Friday Dialogue from
Your Two Favorite Educators
As Emily and Aubrey look back over the week they use their razor sharp wit to analyze the nature of high-stakes testing.
1.) A lot of the “Analyze an Issue” prompts are about education. How would you respond to the below prompt if you encountered it on the GRE exam:
“Educators should take students’ interests into account when planning the content of the courses they teach.”
Aubrey: Student interest/engagement should be a significant consideration in how an educator plans their course. However, it is idealistic to believe that all lessons and coursework will always be high interest. Good education demands rapport between teachers and students more than lesson plans that focus solely on “hooks” and novelties. Note: It seems especially important to remember this in light of my painful experience teaching The Jungle this past week.
Emily: Oh…The Jungle. I know it is good but man is that an energy suck! Every time I had to teach it I felt like I lost part of my soul by Chapter 6. Great writing, Sinclair, but you sure know how to kill a smile.
2.) The premise of this week is the GRE exam writing section; however, it brings up questions about the validity of standardized testing. What is your position on whether or not testing reflects ability?
Aubrey: I would like to qualify. I think student responses to essay questions reflect ability. Good writing is good writing. While I would like them to have more time to write I still think written responses are able to clearly reflect complexity and sophistication of student thought. However, I’m not always sure that multiple choice is a fair assessment. There are times when multiple choice feels more like a “game” than an accurate understanding of student ability.
Emily: Maybe it is because I’m bad at multiple choice tests (which makes me hate testing in any form), but I agree. I feel like universities requiring the GRE for admission into a graduate education program is contradictory and silly. Yeah, I said it: silly. I understand that there is a certain degree of intelligence needed to thrive in a collegiate setting (thus necessitating the ACT, SAT, GRE, etc), but I feel like it should have minimal weight on the overall application.
3.) GRE. ACT. SAT. The acronyms extend beyond standarized testing to the classroom too. Between SOAPSTone and DIDLS it’s clear the education world loves acronyms just as much. I task you to create your own acronym that symbolizes your teaching or your classroom.
Aubrey: It is unfortunate that the acronym for Stop Bothering Me Immediately (SBMI) isn’t prettier to say. Instead it sounds like a way to measure someone’s weight or tell them they have high cholesterol. It’s the best I have to offer in light of the fact that we’ve had no snow days or delays and it’s the end of quarter.
Emily: I think “SBMI” rolls off the tongue, Aubrey. It’s a great acronym. And I kind of like that it sounds like a perverse BMI reading. It adds to the creepiness of the statement, which will produce the same weird look from your students.
While the GRE prompts and suggestions for this week are great for an AP English Language class because of the focus on argument, these prompts could also work really well when partnered with literature. The pool of “Analyze an Issue” prompts tend to work better when pairing with literature because of the nature of the prompts and the brevity of the statements. The beauty of these prompts is that they could be used at any point within a novel; however, I think they serve as an excellent way to introduce the text. Similar to what was stated yesterday, I struggle to write my own quality statements for anticipation guides; they tend to be generic and fairly short-sighted. Now I just use GRE prompts because they are complex enough to generate really meaningful discussion.
Consider using some of the suggestions on Tuesday and Wednesday to incorporate the below prompts as a form of an anticipation guide or use some of the suggestions from our week on anticipation guides. You could have the students thoroughly analyze or debate one of the below issues or compile multiple statements into for students to consider the extent to which they agree with each.
TEXTS WITH MAN v. SOCIETY CONFLICT-like The Great Gatsby, Grapes of Wrath, Pygmalion, and Crime and Punishment
- People’s behavior is largely determined by forces not of their own making.
- Claim: The best way to understand the character of a society is to examine the character of the men and women that the society chooses as its heroes or its role models. Reason: Heroes and role models reveal a society’s highest ideals.
- The increasingly rapid pace of life today causes more problems than it solves.
TEXTS WITH MAN v. SELF CONFLICT-like Death of a Salesman, Catcher in the Rye, Hamlet, and Lord of the Flies
- Unfortunately, in contemporary society, creating an appealing image has become more important than the reality or truth behind that image.
- As we acquire more knowledge, things do not become more comprehensible, but more complex and mysterious.
- It is primarily through our identification with social groups that we define ourselves.
- The luxuries and conveniences of contemporary life prevent people from developing into truly strong and independent individuals.
TEXTS WITH MAN V MAN CONFLICT-like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, A Separate Peace, and To Kill a Mockingbird
- Claim: We can usually learn much more from people whose views we share than from those whose views contradict our own. Reason: Disagreement can cause stress and inhibit learning.
- In any situation, progress requires discussion among people who have contrasting points of view.
- Scandals are useful because they focus our attention on problems in ways that no speaker or reformer ever could.
TEXTS WITH POLITICAL UNDERCURRENTS: like All the King’s Men, Fahrenheit 451, Animal Farm, and Julius Caesar
- The well-being of a society is enhanced when many of its people question authority.
- Governments should not fund any scientific research whose consequences are unclear.
- Leaders are created by the demands that are placed on them.
- Claim: In any field—business, politics, education, government—those in power should step down after five years. Reason: The surest path to success for any enterprise is revitalization through new leadership.
- Some people believe that in order to be effective, political leaders must yield to public opinion and abandon principle for the sake of compromise. Others believe that the most essential quality of an effective leader is the ability to remain consistently committed to particular principles and objectives.
Category: Argument Analysis
Tags: A Separate Peace
, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
, All the King's Men
, Animal Farm
, Catcher in the Rye
, Crime and Punishment
, Death of a Salesman
, Fahrenheit 451
, Grapes of Wrath
, Julius Caesar
, Lord of the Flies
, The Great Gatsby
, to kill a mockingbird
One thing I struggle with as an AP teacher is relying too heavily on the released exam prompts. When I do, I find that I run out of viable prompts for students to use during timed writings and that I end up teaching too much to the test and not the variety of skills needed for strong argument analysis. The materials that I create on my own are good and interesting but do not generate as much discussion as the AP-released materials. This is another reason why I love incorporating the GRE prompts into my classroom. The prompts are complex enough and the arguments intricate enough to adequately replace the AP prompts and still challenge my students to think about the minute details associated with argument analysis. Read more
Yesterday we detailed the two different types of argument prompts included on the GRE test, both of which can easily be incorporated into any classroom. However, the first step of argument analysis is making sure the students have a deep understanding of the argument itself. They can’t be asked to analyze the implications, evaluate the logical soundness, or propose a solution to the argument unless they have a clear and cogent and accurate comprehension of the actual argument. As a result, we need to expose them to a variety of complex arguments (like the ones presented on the GRE test) and ask them to identify the central argument. Read more
Yes, I’m a teacher. Yes, I’m 32. And, yes, I’m one of the lowest paid 32-year-old teachers I know. However, this isn’t because of my district’s pay scale or the economy-induced pay freezes. It is because I don’t have anything but a Bachelor’s degree. It’s not that I didn’t want a Master’s degree during my last 9 years of teacher or that I was too busy. I just didn’t know what field I wanted to pursue. After debating various degrees (including a brief glimpse into Library Sciences), I finally settled on Curriculum/Instruction. I was relieved to have finally have an avenue to pursue. There’s no turning back! Read more