Sunday 7: ACT “secrets,” access to relevant books, Nic Stone thank-you letters & more

Let’s get right into this week’s Sunday 7…

1.  The “secret” to improving ACT scores

To prepare for the ACT this spring, my high school juniors recently completed an English practice test. We decided to chunk the test over three class periods, which meant that each day I set a timer for 15 minutes and joined the students as we worked to complete 25 questions.

Then, we spent another 10-15 minutes reviewing answers, discussing test-taking strategies, and providing mini-lessons around specific skills.

By the end of the week, students had their first unofficial ACT score. The results? The majority of my 50+ juniors were at or above 21, the benchmark for college readiness, while the others were close – in the 18-20 range.

ACT scores

Does this guarantee that students will receive the same score on the real thing? Of course not. Is their success still worth celebrating? Absolutely!

“Mr. Amato, you make this ACT thing look really easy,” TJ told me this week.

And that’s the thing – English assessments aren’t complicated!

The test is easier when you read all the time, when you see yourself as a reader, when you have confidence in your reading ability, when you have the stamina to read silently for 45 consecutive minutes, when you’re comfortable with the test format, when you see the joy and value of reading, when you’ve been told that you will perform well…I could go on!

So, what’s the secret?! How can teachers and schools help students improve ACT scores?

There’s no magic formula or program, no set of texts or mandated curriculum that will do the trick. Instead, it’s a commitment to doing the little things, day in and day out, to build passionate and proficient readers.

And I believe this list is a good place to start:

top 10 tips

2. Article of the Week

If there’s one thing you read this week, make it this Ed Week interview with Jacqueline Woodson.

As Jacqueline states, “First and foremost, young people should be passionate about reading.”

So, how do we do that? How do we get young people passionate about reading?

Let’s start by making that the goal! Let’s start with all educators, schools, and communities working together to ensure that ALL of our students love to read. If we do that, the results (however you want to define them) will come.

If we want students to love reading, we need to give them access to relevant, engaging texts. As Jacqueline says, “If they don’t have access to books that speak to them, then we are already failing them.”

AA Lit Library

We need to help teachers develop diverse classroom libraries through both funding (good books aren’t cheap) and knowledge (many teachers don’t know what books to buy).

We need to make sure that all educators know about organizations like First Book and We Need Diverse Books and amazing authors Jason Reynolds. (Like Jacqueline, I’m shocked by the number of folks who still haven’t heard of Jason, but that’s a blog post for another day…)

We also need to make sure that that once teachers develop awesome libraries, they’re able to give students the time and space during the school day to read and celebrate the books they’ve worked so hard to get on their shelves. (There’s nothing worse than watching great books collect dust as students and teachers trudge through a scripted curriculum.)

3. Tweet of the Week

The good news is that there thousands of educators across the country who, like Jacqueline, believe that students deserve access to great books. My friend, Jessica Lingenfelter (@jessicatiara7), is one of them. And here’s what she tweeted this week:

Overheard at #ProjectLITBookClub: I haven’t read a book since 5th grade, then I got into Mrs. Lingenfelter’s class & she had cool books so I started reading again.

Sometimes it’s that simple…

4. Book store reflections

At the same time, as my wife and I spent a rainy Saturday morning at McKay’s Used Bookstore, I was reminded of two things: used books (especially the “cool” ones) aren’t cheap or easy to find.

Therefore, given the cost and scarcity of “cool” books, it’s no wonder many educators end up stocking their shelves with “blah” books (which is why I’m so excited to work alongside dozens of passionate Project LIT chapter leaders who are determined to change that).

McKays

5. Thank you, Nic

I touched on Nic Stone’s school visit in last week’s post, but I wanted to share a couple thank-you letters that our students wrote recently (there are dozens just like these):

Jay Thank You

And here’s another thank-you from Angel.

Angel Letter

6. Book of the Week

Excited to dive into the March trilogy with my students this month! It’s our next Project LIT Book Club selection, and we welcome all of you to join us in the Maplewood HS library on March 9!

march 1 and 2

7. Reminder: Project LIT Chat tonight!

We’d love for you to join us tonight (2-11) for our #ProjectLITchat on Twitter! Here’s a preview:

Twitter Chat questionsDon’t hesitate to reach out with any questions via email (jarred.amato@gmail.com) or Twitter (@jarredamato). Have a wonderful week, and as always, happy reading!

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Author: Jarred Amato

High school English teacher who is passionate about improving TN education, one book at a time.

One thought on “Sunday 7: ACT “secrets,” access to relevant books, Nic Stone thank-you letters & more”

  1. That’s great for your students in regards to their ACT successes!

    My students routinely show high growth on the end of year common core assessments. People in the building usually assume it’s all test prep I do with the kids. The truth, however, is that I do almost zero test prep. Just like you, I get the students to see themselves as readers by giving them time in class to read all year long, which makes the assessment feel far less daunting to them.

    Love your blog!

    Like

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