Students write narratives on Kid Blog.
Can you feel the shift to sheer fear in the classroom? It radiates down the hallways. It makes it's way into team and staff meetings. It permeates the four walls of our learning spaces. If you're a third grade reading teacher, it has probably lived in your room all year. The fear is not coming from the kids, it is coming from their teachers. The fear of will my kids pass the test? is sinking into schools all over America, right now. Tis the season.
This is not the same fear that lives in my teacher heart. My fears take the form of wondering if my kids love reading yet. It takes the form of hoping to one day hear the cheers that fill that room when it's time to get back to our latest writing piece. My fear is that the reading and writing community I worked so hard to establish is soon coming to an end. That it's time for me to pull away my scaffolds and see if my kids can still find books they WANT to read, and that it's time for them to see that all year my editing marks have not covered their notebook pages because I don't want their writer's voice strangled and left dead in a sea of red ink. These are my legitimate fears.
Teachers, do not be afraid that your children will not pass a test. We are human, they are human. We have days when we are not feeling well, when there is no possible way we can focus on another boring, made-up for testing story and the surface level comprehension questions that follow. And that is okay. Teachers, you work hard! You love kids! You are in the trenches helping them along the way every single day. Do not discount all of your hard work and theirs for one day. One day that means what exactly?
I will say this, and I mean it. The only "test prep" my kids do is this: they read and write every single day. We read across genres. We write across genres. Guess what? My kids still work on narrative writing even though it will not be tested on the Ohio Fourth Grade AIR test they will take next month. My kids make up stories that they want to tell, they find their voices. They work through hard times and share happy times. They anticipate book releases and their book talks and critical analysis can bring you to tears. They grow. They grow each and every day and that is worth more than one day of a test.
I am reminded of a time that Donalyn Miller appeared on Penny Kittle's The Book Love Foundation Podcast. She said this "Nobody goes down to the basketball coach and says hey, why are the kids just dribbling basketballs down here? Nobody goes to the band hall and says you know, don't you think the children should be comparing an oboe to a clarinet on a venn diagram? Don't you think that would improve their musicianship? We will still in the same school go down to an english classroom and ask why the kids are just reading and writing in here?" If you want kids to be better at reading and writing, they must have time to read and write. Not to fill out graphic organizers, hamburger writing templates, do language arts and crafts or even... your really "fun and engaging" test prep task cards.
So teachers, guess what you need to grow readers and writers?
Books. Lots of them. Across all genres and formats.
Paper & pencils. Lots of paper.
Time. Lots of time to read and write.
Communities that offer support and socialization. Lots of socialization.
Test Prep 101.