Monday, July 24, 2006

On Testing, Test-prep, and Writing for the Test

A few bloggers are on that topic this week. For one, there's perpetually-amusing Mamacita at Scheiss Weekly, from whom I stole the great cartoon on the left.

Also, Happychyck, typically, is wondering whether we're doing our students a favor with formulaic essays.

Happychyck sent me to yet another blogger, Tim Fredericks, who has a series of posts about lies teachers tell regarding essay structure, the importance of assigned books and student laziness, to name a few.

I'm not sure about all of Tim's points, but I certainly agree about the myth of the all-important five-paragraph essay. While it may be a good starting point for kids with no organizational sense, it's ridiculous to teach kids (and even college students) that structure and then maintain they know how to write. I commented:

Ya know, I've always felt that way about the five-paragraph essay, ever since I was first forced to teach it. Who the hell sits down to write a five-paragraph essay, ever?

Ironically, I've been having to teach ESL students how on earth they could pass the NY English Regents exam, which is entirely inappropriate for them (but that's yet another topic).

The way I've devised is teaching them a very simplistic FOUR-paragraph essay, and it seems to work. But I'd be deluding myself (not to mention my students) if I were to pretend this skill, which I spend up to a year teaching, were useful for anything but passing that one test, which they need to graduate.
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