But hoping isn't enough. On top of the creative and engaging instruction (that the students are of course learning above and beyond making them so excited to be in my room ;) ), I also make sure that I am teaching them how to translate those concepts and skills into the TEST TAKING GENRE. That's right, genre. It is a complete genre, similar to Fairy Tales or mysteries, that we need to teach our students. So while I am teaching all of the concepts and standards, I am also teaching this genre.
Daily, from DAY ONE of school, my students are taught how to apply the comprehension skills we learn into a test taking format. For homework each night, they get a comprehension passage with 4 or 5 questions. These passages (which I gather from all over the place -- online, trade books, etc...) cover the entire gambit of skills the students are taught in class. While doing this homework, the students' goal is not to just circle the right answer, but to circle key words in the question and to provide evidence of their final choices.
The reason for this goal is simple. It teaches them the vital skills they need so that they can effectively take "The TEST", while still thinking about and understanding their reading. The students need explicit instruction in these skills, so they can be successful in applying them when the time comes.
So what do I teach them how to do? Let me show you in pictures.
Sometimes, the questions don't have direct evidence that can be underlined. In a case like this, the students INFER from the passage, and then write their ideas in the margins of the question. There has to be SOME reason why the student chose the answer, and there must be SOME evidence somewhere. If that evidence isn't in the form of an underline in the passage, it must be written near the question.
Again, all of this is designed to get the students thinking about their work, not just willy nilly choosing answers.
The biggest question students ask is "WHY do we have to do this Mrs. Moorman? It takes SOOOOOO long" (usually with a big, long, dramatic sigh at the end), And they are right...it does take a long time. As the year progresses, though, they begin to see why we do it. Since we go over this homework daily, the benefits quickly become obvious. When they are looking for the evidence in the passage, and can verify exactly why they chose the answer they did and, all of the sudden, answering comprehension questions becomes easy (well, easier). The confidence evidence for an answer gives them makes the entire task a breeze. Taking the few minutes of time out of their day to show why they chose the answer they did pays off in the long run, and they see that. Teaching them strategies like these, in conjunction with the content, will pay off for them, and you, ten fold.
In case you are looking for some great test prep reading comprehension books, I LOVE LOVE LOVE these by Evan Moor. They are simple, to the point, and are leveled inside. They are great for teaching the strategies above. They are easy to read for the kids so they don't get stuck on the reading and forget the strategies. Did I mention I LOVE these books?
For some free passages, which always feels good on my pocketbook, I turn to this site first. Great (though lengthy) passages. I use these after we have already got into the strategies and the kids are fairly good at them. There are passages for grade 3, 4, and 5. I usually start with the 3rd grade level and work my way up.
Free Comprehension Passages
Here is a post I did about organizing your Standards in Language Arts. Test Prep 180: State Standards
Kathie, at The Diary of a Not So Wimpy Teacher is having a Test Prep Linky party! Check it out!