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Volume 3 #10 Sept.
When my first
son studied Hamlet in high school, he missed the answer
on question #15 of the final exam. The answer was Laertes.
So when his brother studied Hamlet two years later, Peter
warned him that the answer to question 15 on the test was
Laertes. In due course, Kip told Polly, Polly told Jerry,
and Jerry told Louisa, so they all got it right, and they
all got 100 instead of 95. And I am still wondering how
a teacher could feel that a child who got 100 on the test
understood the power, the drama, and the beauty of such
a masterpiece better than the poor schmuck who only got,
say, 95. Or 75, for that matter. Or how she felt qualified
to decide that one person’s reaction to the play
was “better” than another’s. Or, for
that matter, why she felt she could get inside a child’s
head and know what his real reaction was. And for that
matter, why she thought a number grade was an appropriate
measure for understanding Shakespeare in the first place.
Now there are,
indeed, occasions when a factual test with a grade is appropriate
to the subject being studied. Before a med student is allowed
to practice medicine, he must know a ton of facts or he
may kill his patients. A civil engineer must know Strength
of Materials cold or some hapless soul will end up in the
drink because the bridge over the river collapsed. A linguist
who works for the State Department must know his language
cold or he may get us all in hot water, as happened recently
when someone in Iraq misread the word for brother.
But if you are
teaching a child to play the French Horn, you show him
how to finger a passage, how to get his lip just right
and send him home to practise. When he comes back for the
next lesson, you help some more. If he still doesn’t
have the lip just right, you adjust it a little bit more,
but you don’t give him a D for that day and tell
him that next week you are going to give him a test, and
if he doesn’t pass it, he will have to start all
over from the beginning next year.
There are three
reasons never to give a test, “pop” quiz, exam,
weekly quiz, or any other kind of test to a dyslectic child
during your year of tutoring. First, the word, test, frightens
or depresses. That is positively the last thing you want
to do to your pupil. He must feel comfortable in your class,
knowing that he will never be humiliated or feel that he
has failed. Second, testing a dyslectic’s grasp of
some spelling rule is a waste of time. You don’t
need to test him to see what he knows. You watch him work
every day. You know what he has learned, and you have a
folder of his best spelling exercises to show it. Thirdly,
your object is to get him to use the left side of his head
when he reads and spells. You can’t test for that.
When he reads happily and spells – well, pretty well--
you know you have done that, but you can’t give him
an MRI to prove it.
Give one final
test in June like the Gilmore Oral Reading Test or the
Woodcock Johnson reading test which will give you two scores:
accuracy and comprehension. And expect to get into an argument
four times a year with your principal who wants scores
for the student’s report card, whether it makes sense
or not. Try to win the argument by saying that your mark
during the year will reflect the student’s conduct,
and you will send home a progress report at the end of
the year specifying what the student has learned and what
his grade level is.
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2002 - Vol. 1, #11
2003 - Vol. 3, #2
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2003 - Vol. 2, #10
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2001 - Vol. 1, #5
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2001 - Vol. 1, #4
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2001 - Vol. 1, #2
2002 - Vol. 2, #4
2001 - Vol. 1, #1