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18 Power Strategies

to Boost Reading & Writing Achievement on Standardized Tests


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Skills 1-8  |  Skills 9-18

SKILL #1 Broaden text-type exposure

Standardized reading assessments provide students multiple passages on a common topic, issue, theme, or genre—and then ask them to respond. These texts include a wide range of text types, lengths, perspectives, versions, and complexities.

Vary text types

“Read” visual texts

Reveal a Picture-of-the-Day and ask students to do the following:

  • List 2-5 observable details. (I see ____.)
  • Make 2-5 inferences based on observable details. (I infer ____ because ____ .)
  • Make 2-5 predictions based on observable details. (I predict ____ because ____.)

Here are several free sources for fabulous photographs.

SKILL #2 Juggle multiple texts

Know the testing parameters

Consider mirroring the testing scenario, requiring students to read multiple texts on a single topic or theme all in one sitting.
Research shows that it takes students LONGER to read digital text than a hard-copy printout. Give your students experience reading online.

Access FREE resources

Create paired-text passages by adding an informational text article to the texts you’re already using. Check out these websites for FREE news articles, videos, and photos.

SKILL #3 Determine main ideas & theme

Support Main Idea with Textual Evidence

Define Theme

Theme is not simply a word or phrase. Those topical themes can be fleshed out into sentences specific to the text.

Watch eighth grade teacher Sara Johnson explain theme in four steps.

SKILL #4 Track relationships & interactions

Track Ideas in NONFICTION

Track Characters in LITERATURE

Analyze Character Development

SKILL #5 Interpret vocabulary

Look for context clues INSIDE an unfamiliar word.

  • A “root word” is any word part that carries meaning. Therefore, prefixes, suffixes, and bases are all examples of root words.

  • Introduce students to these three parts using the visual of a bicycle, as created by Beech Grove Middle School (Beech Grove, IN) teacher Sara Wiley.

  • Access root-word reference lists.

Look for context clues OUTSIDE an unfamiliar word.

Identify clues to infer word meanings.

  • Using WordMarks—bookmarks for words—students note unfamiliar words in their everyday reading and approximate their meanings using context clues.

  • Context clues include visuals, too. With the Vocabulary Cartoon of the Day series, students practice inferring word meanings using a situational sentence and an illustration.

High School/SAT

SKILL #6 Analyze physical text features

Identifying & using text features

Teach students that informational text has multiple entry points. Each text feature serves as a different place the reader can start reading and learning about the topic.

Watch the video directions for a digital scavenger hunt of text features (Answer sheet).

Infographs communicate a lot of information visually. Teach your students the different types using these mini-posters.

Students communicate what info they learned from a particular feature with Information T.H.I.E.V.E.S.

More than naming types of text features, students have to know how they support the reader. What new information did the text feature provide beyond what was learned in the main article?

SKILL #7 Analyze organizational text structure

Introduce 6 common text structures

Introduce the most common text structures to your students using this slide show (PDF version, PPT version, Smartboard version).

Recognize relationships

  • Transitions within the text signal to the reader that the writer is shifting ideas. But remember, lists provided to student-writers should sort transitions by text structure—not by alphabetical order. Access a list of transition words more appropriate for elementary students.

  • Help students discern what structure a text is written in by noting the signal words. By highlighting those words before you read, students begin associating certain transitions with particular text structures.

SKILL #8 Determine purpose, POV, & perspective

Define key terms

Distinguish between perspectives

Reveal examples of the same topic/issue as seen from different viewpoints.

Transition to looking at 2-3 AUTHORS’ texts using “What’s the Angle?” 

  • Identify the perspective of each author.

  • Provide details the author cites as evidence for his opinion.

  • Check out an example on three different texts written about the Gold Rush. Access the original texts as well.

Cite textual evidence

  • Like many other assessment questions, students need to root their inferences/answers in evidence.

  • Provide sentence starters for them to construct a short response.

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