Loosening Up about the MEAP

We are into our second week of school, and the hysteria over the local high-stakes testing–the MEAP–is cranking up at its usual pace.  This year, in a quick-and-dirty effort to improve writing scores, our higher ups have produced (drum roll please) some paperwork for us to fill out!  At the end of each week, each teacher fills out a sheet describing how he/she is prepping students for the writing portion of the test. 

After the usual wrending of garments and wailing at the ridiculousness and cruelty of the gods, we will all just fill out the paper.  I figure a reasonably conscientious effort will take up another 30 minutes of my week, but do not worry–this will be a take home project, since the actual work of my profession is what I engage in while at school.  What if the higher-ups decide I’m not doing the test-prep thing “right”?  Don’t know and can’t wait to find out.

I’ve held off on a full-blown launch of Writer’s Workshop this month because of all the test prep.  I’ve also not done a single Social Studies lesson (which is killing me) in the interest of carving out time to both test-prep AND building a healthy learning community.  For writing, we’ve been doing a lot of freewrites in an effort to both gather ideas to use in later writing work and build some writing stamina, which about 2/3 of my new fifth graders really need.  What I have not done is plan a series of “practice” prompts for my students–hello, they need to loosen up their writing muscles, stretch a little! 

After they’ve had a chance to build a little stamina, practiced getting their brains back in the writing game, and had a little fun with writing, we’ll rock the prompt practice…and they’ll be more ready to write to prompts, practice or “real”, as a result of that preparation, I am betting.  The one thing I am sure of is that they will not start the year on a writing death march.  I need them to want to write beyond that one day in October when they’re MEAP-ing.  The higher-ups are playing a short-game that ends in mid-October, but I’m playing a somewhat longer game of trying to grow lifelong writers.  I like my game better.

In homage to the MEAP and all other misplaced assessment, I leave you with a lovely video of Tom Chapin.

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