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Pssa test taking strategies
Pssa test taking strategies
Pssa test taking strategies
Pssa test taking strategies
Pssa test taking strategies
Pssa test taking strategies
Pssa test taking strategies
Pssa test taking strategies
Pssa test taking strategies
Pssa test taking strategies
Pssa test taking strategies
Pssa test taking strategies
Pssa test taking strategies
Pssa test taking strategies
Pssa test taking strategies
Pssa test taking strategies
Pssa test taking strategies
Pssa test taking strategies
Pssa test taking strategies
Pssa test taking strategies
Pssa test taking strategies
Pssa test taking strategies
Pssa test taking strategies
Pssa test taking strategies
Pssa test taking strategies
Pssa test taking strategies
Pssa test taking strategies
Pssa test taking strategies
Pssa test taking strategies
Pssa test taking strategies
Pssa test taking strategies
Pssa test taking strategies
Pssa test taking strategies
Pssa test taking strategies
Pssa test taking strategies
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Pssa test taking strategies


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  • Objectives: to support student achievement on the upcoming PSSA Reading test by practicing research based test taking strategies proven to be effective with this test format to provide modeling and independent practice of these strategies using PSSA release tasks and classroom based multiple choice formats Materials: either an LCD projector to use the PowerPoint version of this presentation; an overhead projector and a set of overhead transparencies of this presentation; or paper copies of the slides for student use if the transparency version is used: paper to mask the transparencies, and overhead markers a student copy of the the release task embedded in this presentation: Release Task Grade 7 2007-08 Passage 1 “Cell Phones in Schools” pp. 4-9 (Constructed Response) highlighters, preferably yellow (or green, yellow, pink to practice Write Tools Reading Strategies – Summary)
  • Lesson Notes: This slide contains suggestions for ANY future exams of any type, including the upcoming PSSA. Question: Before revealing the checklist, ask students what are some things that they do the night before a test. Bullet 2: Protein is the preferred fuel of the brain. It also burns longer than carbohydrates, such as breads, donuts, and chips. Protein helps to avoid mid-morning fatigue. If students are hungry, that becomes the focus of their attention. Bullet 3: Arriving flustered because students are late is not a good mental state with which to approach the test. Later, on tests such as the SAT, they won’t be admitted to take the test if they are late. Bullet 4: On the actual PSSA in March, students will get a stretch break. Stretching helps with circulation to the brain, and releases physical fatigue. Being physically uncomfortable is distracting.
  • `Lesson Notes: Bullet 1: The best way to fight nervousness is practice . If students are prepared, they will feel more at ease. That means paying attention to and participating in the reading strategies taught in class, as well as the test-taking strategies taught in lessons like this one. Bullet 2: If students personalize the test by seeing it as a competition between the test maker and themselves, it can activate the healthy competitive instinct that they use in sports and gaming (video games, etc.). They may even find it helpful to visualize themselves playing against a character. Bullet 3: There is no way that test makers can include passages that are of interest to everyone.
  • Lesson Notes : Before revealing each bullet item, ask students what they anticipate the answer to be. They probably have experience from last year. For complete details on the test please see the Reading Assessment Handbook January update available in our Professional Development website’s PSSA Library. Have students decide from these figures what they need to really focus on for the best results. REMEMBER: THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BASIC AND PROFICIENT IS 1 POINT.
  • Lesson Notes: Ask students what they do when multiple choice tests are on their desk and they were told to begin. Discuss some student generated ideas before going on to the next slide of suggested activities. Test as Genre: The primary goal of these Before Reading Strategies is to set a distinct purpose for reading . In the case of a multiple choice test, the purpose for reading is different than for any other type of reading students are asked to do – a genre in itself. Procedural Note: If you are using the PowerPoint version of this lesson, you will now need to ready the overhead to project the transparency copy of your model test. You will alternate back and forth between projectors from here on, or project simultaneously if possible.
  • Lesson Notes: Bullet 1: Discuss with the students how looking at the length of the test is often frustrating and may create a negative attitude. Instead, they should think of it as preparing for a challenge; an opportunity to show off what they know . Again, it is helpful to think of it as a competition with the test makers. Students should be forewarned that they should not open any standardized test (SAT especially) until they are directed to do so. They should also NOT look any test other than the one that they will take in the session. Bullet 2: The test is already divided into parts. Students have the time to take a minute between passages to take a few deep breaths, to stretch in their seats, and to clear their minds. Bullet 3: Examples of subgenres would be a particular type of fiction or nonfiction. We know that the passages will include one each of narrative, poem, informational, and essay/ editorial. In addition there will be either one autobiography/biography OR one practical/how-to/advertisement. Generate dialogue about the types of questions students would expect for each of these . Examples: informational passage questions may include main idea, supporting details, text organization, author’s purpose narrative questions may include conflict, point of view, theme, characterization, inferences poetry questions may include figurative language, narrator, theme, tone, poetic devices practical/how-to questions may include sequencing, text organization, interpretation of graphics, author’s purpose advertisement questions may include propaganda/bias, fact and opinion, author’s purpose autobiography/biography questions may include author’s purpose, point of view, sequencing, main idea of a paragraph, text organization For all genres expect vocabulary questions.
  • Lesson Notes: Bullet 1: This strategy uses short term memory . You may want to use the example of mentally holding a phone number for a short period of time. What students highlight or underline should be held in this way; therefore, the activity needs to be quick to be effective. Otherwise, students will be attempting to hold too much information for too long. Bullet 2: The use of highlighters is highly encouraged . Students should have a highlighter on their desks at this time. If highlighters are not available, students may underline using a pencil. Bullet 3: Unusual words that are only likely to show up once or twice in the passage are the ones to look for here. If the passage is about Einstein, highlighting his name will NOT be useful since it is likely to occur very frequently.
  • Highlight as little as possible. This is for short-term memory support key operative words (eligible content words) odd words that they might recall again when they see them in the passage such as the name Sara Jackson Milford. Locations (in the 3 rd paragraph, at the end of the story, etc) Suggested Instructional Methods : You may wish to do this as a whole group or model a few then let students work independently, pair share and share with whole class discussion
  • Lesson Notes : Discuss each of the bulleted points and then apply them to the constructed response on the model test. The constructed response usually breaks into 2-3 distinct tasks. Students will be asked to identify these later in the presentation.
  • Don’t forget that the Constructed Response it a question!!! It’s worth 3 points (MC is worth 1 apiece) Highlight the parts of the prompt: What are they asking for? What are the support statement requirements? Ask students which skill they are being asked to perform. This is characterization, but between 2 informational text, so it is counted as connections (inferences) between nonfiction texts
  • Lesson Notes: Activity: Ask students to turn their papers over and try to remember as many words as possible that they highlighted from the MC and CR stems. After completing this activity, have students quickly look over their highlighting. This points out short term memory. They need to begin reading immediately. Before turning to the passage, remind students that everything to this point has been in preparation for reading, setting a purpose.
  • Lesson Notes: Bullet 4: Ask, “How may of your are willing to reread a whole passage?” and “How many would reread a paragraph?” Have students share experiences with having read a large chunk of material and not knowing what they read- “spacing out”. Share your own too. Stopping to restate, and reread if necessary, will prevent having to reread a large amount of text. Bullet 5: If students are familiar with the Write Tools training, have them make that connection: the key points are the “yellows.”
  • Lesson Notes: Bullet 1: The biggest distinction to make for students is that they highlight for different purposes. When they highlight for study purposes, they will highlight what they think is important. When they highlight for a multiple choice test, they highlight what they know relates to the previewed questions. Bullet 2: On the PSSA, vocabulary words are always underlined in the passage and the question. Students may or may not choose to highlight them Bullet 3: Use an example from your pre reading highlighting of the questions Bullet 4: Use an example from your pre reading highlighting of the questions Bullet 5: The Rule of 5 is from the Write Tools; students should highlight no more than 5 words in a line. Now that the highlighting strategies have been discussed, go to the passage and begin to read chunking and highlighting according to the strategies reviewed on the previous 2 slides.
  • Start at the top of the page. Genre can often be found in top box. Knowing this helps set purpose. Title often cues main idea and topic Have students segment the text to make stops for themselves Write a 1 line summary of the paragraph as you go. Highlight only what you recall from your preview from of the questions. Sara Jackson Milford was in the questions, so highlight if it’s remembered. Write Tools organizational practices should be noticed here by students who have used them Persuasive structure should be noticed here by students who wrote successfully in this mode or who had a proficient piece analyzed/modeled for them. Also a Write Tools connection. Comply is highlighted, but so is the context around it. Instructional Strategies : You may wish to model 1 or 2 paragraphs and then let students finish the article, or if need be support students throughout the 2 editorials working as a group. To use the DL pattern , after modeling 2-3 paragraphs or one editorial, have students work independently to finish, pair share, then share out margin notes. Segment independently
  • Lesson Notes : Ask students what they do first when they finish reading. We often assume that they will tackle the multiple choice first, but some may prefer to start with the constructed response. This lesson starts with the multiple choice strategies. Ask what strategies they already use for multiple choice questions efore revealing the next slide. Procedural Note : If this presentation needs to be divided in half, this is a good stopping point. A quick review of the previous highlighting and strategies would be needed to begin here for the next lesson.
  • Lesson Notes: Remind students that all of the answers, or clues to the answers (if the questions are inferential), are in the text . If they go back to look at the selection and their highlighting , their chance of choosing the correct answers is greatly improved.
  • Lesson Notes: You might want to begin discussion of this strategy with an analogy : Think of the answer choices as a menu. If you’re hungry and go into a restaurant not knowing what you want, everything on the menu starts to look good. If you go in with an idea of what you want, then making your selection is much easier. If you know what you want before you look at the answer choices (menu), it makes the correct answer more obvious, increases your confidence, and saves time. Discuss each bullet with your students, then go to the model test questions and apply the strategy where possible . It should be obvious when this strategy can’t be used; make this clear to students.
  • Lesson Notes: There are significantly less literal questions on the PSSA as the grade level increases (65-85% literal in grade 3 to 50-70% in grade 11). However, evidence leading to the correct answer is present in the text for EVERY question on the test. Let students know that EVERY question on the PSSA is directly related to the passage. The answer should NOT come from what you think is so in “real life”, but from what the passage suggests. For example: If the passage suggests that (a) advertising is the primary reason that teens choose a certain brand, and the student disagrees with the article, believing that it is (c) price, they will select the wrong answer to the question, “According to the passage, what is the primary reason teens choose a certain brand of …? Now go through the questions again applying this strategy to either all of the questions or the ones that were not answered in the first round.
  • Lesson Notes: Reread aloud the section of the passage that relates to the question, then verbalize your thinking process, or ask students to do so, as you eliminate distracters following the guidelines above. Bullet 2 – To “fact check” scan for each answer choice and check back within the passage to see if it is true. Often something little will be changed that makes the answer wrong, or an inference is made in the answer choice that is not supported in the passage. Bullet 3 – Be careful with this one. It is a common pattern that test makers use, but sometimes both choices are wrong. Bullet 4- Often the sentence containing the vocabulary word is reprinted above the answer choices. This makes substitution easier, but encourage it even if it means flipping back to the passage.
  • Lesson Notes: You may want to tell students that research shows that our “gut feeling” may be information that our brain has retained subconsciously. Ask how many students have changed an answer, only to discover later that their first choice was correct.
  • You may wish to do all questions as a group, or have students work independently, after modeling one or 2, pair share and shart with class. Suggested Question Rationales : 1. All points are in the 3 rd paragraph, but all are details except for C; it’s is the main idea of them all. 2. Go to 1 st article and find it. SJM is a teen actress. The author’s reason for including her is C 3. Eliminate D – it’s not Q&A Eliminate A – it’s just false B and C are left. Is it a problem solution C or does it describe reasons for cell phones and + effects? B 4. “For their own good”, do students need to follow , memorize, enjoy , or understand school policy? It seems to come down to follow and understand. Which seems most likely from a school rep.? Which follows best from the tone “for their own good?” A
  • Passage is copied for students which is common in PSSA. Restate: Why is this weak? A. doesn’t relate to the quote. The quote is about students not cells B. He’s assuming kids are forgetful…is that something that isn’t always so? Maybe dot. C. Maybe D. Again, it’s not about cells. Eliminate A and D We know that would not work – too sure of himself…which seems best? B This is a very tough one!!! The answer is B This is something that they should know from study of Point of View. 1 st person is personal, individual, subjective. If they learned this there is only one answer that relates to this, A Make sure that your choice has both sides in it. Only D recognizes a solid point of the opposition: Cells are good for communicating with parents. D
  • 7. It doesn’t describe how schools handle cells. Eliminate One talks about contributions. Eliminate Do we get the author’s personal cell experience? Maybe… Do both present a viewpoint? Yes. D
  • Lesson Notes: Discuss the bulleted notes.
  • Lesson Notes: Discuss the points above.
  • Lesson Notes: Discuss the points above.
  • Lesson Notes: The two biggest problems with student responses are: They only answer part of the question (resulting in a 2). They give a summary of the passage regardless of the prompt (resulting in a 1).
  • Lesson Notes : Bullet 1 – There are always at least 2 parts of the question/prompt Bullet 2 – The PSSA always gives a specific number of required text details in each prompt Bullet 3 – Listing text details is not enough for a 3. You must tie them to your point and they have to support your point. Bullet 4 – Students often begin by responding to the prompt then veer off onto a personal experience, which then the central part of their response. The PSSA no longer asks for personal connections. They should be VERY careful about including personal anecdotes of any kind, but if they do, it should be short and support their main point.
  • Lesson Notes : Ask students what kinds of graphic organizers they already know how to use before revealing those on this slide. Ask what they would use to compare 2 things. On the PSSA, students are very often asked to compare and/or contrast aspects of 2 passages.. Please note: This is the first year that students MAY be asked to compare and contrast; they need to be familiar with using a Venn diagram Some Other Graphic Organizers Take a piece of scratch paper and fold it like a letter into as many sections as there are tasks to do. Answer each task using 1 section of the paper. Create a web. Draw a central circle with the thesis statement and then one circle for each text detail that supports the theses. Now, as a group, create a graphic organizer for the response to the prompt on the model test.
  • Lesson Notes : Make the following clear : The most common misconception is that the Constructed Response is evaluating writing ability; it is not. The student’s response is evaluated in terms of what it reveals about their comprehension of the passage(s). It’s what they say, not how they say it. Misspellings, sentence fragments, lack of paragraphing, etc. should not affect the score. However, it is common sense that a response that is clear and easy to read will best showcase what it is student is saying about the passage.
  • Constructed Response Tips Use key words in the prompt to form your topic sentence. It will keep you focused on answering the actual question rather than lapsing into a summary. Find the appropriate examples to match your claim. Find the right number required Always explain WHY your example is a good example. Believe it or not, this would be a 3 (Proficient)
  • Transcript

    • 1. PSSA Test Taking Strategies for Multiple Choice and Constructed Response
    • 2. Prepare Physically and Mentally
    • 3. Be Physically Ready
      • Get a good night’s sleep before the test. This should take priority over entertainment options.
      • The morning of the test, eat a breakfast that includes protein: eggs, bacon, peanut butter, cheese, yogurt, tofu, etc.
      • BE ON TIME.
      • Stretch during testing breaks .
    • 4. Be Mentally Prepared
      • Being nervous or not caring, ruins your performance.
      • Remember, the passages
      • were not chosen to entertain you.
      • Keep yourself engaged through
      • active reading, highlighting, and
      • writing margin notes.
      • Be competitive with the test
      • makers, not intimidated by them.
    • 5. The PSSA Format
      • Knowing the test’s design can help you strategically.
      • There are 6 tests on this year’s PSSA:
        • 3 Math
        • 3 Reading
      • You will alternate, starting with Math.
      • On the 3 Reading sections, you will answer a total of:
        • 66 Multiple Choice Questions
        • 6 constructed Response Questions
    • 6. Before Reading Strategies
      • The test is on your desk.
      • What do you do now?
    • 7. Open the Proper Mental “Files”
      • When you are told to start, scan the test section you are working on.
      • Think of the test as several small jobs - not one big one.
      • Identify the type of reading, writing, science, or math you will be answering questions about. Get your head into the right mindset.
    • 8. Scavenger Hunt
      • Read the questions before reading the passage. Save time and do not read the answer choices.
      • Highlight key words in each question such as: “main idea,” “compare,” or “in the beginning of the passage…”.
      • Also highlight any unusual words or words you are unsure of. You can try to use context clues from the reading passage or the answer choices to determine the meaning later.
    • 9.  
    • 10.  
    • 11.  
    • 12. Constructed Response
      • Read the constructed response prompt or “essay” question before you start reading the passage.
      • Highlight or underline things you are asked to do, statements like:
        • Explain the main idea...
        • Describe the character...
        • Use 3 examples from the passage...
      • Keep the prompt in the back of your mind while you are reading.
      • During reading, you can mark places in the passage that you could use in your response.
    • 13.  
    • 14. During Reading Strategies
    • 15. Active Reading Strategies
      • Always read the text in the box at the top of the first page and any footnote. The main idea and more are often stated in the box, and the genre or source is often revealed in the footnote.
      • Read in chunks , stopping frequently to self-check comprehension. Ask yourself, “What is happening in this part?”
      • Silently restate the main idea/ key point in your mind.
      • If you can’t restate it, REREAD IT until you can. This way you’ll catch where you stopped understanding, and you’ll be more willing to reread a chunk than the whole piece.
      • Label it . Highlight or make a margin note of the main idea/ key point . This will help you locate relevant parts of the passage when you’re answering the questions, including the constructed response.
    • 16. Highlighting Strategies
      • We all know to highlight what’s important as we read,
      • but what is important?
      • highlight only main ideas/key points and text that match the questions.
      • highlight any sentence that contains
      • the unusual words that you highlighted in the
      • questions. The answer is probably right there.
      • don’t worry about vocabulary words; they will
      • already be underlined in the text.
      • Highlight areas that address questions regarding
      • main idea , theme , conflict , character traits , etc. and make
      • notes in the margins.
      • Caution: Too much highlighting defeats the purpose of
      • highlighting.
    • 17. Main idea clue Genre He’s for cell phones 1 st reason = safety 2 nd reason = simplify life for everyone #3 Shaky…pics can Help with vandalism #4 Fla did it. Concl. the times Are changing
    • 18. Against cells Reason #1= fisrupt class & kids forget to turn off #2 Shaky-May cause danger #3 Cheating Conc= No for safety and learning env.
    • 19. After Reading Strategies
    • 20. First of all...
      • It’s not cheating; you have the time, and why else did you highlight?
    • 21. Pretend It’s Not Multiple Choice
      • Cover the answers and read the question to see if you can answer it on your own.
      • Now, read ALL of the answer choices .
      • See if any of the choices match your prediction.
      • If your prediction isn’t one of the choices, reread the question; you may have misread.
      • Double check your answer by going back to the text for evidence.
    • 22. Where’s the Answer? Sometimes it’s just a matter of knowing where to look.
      • In the text: Some questions are “right there” on the page. To find these literal questions, simply go back to the text. If you’ve highlighted text that matches the questions, the answer might be staring right at you .
      • Between me and the text: Even if the
      • question isn’t literal, support or evidence for your
      • inference is in the text. Go to the section that relates
      • to that question to make a supportable inference.
      • Main ideas of a passage are usually
      • found in the first paragraph of informational
      • texts. Look there and in the title for stated
      • or implied main ideas .
      • To find the theme , reread the end
      • of the passage, and ask yourself, “What
      • lesson was taught?”
    • 23. Eliminate Distracters Increase Your Odds
      • If more than one choice seems true, then one of them doesn’t answer that specific question. Reread the stem to see which to eliminate.
      • If two answers are opposites, one is often the correct answer .
      • Fact Check. Read each answer, and check it in the passage.
      • Cross out those that are obviously wrong – if any.
      • Some answers are partially true. If any part of the answer is false,
      • eliminate it.
      • For vocabulary , substitute each answer choice for the word in
      • the passage to narrow your options .
      • Rephrase the question: “In other words, what I’m looking for
      • is...”
      • Go back to the section that relates to the question .
    • 24. I’ve Tried All That And Still Don’t Have A Clue
      • If you cannot figure out the answer by using the text and strategies within a few minutes, go with your first impression. Don’t leave it blank . You run the risk of incorrectly numbering the rest of the test.
      • Circle the questions you’re unsure of,
      • even though you’ve answered them. Go
      • back when you’re done with the section
      • and take a fresh look. Sometimes,
      • later questions help to answer earlier
      • ones.
      • Research shows that first instincts are
      • often correct, but we tend to second
      • guess ourselves.
    • 25. Go There Highlighted Go there! Go There and Read context. Substitute each Eliminate those that Don’t match text.
    • 26. 2 possible answers! If you don’t know what 1 st person POV is good for, you won’t get this one. Find the one that recognizes the other side
    • 27. This is an author’s purpose. The answer has to apply to BOTH
    • 28.
      • Bubbling Advice
      • A dull pencil works best ; it’s faster and does not snap off or tear the paper.
      • DO NOT press so hard that you can’t completely erase the bubble.
      • Make sure that the center of the bubble is filled in; the scanner reads from the center of the bubble.
      • Erase all stray marks and smudges. They may be read as answers.
    • 29. Review = Damage Control
      • Go back to make sure that you’ve answered all of the questions.
      • Erase all stray marks and smudges. Scanners read from left to right and stop at the first answer; they may read a stray mark or smudge as your answer!
      • If you have extra or too few answer lines, there is a big problem. Most of your answers will be wrong unless you:
      • Locate the skipped line or answer.
      • Erase thoroughly.
      • Recopy your answers.
    • 30. Remember :
      • The multiple choice section counts for the majority of your score.
      • Careless errors, skipped questions, and smudges can be very damaging.
      • The difference between basic and proficient boils down to missing just one less question!
    • 31. The Constructed Response
      • Give them what they want!
    • 32. The Constructed Response
      • The most important thing to know is that your comprehension is what’s being evaluated not the quality of writing.
      • You must answer all parts of the question .
      • You must include the right number of specific details from the text to support your answer.
      • You must tell why your text details support your answer.
      • You should not include things that have little to do with the passage, like your personal experiences, unless they tie DIRECTLY to the question.
    • 33. Writing Your Constructed Response Essay
      • Step 2: Planning
      • You will be given scratch paper during the PSSA, but you will NOT be told what to do with it. That’s up to you.
      • You should automatically think:
      Graphic Organizer
      • Decide what works best for
      • your ideas.
    • 34. Writing Your Constructed Response Essay
      • Step 4: Completing the Response
      • Transfer your response from your scratch paper to the test booklet when you feel that it answers the prompt completely.
      • Use your best writing skills even though your writing ability is not being scored on the PSSA Reading test.
      • Express your ideas using vocabulary with which you are most familiar . Simple clearly explained ideas are the best.
      • Do NOT copy directly from the reading selection. This is not the answer they are looking for. Your own words must create the response.
    • 35. The word that I would use to describe both the student and the school representative is logical. An example of the student being logical is that he said that cell phones are needed for safety. A parent might need to get in touch with a child in an emergency. The school representative is also logical when he says that cell phones ringing in class will cause disruptions since kids will forget to turn them off. Use the words In the prompt to Form your topic Sentence. Example of logic from 1 st one Example of logic from 2nd one