Does it seem odd to you that all year long, we tell our students to use the word wall or whatever else we have available for students to use in a classroom, but when it comes time to do standardized testing we effectively tell them “just kidding” ?
Yesterday, I was giving my students a practice run at what next Wednesday, our first day of MCAS, will be like. Kids are used to asking for help when they need it, or (even better) using a classroom resource when needed. For some, it is a challenge just to read a text in silence. For others it is a shock that, when they ask for help with a word in a text, instead of working through the thought process for strategizing how to decode the word, I say “I’m sorry, but I can’t help you at all.” Frankly I don’t know why I am apologizing.
One of my students was stuck on a spelling word yesterday. Of course if helping students decode challenging vocabulary in a text is outlawed, helping them with spelling is definitely out. He did exactly as he has been taught to do – he went to his personal word wall folder to look for it. And when I told him he couldn’t use that word wall? He shut down. Completely. From that point on he wanted no part of the whole business – I’m hoping I can cajole him back into positive thinking before next Wednesday. This student, by the way, is one of my most accomplished readers and writers.
So I have to ask, why in the name of all thing holy are we preventing students from using the tools that they are accustomed to using? What are we telling them – give it up, there’s no way you can be successful?
As adults, if we don’t know something from memory, don’t we look it up? Can’t we allow students to do what an adult out in the work world would do?