In a few weeks we will get back the results of our students’ Stanford Achievement Tests. As I administered the test I was once again taken aback by the structure of the test. The test is a measure of education, of course, but I think that some non-educational (by this I mean “not at school”) training can help your child to do well on the test. If you think this information is coming too late for this year’s SATs, you are right, but you can also start training now for next year. And the summer is the perfect time to do so. I am not suggesting that you run to a store and buy practice tests. Even as a teacher I would not ask you to torment your children in that way! However, I have a couple of suggestions that are fun and rather painless and can help your son or daughter to learn even while not in school.
Get this: 4 of the 10 SAT subtests deal with concepts and skills that we typically associate with English class. These are: spelling, language, reading comprehension, and reading vocabulary. The best way that I can think to “study” for these tests is to READ. During the summer I suggest reading books that are at or slightly above your child’s (or children’s) grade level. Many schools have summer reading lists. The idea has been kicked around at Baymonte and at this point we do not have a mandated program. However, many schools (or school districts) have their summer reading lists posted on-line, so you can easily find out what other schools suggest and see if any of those books work for your child. Mrs. Upton also has a voluntary reading program through the Baymonte Library and can make suggestions based on your son or daughter’s interests.
A second way to “study” for standardized tests is to encourage your son or daughter to BE OBSERVANT. You can learn a lot simply by investigating your world. If you watch TV and a reference is made to a Constitutional issue, encourage your son or daughter to find out what the Constitution is or, taking it to the next level, what amendment or Article is under consideration. Many of you will take vacations this summer. As you travel, especially if you go on road trips, I suggest unplugging the DVD and not allowing the kids to isolate themselves with their ipods and instead make the effort to interact with each other. Conversations, telling stories, and stopping at interesting road-side vistas or attractions can help with learning about the world around us (helpful for the test on both the social science and science) and the interaction helps with listening (called “listening comprehension” on the standardized test).
Many education specialists lament the summer break because children lose many of skills and much of the knowledge that they gained during the previous 9.5 months in school. But if you encourage your children to read literature at or slightly above grade level, to converse with you about the world, and to develop the ability to observe our world, you will be not only a good teacher but also a parent who has grown closer to your children. That sounds like a “win-win” to me.