Both these readings really helped me to see the full view of what content area assessment really is.
Although both readings focused on content area assessment, the Butler article focused much more on standardized assessments.
One thing that frustrates me when it comes to math, social studies and science instruction is that teachers often times don’t spend the time they should be on teaching the language associated with each of those content areas. It seems that many teachers have the attitudes that because those classes aren’t traditional reading or writing classes that it they shouldn’t be focusing on teaching the language of those classes. I feel that since the language for each class is so specific it is vital to the students' academic success to focus on the teaching language in each of these classes.
I feel that even more so than any other content area, math has really become disconnected with language teaching. It seems as if many people consider math a subject in which language play a little or no role at all. What I have discovered since teaching math is that the teaching of math language is extremely important. What I have noticed about many of my students is that they can perform the necessary math operations to pass the tests, what they are lacking in is the ability to explain their thinking, the ability to explain and reflect on the concept is important as is being able to convey what they already know about a subject or concept before I even begin teaching. Since teaching math one of my goals has been to reinforce this idea that knowing how to do the operations isn’t enough, that the students have to be able to explain their thinking and how they arrived at their final answer. When students are explaining their thinking I also require them to use the math vocabulary we have been learning for that concept in their explanation.
When it comes to teaching vocabulary I think I’m doing pretty good in my math class. I have the students create semantic maps and various graphic organizers of the vocabulary we are learning. I also have a Math Word Wall in my classroom. I would really like to improve on the amount of writing my students are doing in math class. There is just this disparity between the amount of time I can spend on one subject and the amount of time I often want to spend on one subject. Vocabulary development and language activities take time and unfortunately, I feel that the curriculum the district has set up for us doesn’t allow for lingering on one subject too long.
This past year our district adopted a new social studies curriculum and I LOVE it. The way the curriculum is set up focuses a lot on language development. It also does a great job of activating prior knowledge, having students make predictions, having students take notes in a variety of ways, and then doing various writing activities as a way of processing the information. In addition, students are also asked to analyze various graphic organizers and draw conclusions from that.
As I was reading these two articles a very vicious cycle started presenting itself. Teachers who don’t focus on teaching language in the content areas have students who, even with accommodations, don’t perform well on the standardized assessments. Students who don’t do well on standardized assessments are then sometimes put into classes that do not provide them with the instruction or support hey need and as a result continue to do poorly on the standardized assessments.
There are some teachers in our district who do a school wide test prep every Friday. Although I’m not sure exactly how this test prep goes or what the outcomes are I think about how should we preparing our children for these tests? I am a huge advocate of incorporating test prep into daily normal class activities. I feel that teaching and test taking should not be viewed as two totally different areas, but as two very closely linked areas. Test taking skills and critical thinking skills need to be taught in every content area as well as focusing closely on language teaching.
Again, I also feel that there should be guidelines developed and used by states to designate English Language Learners. Perhaps the government should develop a rubric for designating English Language Learners.
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