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State Assessments: How Do We Support Our Striving Readers?

     As 2019 begins, many of us are reflecting on the current school year. We started the year with a set of goals and expectations for our students. And, at the mid-point of the school year, we step back and reflect upon the content we have covered, the growth of our students, which then leads us to ask ourselves some important questions. Have I accomplished what I wanted yet with my learners? What else can I do to encourage them? How can I prepare them for the state assessment?  Having supported READ 180 and System 44 educators for nine years, I have spent time thinking about the last question asked. More importantly, I have developed helpful strategies on how best to support our striving learners to feel success on these assessments.

     Our striving learners have attained successful experiences already this school year. They have celebrated completing a segment or a series and turning that last page for the book that they chose. And, for several students, this may actually be the first completed book on their own. As educators, we applaud their achievements and support them in moments of challenge. Now as we begin to move into the second half of the year, how can begin to take these excitement achievements, milestones, and stamina developed to begin to best assist students as they prepare for state assessments?

     Through coaching in the classroom, I have partnered with teachers to discover helpful tools that have benefited learners. In Teacher Central, click on the green Resource Tab and search for “Assessment Strategies & Practice.” I guarantee that you will be jumping for joy once you do! There are nine skills available to support your students’ learning and preparation. 

Assessment Strategies & Practice

  • Identifying Key Ideas
  • Identifying Text Evidence
  • Reading Text Close
  • Chunking Long Sentences
  • Using Context and Morphology
  • Unlocking the Prompt
  • Analyze Text
  • Identifying Evidence Across Texts
  • Planning a Response

      Students benefit from multiple opportunities to practice these skills multiple times. To support planning for what lessons to focus on. Take a walk through a few students’ ReaL Books. Look for how students are responding to the questions on Key Ideas. How detailed are responses for Summarize? As you get the writing instruction, do students want to jump right into the brainstorming or do you have evidence that they are unlocking the prompts independently? Next as you begin downloading the lessons, take note that it will download as a zip folder with three passages, three annotated passages, one graphic organizer, and one teacher instructional packet.

Sample Teacher Instruction: 

*If you are implementing READ 180 Next Generation, you have a similar resources in the purple RDI 4 book (Resources for Differentiated Instruction). They can also be located on ITS (Interactive Teaching System) or in your teacher bookshelf.

     Now that you are excited to plan for test prep, you must be wondering when you may use these valuable resources. When do I fit this in?  Lessons like these are great in Whole or Small Group Instruction and can be completed between workshops or embedded between Part 1 and Part 2 or prior to the End of Workshop Assessment. In fact, adding this prior to the End of Workshop test may provide students an opportunity to practice using a strategy. In fact, I’ve worked with some READ 180 teachers that share these resources with their ELA teachers, as all students can benefit from these lessons.

     Another excellent way to support your students’ achievement on the state assessment is to provide them to opportunity to complete their Workshop Assessments online. The Workshop Assessment mirrors most state assessments as it’s using similar item types:

Workshop Assessment Item Types

  • Highlighting Text Selections
  • Multi-Answer Selected Response
  • Multi- Part Response
  • Matching
  • Selecting Answers via a Chart
  • Constructed Response and Extended Writing Options

Practicing how to maneuver question items like these will build students’ confidence for state assessments. They will gain experience in becoming familiar with the tool bars and technology. The experience will also allow students to focus their efforts into rereading and analyzing the above level text instead of directing their energy on navigating the technology.

A final suggestion is to conference with your students. Display their work and efforts give them a chance to how they completed the task and achieved the result. Share with students what Carol Dweck suggests, “Picture your brain forming new connections as you meet the challenge and learn. Keep on going.” 

Please share your suggestions and ideas, we would love to hear how you’ve supported your students too! What lesson are you going to download to today?


Meghan Brann has joyfully supported READ 180 and System 44 educators and students for 9 years. Having supported teachers in 15 different states, she’s seen numerous successful classroom settings. Where there is a will there is a way, even if that means teaching reading in the most creative of spaces! Meghan has been a consultant, project manager, and is currently a Manager of Professional Services at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. She partners with districts through implementation planning, data analytics, and most importantly supporting educators and students. Meghan believes that all scholars have the right to learn in an environment that is encouraging, caring, and rigorous.

  • Another excellent way to support your students’ achievement on the state assessment is toprovide them to opportunityto complete their Workshop Assessments online.

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