I teach a Saturday morning GED class, with our time devoted mainly to math and writing. Practice test scores in reading are not as high as they should be, with most of my students' errors in the area of fiction. What can I do in our short time together to help my students become stronger in that particular area?|
A: In the best of all possible worlds, our students would read novels and short stories, which would lead to class discussion and appropriate assignments. You should encourage everyone to get a library card. Help facilitate that by providing them the locations and phone numbers or e-mail addresses of the branches in their area.
The GED Connection Language Arts: Writing & Reading Book would be an excellent text for your class. It is possible that many of your students come from other countries and are not familiar with contemporary literature. And others, who left school early, may never have taken a serious course in high school English. This book will give them an excellent orientation and much time to read selected fiction and to practice. Chapter 13 is devoted to fiction.
This statement taken from page 271 of the above-mentioned book puts it in a nutshell:
"The ability to read and understand fiction is important to your success on the GED Reading Test. Most important will be your ability to understand the characters in fiction, to identify a story's point of view, to appreciate the contribution of conflict and the setting to a story, and to identify themes and writing style."
You should try to reprint (for classroom purposes only) some short stories that you can assign for at-home reading and discussion as a group later on.
The following will aid you in introducing students to literary terms that will help them answer questions posed on the reading test: it is a comprehensive list of literary terms that your students will find useful while navigating through the reading of short stories.
Character Development: the change in a character from the beginning to the conclusion of the story.
Characterization: the ways a writer shows what a character is like. The way a character acts, speaks, thinks, and looks defines that person.
Climax: the turning point of a story.
Conflict: a struggle or difference of opinion between characters. Sometimes a character may clash with a force of nature.
Dialogue: the exact words that a character says: usually the conversation between two characters.
Foreshadowing: clues that hint or suggest what will happen later in the story.
Inner conflict: a struggle that takes place in the mind of a character.
Main Character: the person the story is mostly about.
Mood: the feeling or atmosphere that the writer creates. For example, the mood of a story might be joyous or suspenseful.
Motive: the reason behind a character's actions.
Narrator: the person who tells the story. Usually, the narrator is the writer or a character in the story.
Plot: the series of incidents or happenings in a story. The plot is the outline or arrangement of events.
Purpose: the reason the author wrote the story. For example, an author's purpose might be to amuse or entertain, to convince or to inform.
Setting: the time and place of the action in a story; where and when the action takes place.
Style: the way in which a writer uses language. The choice and arrangement of words and sentences help to create the writer's style.
Theme: the main or central idea of a story.
I am teaching a mixed basic education and GED class for people who are training to be health care workers in city hospitals and health facilities. We do have some required texts, but I am always looking for more engaging materials that touch on the subject of health and nutrition. Are there any TV programs that might touch on these subjects?
The Mysterious Human Heart has been aired recently on Channel Thirteen in three one-hour segments and most assuredly will be shown again. (Check your Thirteen or PBS listings) Even without watching, your students can use the Discussion Guide that accompanied the programs as an excellent learning tool. They will learn important and current information about cardiovascular disease, its effects on men, women and families and how to keep themselves healthy.
The guide contains challenging questions on pages 3, 5 and 7. One might use those questions for homework assignments, essay practice and class discussion. I sent the Guide to all of my distance Learning GED students with an assignment to write a response to any of the questions. Here's an example:
"I want to thank you for letting me watch this program. It was an eye opener…Lastly; I suggest that there should be more shows on this subject for little children in school. It would be a joy if all of us would understand that we don't have time to waste but need to make lifestyle choices right now for a healthier future."
You can use the guide successfully even if you and your class have not seen the programs. You will be able to use it for more than one class assignment, especially for your slower readers.
On page 13, you will find a comprehensive list of resources including free materials, available through websites and/or 800 phone numbers.
If you want copies of the guide for your class, please contact email@example.com. If there are none left, you can download it from the series Web site at http://www.pbs.org/heart. You can also photocopy the guide.
I have taught in elementary schools for a long time and am now teaching GED
preparation for the first time. I seem to have the required teaching materials but do not yet know how to gauge when it is appropriate to send people to take the real test. Can you give me some guidance?
The Official GED Practice Tests can help you and your students to decide if they are ready to take the actual test. Each practice test takes half the time and has half the number of questions as on the real test. These practice tests are a good barometer of test readiness, giving the student an idea of what subject to focus on and whether or not more study is required before submitting an application to take the exam.
According to the GED Information Bulletin put out by the General Educational Development Testing Service, the Official GED Practice Tests are similar to those on the GED Tests in "content, difficulty, and format."
When giving the practices, it is essential to time your students accurately so they can become accustomed to the pressure of a timed test.
At the present time, there are seven different complete Official Practice Tests available. They are the PA through the PG.
If your program does not order materials for you, you can obtain copies of the practice tests by calling the publisher, Steck-Vaughan Company at 1-800-531-5015. A package of five complete tests now costs $32.50.
I am concerned that some of my adult students are doing poorly on the Science GED Practice Tests; many of them fare better on the social studies and reading tests. What can I do to help them improve their scores?
My immediate response would be to focus on vocabulary.
Here are some practical suggestions:
If you are a classroom GED teacher, you can hand out a list of pertinent words related to the chapter or scientific theme that you are presenting. Some GED preparation books highlight pertinent vocabulary, while others contain a glossary of terms at the back of the book.
Try to get obtain a copy of a Pre-GED Science workbook to introduce the basics. For example, Contemporary introduces key words in a box at the beginning of each chapter, as well as a glossary at the end of the book. This is very helpful to older students who have been away from the subject for years, or who may never have taken any science classes at all.
The GED Connection Social Studies & Science workbook introduces
each chapter with key points to think about and follows with
vocabulary and simple definitions that will be covered in
the chapter. Skills practices include fill-in exercises
using those new words. The same vocabulary is highlighted
in the text of each chapter reinforcing the terminology, yet
Many teachers require students to read articles in the Science
Times, appearing every Tuesday in the New York Times.
The November 11, 2003 issue entitled “Does Science Matter?”
contains essential vocabulary and intriguing, highly readable
articles including the brain, gravity, the environment, anatomy
and nutrition to mention just a few.
Try assigning one pertinent article each week from the Times,
or another scientific journal. It should not be overly technical.
Ask students to look up unfamiliar words in the dictionary.
Be sure to emphasize the importance of writing the definitions
down. It aids retention of new material. This is an excellent
Learning new scientific terminology has immediate benefits
vis-à-vis the GED practice tests and the actual GED test.
For your students, the increased comfort with this special
technical language will connect them to the major breakthroughs
in our world and the worlds beyond that command the headlines
these days. Watching the news or special programs, e.g. Nova
is exciting when your students and their families can watch
and really understand. Ownership of this specialized vocabulary
can be the bridge to enjoyment of these kinds of programs.
you know anyone in the literacy community who uses closed-caption
TV (CCTV) programming as an aid in helping GED students?
According to the research conducted
for ESL Literacy Education, (Eric Digest EDO-LE-94-02), there has
been increasing awareness of the potential of CCTV in the field and
much data to back up its claims. Carolyn Parks documented the improved
reading comprehension skills of ESL students in the Eric Digest bulletin
If this increasingly available and free learning tool works for
ESL adult learners, it can be used as an ancillary teaching tool
for GED students as well; a goodly number of our GED students are
not native born and often find that vocabulary and lack of speed
hinder their progress when preparing for the GED exam. That is also
true of many of our adult students who have not made reading an
essential part of their daily lives. learning
CCTV is now available on almost all new model television sets at no
additional cost and is a useful piece of the technology that can help
teachers help their students outside of class.
According to the data, those adults who have used captioned materials
do improve in all aspects of reading comprehension and the attendant
skills. Most importantly, the motivation to read increases!
When you suggest that students watch a TV program along with the closed
captions, you should be aware that some programs are captioned verbatim
while others are shortened for ease of reading while listening. Some
follow after the spoken text, other programs (taped in advance) seem
to be simultaneous even if they contain less of the spoken text. To
be on the safe side, you should try watching a suggested program in
advance of assigning it as a reading incentive activity.
Practice GED exams
teach a Saturday GED class in Brooklyn. I have the basic curriculum
organized and some of the practice tests. What I need to share with
my students are the specifics of the tests themselves. How long is
each test and how many questions are there?
If you take a practice test
and double the number of questions and double the time limit, you
will have the answer for each one. ( Language Arts Writing Part II
is the obvious exception. Practice test essay and actual test essay
allow 45 minutes.)
Yours is a very good question because it seems self-explanatory.
In fact, the students need to hear the actual timing and number
of questions every time you give a practice test so they will absorb
the reality that the real test is two times the practice. You cannot
emphasize this enough. You should try to find full-length practices
to be given as homework assignments. The GED Connection workbooks,
those that accompany the GED Connection TV series, give full-length
pre and post tests for each of the five subject areas.
All of the commercial GED materials give practice tests to assess
test readiness. Usually the number of questions reflects a full-length
test; the time permitted is not always accurate. Encourage your
students to practice these kinds of full length tests, using the
permitted time limits until they feel as comfortable as they do
when taking the half -length official practice tests.
Here are the five subject tests, the items and the time limits
taken from the Information Bulletin published by the GED Testing
Service, American Council on Education. This precise information
is usually given in the preface pages of commercial GED books.
|Part I - Language Arts
|Part II - Language Arts
|Language Arts, Reading
|Mathematics, Part I
(calculator use optional)
|| 45 minutes
|Mathematics Part II
(no calculator use)
a Degree in Nursing
have some incoming students who want to pursue nursing careers. How
can I help them?
They need to be tested and evaluated
along with your other students for appropriate placement in classes.
Having a GED diploma is a requirement for entry into an LPN program.
If you teach in a regular Adult Ed program, you have your assessment tools available in the form of the complete battery of TABE tests. Some GED teachers use practice GED tests to assess readiness for the GED curriculum. It is crucial for a student to be placed in a class where the reading is at his/her level. If it is too difficult, the student doesn't understand; if it is too easy, the student is losing valuable time needed to move ahead. A student may have to be placed in a pre-GED class until reading at the level required to enter the GED class.
Teaching with a GED
I was just wondering, if I go and get my GED, can I still be a teacher?
Please take a glance at our
response to the Current student's question. I am confident that you
would be giving a similar answer if the question came up in one of
your classes. I want to add a few suggestions, which may be useful
to you as a classroom GED teacher.
If you are teaching GED preparation in a rural community, look into
the closest community college to see what is offered. If possible,
plan a trip with your class to see what kinds of opportunities there
are, not only for potential teachers but also for all of your students.
Arrange to have someone from that school come by and address your
class or classes. The application process, financial aid, course choice
are often scary ideas to many folks and these sessions help to demystify
Here's a resource for students in New York City. CUNY admissions has
a walk-in center at 101 West 31st Street (between 6th and 7th Avenues)
on the 6th floor. It is open Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays from
9am to 5:30pm and on Thursdays from 10am to 5:30pm. Phone: (212) 290-5601.
The GED diploma is only the first step these days, as you know. If
your program has any counselors who help advise students, have them
visit your class to answer questions related to college. It is wise
to begin that discussion now well in advance of February and June
deadlines or whatever they may be at the schools in your area.
If you teach in a metropolitan area, there are usually many college
fairs organized for adult students as well as high school juniors
and seniors. If you are not in touch with those colleges directly,
there are usually announcements made on the college websites.
GED Writing Test Requirement
Regarding the essay portion of the
Language Arts, Writing, Part II:
We are noticing a discrepancy between the instructions given in the
GED CONNECTION workbooks and the newly issued Practice Tests, (Form
PA) for the GED 2002 Writing Test. The former indicate a 250- word
requirement, the latter says, "Your essay should be long enough to
develop the topic adequately." We want to be sure that there is no
longer a word minimum. Please corroborate.
The above quote from the GED Practice
Test is the same as the instructions given to the students taking
the actual test. There is no word count in the directions for the
essay. The test takers do have to develop their response to the topic
adequately and have been given two lined pages for the final draft
of their essay. This information has been received from John Reier,
Writing Test Specialist at the GED Testing Services.
||Caren Van Slyke,
GED Connection Designer and Workbook Editor has added additional information,
which may prove useful to teachers in preparing students to write
1. Well-focused main points
2. Clear organization
3. Development and detail
4. Correct use of Edited American English (grammar, sentence structure,
spelling, punctuation and capitalization)
5. Appropriate word choice
Computer access and
Do you have suggestions for integrating
computer literacy with ESL Level 2? We have no network and no Internet
access. I would like to integrate MS Word into a class writing unit.
Sixteen of our computers have Windows 95.
I like introducing students to the
word processor, regardless of reading level and language ability.
It is always exciting to watch students grow by learning the technology
as they begin to write or improve skills in English.
I hope that your ESL students will be able to practice what they learn
by meeting more than once a week. Otherwise, you may find yourself
starting all over again the next session. If meeting once a week is
your class's only option, be sure you review at the beginning of each
session and during the week as well. Talk about what was learned when
you are away from the computer. Perhaps you can make study sheets
with sample instructions, appropriate to their reading ability. For
example, "How do you start the computer? Where is the on/off button?
How do you save your work?" It is a good idea to prepare students
in advance for the next computer session. Appropriate computer vocabulary
can be added to lists of words that you include in your lessons when
you are away from the machines.
A word of caution: If you think you are proceeding slowly, try going
even slower. Some students are often "hot to trot," while others may
feel lost or discouraged if the pace is too rapid for them. The more
advanced students can always help others. This is good reinforcement
and takes pressure off the instructor. Students are learning the basics
as they begin composing their words on the computer.
Here is a lesson that was a huge hit with a combined Basic Ed Two/ESL
class. We introduced the group to computer basics through a drawing
project using Paintbrush (a program included in Windows 95). The students
first practiced turning the computer on and off. We spent as much
time as was needed drawing lines and squiggles to make them feel comfortable
using the mouse.
Each student was to create a simple pictorial story with some kind
of explanatory text. Here is an example: What did the house you grew
up in look like? Who lived there? This is an open-ended assignment.
Students draw their houses or apartments and the inhabitants. They
can provide the text for the story anywhere they choose. Examples
include, "My brother and my sister lived in the house." It can be
as simple as using the alphabet to spell the names of family members,
pets, or farm animals. With your help, they can save the material,
print it (assuming you have a printer), put it in their folder, and
work on it the next session.
Something so simple can be very powerful. Your adult learners will
be so proud of their efforts. The work can be displayed or compiled
into a booklet that you print. (Students can make and design their
own books or do a group project.) This kind of activity can be designed
around your learning objective, and tailored to the ability of each
student at the same time.
Another wonderful way to use the computer for your ESL students is
to have them write letters to friends or family members in English.
This again can be streamlined to fit your schedule and student needs.
A simple "Dear Cousin" letter can be so satisfying -- especially so
if there is a response.
Other simple writing projects using the computer can be designing
letterhead, learning about fonts and type size, writing actual letters
to a utility company, or creating greeting cards.
A most useful book is Antonia Stone's KEYSTROKES TO LITERACY, USING
THE COMPUTER AS A LEARNING TOOL FOR ADULT BEGINNING READERS, National
Textbook Company, Lincolnwood, Illinois, 1991. ISBN number is 0844206792.
The book is available through the publisher at 800-323-4900 or through
their Web site (http://www.ntc-school.com).
Another excellent resource is The Literacy Assistance Center. Its
free publication, Literacy Update, is worth reading. Check out their
Web site (http://www.lacnyc.org).
Re-taking the GED
How should I advise those students
who have not passed their GED test which parts to retake? Are there
strategies that I can pass on to them about good ways to approach
a multiple-choice test?
A number of factors need to be considered when one is making suggestions
to students and helping them to come up with a sensible strategy.
Passing with a minimum score of 2250 is not always enough. Does the
student need to get a higher score because of the entry requirements
for a job or further education? Are the students aiming high enough
to match their potential?
It is always advisable to encourage them to aim as high as they can
and certainly to have higher numbers on their practice tests to leave
a margin for error before they set a date to retake the test. Taking
many timed practice tests is important as test time approaches.
Another factor to be considered is the length of the test. Some students
do well, one test at a time. We always discourage people from trying
to do it all in one sitting; that's a large order. It is often good
to take one test in addition to the ones that have to be retaken.
Doing well in a comfortable subject is very positive, and that positive
feeling often carries over to the more difficult ones.
I find myself increasingly concerned about the quality of instruction
before people take the test again. Most of them want to go on to higher
education or some professional training program where many of the
same skills are required as on the GED test but at higher-grade level.
If it is not learned well before, the person, even with a GED, may
be thrown into remedial classes and if there is tuition involved,
this could become an added financial burden.
Strategies for taking the test itself should be practiced, especially
if one of your students has not passed the first time around.
With multiple choice tests, time is of the essence, and dawdling over
one question is time lost for questions later on that will be easier
to answer. If unsure, jot down a little mark alongside the number.
Then if there is time at the end of the test, the student can go back
and think over the first answer.
Some people advise looking at the answers before reading the selection.
Furthermore, some think it wise to figure out your own answer before
looking at the choices presented.
By their nature, multiple-choice tests look for the obvious, quick
response. Choose the closest answer, even if you think it isn't completely
correct. Look for helpful clue words and be sure to read all of the
answers before deciding on one.
Understanding the question itself is highly important. Sometimes the
question is made up of several statements and the answer has to be
true for all of them. Break down as much as you can into smaller segments.
Also to find the exact question, begin at the question mark, go left
until the beginning, which will have a capital letter. That is the
main part of the question.
This is perhaps obvious but should be included in test taking preparation.
Absolutes are to be avoided. If a question has every, always, never,
all and none watch out! Tend to be, might, seldom, generally are safer
words in a question.
When checking over your answers near the end of the test, be absolutely
sure that all of the answers are in the correct place.
It is okay to change an answer if you can convince yourself that the
new answer is the better choice. Sometimes, answering questions later
on in the exam will give you clues about questions that came before.
Erase well those marks that are not the answer itself. Machine-graded
tests pick up everything.
Fill in all answers, as the examiner is about to pick up your exam.
There is always the possibility of picking up an extra point.
I'm looking for ways to integrate
pre-employment skills within my traditional ABE program. Most of my
students are young adults from different backgrounds and cultural
differences, which may get in the way of job retention. Any suggestions
for Web sites, curricula, or programs to use will be greatly appreciated.
Your question is an important one.
I would prefer to think of your student population as one that is
unfamiliar with the workplace culture rather than placing the emphasis
on its cultural differences. The need to prepare young people for
the world of work exists across ethnic lines and my suggestions would
be appropriate for any ABE class that is not already connected to
a pre-vocational program or agency.
In addition to the Web addresses listed in our Useful Links section,
the American Association for Adult and Continuing Education (AAAC)
(firstname.lastname@example.org) is a new listserv for adult educators. It
provides a way for educators in the field of adult literacy to share
information and resources. To subscribe to the list, send an e-mail
message to the list request address: email@example.com.
The subject of the message should be "Subscribe." Include your name
and e-mail address and you should get a confirmation message back
saying you have been subscribed.
If your classroom does not have computers or access to the Internet,
you can plan a trip with your class to the local public library to
have a training session on how to use technology. Most public libraries
have excellent vocational resources to investigate.
Another way to get information about pre-employment training is with
printed resources. The following three publishers come highly recommended
by colleagues working in job readiness programs that train young people
for the working world:
Curriculum Associates: 1(800) 225-0248
Curtis Associates: 1(800) 658-4399
Jist Publishing, Indianapolis: 1 (888) 333-3460
Their catalogs offer workforce textbooks, videotapes, and materials,
which can be woven into a curriculum. You might want to request review
copies, to try them out on your students.
On your own
I like preparing my own materials, those that require students to
participate actively and thoughtfully. One lesson which can be used
as a writing experience, or a role-play activity, I gleaned from a
list I found of common reasons why companies say "no" to prospective
employees. I have chosen the ones that might be appropriate for your
particular group. Everything in that list can be part of a single
lesson or group activity or provide themes for the whole semester.
The list covers the substance of workplace literacy, the definition
of goals, and so forth. These issues have to be addressed and understood
if your students are to find and keep meaningful jobs.
Companies reject candidates because of:
As for job retention, which you posed in your question, employers
cite these same reasons for letting people go. Lateness and calling
in sick seem to win first prize. Not getting along with others or
poor attitude come in second.
- Poor communication skills.
- Inability to articulate clear goals or future career direction.
- Lack of match between skills or academic background and position.
- Insufficient technical competence for job.
- Lack of relevant work experience, part-time or summers.
- Appearance - wanting in professional presence: dress, grooming.
Most students can do the work, if they want to succeed. Other issues
affecting job readiness would have to include childcare. Mothers looking
for employment have to be sure their childcare is in place with alternative
solutions before accepting a full-time job. Learning how to phone
in if one cannot get to work is an essential job skill. Having a good
alarm clock is an essential tool.
Your local public television station may offer the program WORKPLACE
ESSENTIAL SKILLS, a wonderful series designed to help adults deal
with work-related issues. (Check our ITV Schedule for showtimes in
the New York metropolitan area.) It instructs the viewer how to write
a resume and how to handle a job interview. I find it lively and appealing.
Suggestions, resume enhancers
- Encourage your students who have no work history to begin to
explore ways to get some. Volunteering at senior citizen centers,
or day-care centers are wonderful experiences for young people
and great confidence builders. There are internships in many companies
for young people.
- Try to arrange for visits to actual work sites so they can see
them for themselves.
- Invite professionals in appropriate fields to come and speak
to your class.
- Get in touch with your state or local department of labor, the
state education department, department of human services, or the
public assistance agency in your region. Students can even write
these letters, exercising an important skill in the workplace.
Many states now have workforce centers, which have programs for
jobless young people. Some of these centers require that young
people who receive public assistance attend their programs.
- Try to include vocabulary of the work-a-day world in your reading
and writing activities to help your students bridge the gap and
catch up. They should be conversant with the language of computers
and the special vocabulary of their career choice.