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January 21, 2010 Helping Parents Prepare Their Children for State Assessments By Victoria Jasztal

    Every January, our school hosts a standardized test preparation evening for parents of students in grades 3-5. In March, the FCAT (Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test) will be administered to thousands of students in Florida. During this meeting we encourage parents to help prepare their children for their most important and challenging academic task of the year.

    I have never been a teacher who has assigned "busy work" for homework, yet I encourage my students to practice what they have learned at home in a variety of ways. The Internet provides sensational resources that parents can utilize.

    While my students are preparing for the FCAT, they are encouraged to log into at home. FCAT Explorer is available for all students in Florida who are registered to take the FCAT. A log-in sheet is printed for parents to record every time their child signs in to the program. The sheet can be returned when they have worked in the fourth grade reading program for 200 minutes (10 sessions of 20 minutes each). Completion of ten sessions should take about three weeks to a month if they log in three times a week at home.

    A math program is also included through the FCAT Explorer website. I encourage my fourth-grade students to log into the fifth-grade math program to get extra practice because there is not a math program available for the fourth grade standards.

    What are the general skills your child will be focusing on in reading and math? 


    • Context clues: Read a sentence with an unfamiliar word in it, and determine the meaning of the word by looking at the “clue words” surrounding it.
    • Words: prefixes, suffixes, synonyms, antonyms, homophones, multiple-meaning words, compound words, and contractions
    • Main idea and supporting details (This is THE highest-measured skill on the reading FCAT.)
    • Order of events
    • Author’s purpose: to inform, persuade and entertain
    • Plot: the beginnings, middle events, and endings of stories
    • Coming to conclusions about what you have read
    • Cause and effect
    • Comparing and contrasting: seeing what is similar and different about two topics, characters, events


    • Number Sense: multiplication, division, fractions, decimals, percents, place values, prime and composite numbers, comparing the relative value of numbers, multi-step word problems
    • Measurement/Geometry: area, perimeter, two-dimensional and three-dimensional shapes, volume, conversions between measurements (customary and metric)
    • Algebra: expressions with variables, coordinate graphs, function tables, input/output tables
    • Data and Probability: bar graphs, line graphs, circle graphs, tally charts

    How should teachers encourage parents to prepare with their children at home?

    • Advise parents to share world, national, state, and local current events with their children. ALWAYS discuss new vocabulary when reading news articles or viewing media. There are websites that convey current events in kid-friendly language like Scholastic News Scholastic News and TIME for Kids. When our class studied an article about Haiti this week, we learned about refugees, what it means for people to be in critical condition versus stable condition, and the importance of providing relief to others. 
    • Encourage parents to visit the public library together and check out different types of books, both fiction and non-fiction. Ask parents to try to spend time reading with their child and to make sure their child reads for at least 20 minutes daily, even if it is on the computer. Books available on CD and Podcasts are great options as well. Here are many, many questions that parents can discuss with their children regarding their reading (PDF).
    • Help parents find resources to familiarize their children with different types of reading strategies and vocabulary. These reading skills cards (PDF) can be used to review reading terminology and  various types of reading strategies used in class.

    Here are some excellent resources online. Some websites include practice tests that can be administered at home. 

    Reading Websites:

    Math Websites:

    Sample reading and math tests from different states (which serves as excellent practice for students from all states):

    Hopefully you can use this post for an informational evening or mention it in a class newsletter to give your students' parents a heads-up about upcoming assessments.


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