Always start with what they know…
Imagine expecting a baby to run before he or she learns to crawl. While this seems preposterous, it is no different than expecting a third grader to explain how key details support the main idea when the student does not possess a secure understanding of the difference between main idea and details. This illustrates the need for what we refer to as “back it up”.
We have found that our students meet with the greatest success when given the opportunity to begin at their independent level of understanding. One thing we have learned along the way is to never assume they have mastered a particular skill based solely on grade level objectives.
Requiring students to write a response to reading without providing explicit instruction on how to craft their responses is essentially a test of a students’ innate ability rather than testing whether or not the student has responded to instruction. This is another example supporting our “back it up” philosophy.
In short, what students actually know and understand does not always align with grade level curriculum. While this is applicable to all learners, it is particularly true for students in intervention.
If the instruction does not begin at the student’s current level of mastery, there may be gaps in their learning. This could lead to a curriculum disability which could then be misinterpreted as a learning disability.
Testing for the sake of testing is not a good use of time nor does it inform instruction. However, carefully designed pre-assessments can provide teachers with information regarding their students’ current levels of understanding and help guide instruction.
Our future posts aim to provide insight and support for designing lessons that provide a solid foundation for more complex skills.