I thought we might have realised that Naplan doesn’t really achieve that much and have decided, as they have done in the US and the UK, to do away with these tests but, we haven’t. Therefore, it’s that time of year to think about some of the ways that we can all help students prepare for these tests.
Most schools incorporate some ‘bolt-on’ preparation which takes the form of special time allocated for test preparation. The teaching of skills related to Naplan is decontextualised and the preparation seen to be separate from what is happening in mainstream classrooms. Usually, the responsibility for Naplan Preparation is assigned to the English teachers (literacy) and the Maths teachers (numeracy). Teachers who do not teach these subjects, or primary teachers who teach years not affected by the tests, generally are not required to contribute to the preparation or see it as part of their role. In ‘bolt-on’ sessions, students are taught to be test-wise and this may include such practices as time-allocation, tackling the easier questions first, planning a written response, checking answers, etc. Test preparedness may include attending to students’ well-being and reducing anxiety; something that many schools do.
‘Built-in preparation’ is where teachers teach, and students learn, the skills that Naplan is testing. One of the reasons that I do not object to Naplan per se is that it tests skills that are worth having. For example, the ability to comprehend information, structure a piece of writing, interpret a graph or table, recognise correct and incorrect spelling, use accurate punctuation and grammar are all worthwhile skills and skills that enhance students’ learning in all curriculum areas. Therefore, developing these and other skills is worth doing - not purely for Naplan. Also, all teachers can play their part in developing these skills as part of a whole school approach to literacy and numeracy, something that schools are required to enact.
My experience tells me that our ‘bolt-on’ preparation is generally better than our ‘built-in’ so over the coming weeks, I’ll share some of the ways in which Naplan preparation can be ‘built’ in to each and every lesson drawing on ideas from, Hooking Students into Learning … in all curriculum areas.
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