10 Things to Know About the SAT (and how that could translate for other grade levels)

SATA couple weeks ago I was in a meeting with all the secondary assistant principals in our district.  While we spent the first half of the meeting discussing things that are normally within the realm of the AP (school safety, student assistance and support, student attendance, etc.), we spent the second half of the meeting with our Director of Secondary Education.  One of the things we looked at during that meeting was a list of 10 Things to Tell Students About the Redesigned SAT.  While the students in my building are not taking the SAT, there were some great takeaways that could apply to teaching and learning at all levels.  This list comes from a presentation that Laurie Ferry of CIESC gave to some of the secondary teachers in our district.  Hopefully this list will allow you to think about the skills and needs that our students will have in the future as we prepare them to move forward in their education.

10 Things About the SAT:

  1. Register/Sign-up for Khan Academy – The College Board has teamed up with Khan Academy to offer SAT practice with the new exam, and the best part – it’s Free!!!  If your students are not yet taking the SAT, that may not sound valuable, there are some other cool things that Khan could offer you.  In the NWEA support section there is a series of documents that have been correlations between MAP sub-goals and RIT ranges to Khan Academy exercises.  If you don’t know much about Khan, ask around – many teachers have dipped their toes into the water with it.  Check out the correlations here: MAP to Khan Academy.
  2. Use evidence to support your arguments – Many of us work on this strategy in class, but we must keep working on it, especially in nonfiction reading.  Always encourage your students to go back to the text and think about where they found the information to support their thinking.
  3. Build your reading stamina – The only way to grow reading stamina is to spend time reading.  One of the important things about building stamina – the text needs to be self selected and high interest.  As you get to know your students, you will be able to help them select reading that is not only appropriate, but also interesting for them.
  4. Always analyze the informational graphics – When you are doing nonfiction reading in class, do you have text with lots of informational graphics?  The new test does, and questions will relate to information shared in those graphics.  Make sure you are taking the time in your class to analyze those graphics.  Don’t have a lot of text with informational graphics?  Start looking for some!  USA Today could be a great teaching tools.  If you haven’t picked it up in a while, you may not know this, but it is full of great informational graphics to go with the articles you find.
  5. Get excited about the U.S. Founding Documents – On the College Board website, it says “The Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section of the newly redesigned SAT embodies the College Board’s firm commitment to the idea that all students should be asked routinely to engage with texts worthy of close attention and careful analysis… nowhere it is more evident than in the Reading Test’s inclusion of U.S. founding documents and texts from the Great Global Conversation.”  Even at younger levels, be looking for ways to integrate readings of primary source documents into your instruction.  The sooner we begin analyzing text like this, the more successful students will become.
  6. Practice editing – On the new SAT in the writing and language portion, students will look at a passage of writing to consider how they might revise the piece to improve the expression of ideas.  In other questions, you may have to edit to correct errors in sentence structure, usage, or punctuation.
  7. Put away the calculators (some of the time) – This has a two part purpose.  First, students need to become adept at figuring out when the math is simple enough that the calculator is not actually necessary, thereby decreasing the time spent on the problem.  Students will need to be able to analyze the question to understand how much effort actually needs to go into the question.  Second, the new tests limit the use of calculators on the math portion of the test, which means our students will need to be able to solve a variety of problems without the help of a calculator.
  8. Check your answers – Students need to take the time to analyze their work and be certain that the answer they have provided actually answers the questions asked.  Encourage your students to review their work to be sure that they are correct.
  9. Answer every question on the test – This is not just about finishing, but about time management.  Part of the test will actually challenge our students to analyze a question and decide how much time actually needs to be spent on it.  There will be problems and questions with really dense text, but the problem or question at the end will be really simple to answer.  Students can’t spend long periods of time on the “simple” questions.
  10. Take the SAT – With tests like the SAT, the more times you take it, the better you are likely to do.  Start integrating sample questions and problems from these types of tests as a problem of the day or problem of the week so that students can see they types of questions that will appear.  This will allow our students to learn how to attack the types of problems they are likely to see on the test.  Think how excited your younger students would be to have “solved” a problem from a test that high school kids will be taking.

Obviously, this is just a list of thoughts and ideas based on the thoughts of others and my understanding.  As you gain understandings and insights on this, let us know about your thinking.  Share with us the insights you have made while reading this post in the comments below.  If these ideas have challenged, changed, of confirmed your thinking, let us know that too!

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