Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Response to Reading ANSWER method

In Massachusetts, our standardized test is the MCAS, and in 4th grade, one of the challenges our students face on their reading test is the Open Response question. We've been gearing up for the test because it starts in mid-March this year, so test taking strategies have been at the forefront of my mind. 

We spend time every week pouring over past MCAS selections to help our fourth graders become more familiar with test taking language, as well as the stamina for an independent writing task for a topic they are probably seeing for the first time in printed form.  The kids have weekly homework practice, and I have an MCAS Practice Tips letter to parents that I posted on my blog.  Teaching the kids to use a graphic organizer for pre-writing, and analyzing the question (such as with the QAR method) is something we've done for years.  But this year is the first full year that we've implemented the ANSWER method.  And I think it's been working VERY well for this specific purpose.

The acronym is from the Keys to Literacy, who have provided a number of professional development trainings for my district, and if you ever see one offered in your area, I HIGHLY recommend you check it out (the vocabulary one was another fantastic experience).  I only tweaked it slightly by adding a bit to the "E" (originally the acronym read: "Analyze, Notes, Scan, Write, End by Rereading") and of course the explanations are my own rewording according to what's been working for my class over time.  Because as my students would tell you, I do my anchor charts in pencil, and that's only after I've written them on the white board with them first, until I'm feel that I've answered all of their clarifying questions and I'm happy with the exact wording.  They actually tease me, "You really ARE a rough draft kind of gal!"  I like to think this helps to instill a sense of importance of the revision process for them!

Each component of the ANSWER method is a lesson (or two) in and of itself, but by this point in the year, nearly every kid (as of last week, every kid, yay!) in my class knows what is expected of them when it comes to preparing and composing a written response to writing.  Along with a goal setting sheet each week, they know that when it comes to formal assessments, they don't just write about the story; they have to ANSWER the question!

How do you prepare your students for standardized test reading responses?

Amber Thomas's Classroom Favorites on Teachers Pay Teachers


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    1. We were trained in it last year the month before, so I know that feeling of "too late!" I hope you like it next year once the kids have more time to get into the routine. We started out with lower level text as well, great tip. :)

  2. We also use the ANSWER method. Our literacy coach was trained, and she then trained our district teachers as well. My kids are doing very well with it. I love how it is one format to use for every kind of open response. We also have our kids put a topic sentence at the top of the T chart so they know how to start their response. I love it! Thanks for sharing!

  3. I agree; we used to have lots of different "plans" for the prewriting stage, and kids would be so busy guessing about exactly which one to use with which text that they'd freeze up! This helps take a lot of the pressure off; they start out writing "ANSWER" vertically down their page before starting and feel more confident from the get go. And yes, you reminded me; our SpEd teacher emphasizes the topic sentence at the top of the chart as well, great tip. :)


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