  • What was the author's purpose for writing this passage? (entertain/convince/persuade/provide information)
  • Which reference would you use to (complete a task)? (encyclopedia, atlas, dictionary, thesaurus)
QAR starters
  • Right There: According to the author...(what is the best food? when does the sun rise? etc.), True/False questions
  • Think and Search: Compare and contrast (two statements in the passage, two characters, etc.), Sequencing (put these events in order, which happened first, etc.), Main idea (author's purpose, theme, etc.)
Three other great points that Susan made were
  1. When you do a reading, consider reading aloud a PORTION of the text to the students. That way, you are modeling pronunciation/fluency, but students still have the opportunity to practice reading on their own.
  2. Avoid hand-raising. (This fits in well with everything I've learned about comprehension checks.) You need to call on all students at different times--whether or not they want to be called on--so that you have a good understanding of your students' comprehension of the material AND so that everyone is actively engaged. You can also ask other students in the class to translate/summarize/repeat what a classmate has said.
  3. Have students read the directions to assignments before you explain them. Do a comprehension check before you clarify/re-state/elaborate. This trains students to read directions carefully on tests.

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