Reading and Writing: Students Decide

This semester, students in READ 6329.10 were asked to contribute a post to this blog.

By Ann

We are currently reading A Teacher’s Guide to Standardized Reading Test, and although it is mainly talking about standardized reading tests, I can’t help but make a connection to the standardized writing tests that students are required to take as well. As we have learned throughout the reading program, reading and writing work together, yet for two years, the state tested these two subjects separately. Just like a majority of the school in Texas last year, my school’s scores were dismal. Therefore, a part of my job is to incorporate more reading and writing into the different subject areas. One of the strategies that I introduced to all the freshman, sophomores, and juniors was RAFT. I used an article I found on the internet, and after reading the article to them, we filled out the graphic organizer that is used as a pre-write activity. What essentially transpired in each class was creative writing. It has been a very long time since I saw students get excited about writing. Many classes didn’t want the class to end because they were having so much fun creating a piece of fiction.

I couldn’t help but think of this experience as I was reading the first three chapters of Calkins’ book. There were so many things that I agreed with in these chapters, but I think the thing that stood out the most was when she says that standardized tests don’t do a good job of showing what kids can.  Again, I know that Calkins is talking about reading tests, but I believe that this true for most of these types of tests.  As I went into each classroom introducing RAFT, I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if students were able to decide what kind of writing they did on the test. All of us have our strengths and weaknesses as both readers and writers, what would happen if the students were able to find out what these strengths and weaknesses were, and use them to their advantage? Instead of being told what they have to write, the students could decide that for themselves based on what they are interested in, and what they are good at.

This past week I was required to attend a writing workshop, and found it to be very helpful in regards to how to spread literacy throughout all content areas. As the workshop was drawing to a close, the presenters but a quote on the screen for Lucy Calkins: “ Children’s curiosity and their passion to explore the world are the greatest resources we could ever hope to draw upon in teaching nonfiction writing.” I think this proves that children need to be given more freedom in what they read and what they write. Once this happens, then we can really evaluate how these children are doing, and my assumption is that they are doing much better than any standardize test could show.

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