Wednesday, April 02, 2008

A Great Book to Support Test-Taking

PUT THINKING TO THE TEST is a new book coming out with Stenhouse this month. I was going to wait to review it until I had a hard copy but with test season upon us, I thought it was important to get the word out about this great book. It is due out on April 10, but you can read the entire book online now to get a sense of it and to get started thinking through tests with your students. (I love that Stenhouse lets me read bits of the book online while I am waiting for it to arrive. I am not a big fan of reading off of the computer but it helps me shop for books more effectively. When you read this one online, I imagine it will be one that you want to order so that you get it the minute that it becomes available!)

The authors took an inquiry stance to test taking and found effective ways to help their students think through the test genre. The authors are a group of teachers connected with the PEBC--the group that has done so much amazing research about the comprehension strategies. In this book, they have taken what they know about those same strategies and have worked with students to help them make sense of the test.

They begin the book by sharing their own experience--thinking through their own behaviors as test takers. Then they take you into classrooms to show how their own understanding helped them think through testing with their students, by looking at it as a specific genre.

There are not many books about testing that stay true to our beliefs about teaching. But PUT THINKING TO THE TEST does! For teachers who are committed to reading/writing workshops, for teachers who value the power of inquiry, this book is perfect for helping kids work through test taking skills in ways that are authentic and effective.

I started reading at the beginning. If you read the book online, I suggest doing the same. The first chapter explains the process that the authors went through in their own thinking about the genre of tests. Then, I read Chapter 2: Tests as A Genre. This chapter leads us through the introductory pieces of this unit in a classroom-helping kids notice things and learn about the test genre. I figure I will begin there this week and read as I teach. And hopefully, I will have my own copy of the book by the time that I get through a week or so of test prep stuff.

This book is one of the best I have seen on the topic recently. It is up to date in terms of the issues we are facing as teachers. And it takes the research that we know well--comprehension research--and uses it to help students make sense of test-taking. In a workshop classroom, this book makes sense. And the timing is perfect!


  1. I read the last chapter on Integrity and I am sold. As I remembered back to yesterday morning, sitting in yet another meeting, talking about how we can use our "Three Constructed Response Writings Scored By A Rubric Each Week" papers, I was slyly reminded of my own quote during the meeting...
    "All we are doing is teaching kids how to jump through hoops." Which is the exact quote I read in that last chapter.-- Hmmm... sounds like great minds think alike.

  2. Thanks so much for sharing this title! Very timely!!!
    I love both Megan's and the book's comments about kids jumping through hoops. How much better it is to teach our kids to understand the genre of tests and learn to be analytical thinkers.
    Can't wait to start reading online!


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