Wednesday, May 13, 2009

NAPLAN Day 1: Language Conventions and Writing

Yesterday was the first day of NAPLAN, Australia's national testing. It's only the second year this test has been in practice and we're still trying to get our heads around some of it. There are many, many issues with the testing regime (like the fact it's based on an unwritten national curriculum) but alas, our Yr 3, 5 and 7s had to be tested anyway.

I supervised my 10 Grade 5s as well as my next door neighbour's Grade 7s (16 kids in all). There were two tests yesterday, one today and one tomorrow (the 7s have an extra test tomorrow) With a quick look, I think my kids did all right.

Language Conventions
This test is basically spelling, grammar and punctuation. The spelling seems to be designed to utterly freeze the children. They are given misspelt words in sentetences/diagrams and asked to find them (sometimes they are circled) and fix the spelling. For a poor speller, this is terrifying and it's the first thing you see in the test. For a good speller it's confusing - once you see the misspelt word you start to second guess your own knowledge. I had one student who I told to skip this section and come back to it, but she still burst into tears when there was only 5 minutes left and she had 3 words to go. (Nothing worse than a 10 year old in tears over a national test)

The Grammar and Punctuation for the Year 5s was good, although there was one format they didn't have last year and didn't warn us about. In places it was a little simple for my students, and I think they've done well, though I want to continue to work on different tenses. The Year 7 was was a definate kick up from the Year 5s, so I'm going to have to keep working hard on the Year 6s for next years test.


The writing test requires students to write a narrative based on a stimulus. Last year the stimulus was 'Found' with a number of story ideas and good pictures. This year it was one picture and barely any ideas and the stimulus was 'The Box' - rather abstract. All my students wrote in paragraphs and had almost interesting beginnings (a few began with dialogue which was great). Not as sure how they'll do, as I didn't have time to read them all.


Our school had a low completion rate last year, so this year we're bribing them with jelly beans - 1 for every completed test (and a page of writing in the writing test.) One of the year 7s wrote his page yesterday, put his hand up and asked "do I have to write more?"

"Yes!" I told him. "Finish your story"

So he wrote another paragraph or two and collected his jelly bean . . .

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