SAT Reading and Writing Scores are Dropping - What Can Teachers Do?

SAT reading and writingAccording to the College Board, the New York-based organization that administers the SAT test, reading and writing scores on the SAT are dropping. The average critical reading score fell 1 point to 496 from a year earlier. The average score for writing dropped 1 point to 488, the lowest since writing was added to the exam in 2006.

What can teachers do? Although SAT prep is normally taught in supplemental classes or SAT online courses, there is a lot that can be done in the classroom.  

Teachers can encourage students to utilize “old school” methods of reading, writing and recitation to address the dropping SAT Reading and Writing scores. These traditional methods help students focus, build confidence and practice important skills that will help their performance on the SAT and in the classroom too.  

Read aloud. 

Offer students the opportunity to read quality essays or other reading selections aloud (and together) as a class. Group discussions of reading and writing techniques can help students build their own vision of how to write a persuasive essay that will appeal to SAT essay graders.

Teachers can also review sentence structure, analyze the language, vocabulary and grammar of the essay. They can then do the same with examples of poorly written essays.  

Have students do more writing assignments by hand.  

Remember, there are no screens or keyboards on the SAT. All essays are hand written. Explain and illustrate to students how to write legible, neat and correctly formatted essays.  Students need to see real world examples of good, hand written work. They may also need pointers on how to erase, rewrite or insert additional information in a timely manner. And it pays for student to understand that a neatly, well written essay scores better than a sloppy one.   

Have students practice reading their essays aloud.  

Students connect to their work when they share it. When a student reads aloud, they get to hear what their writing actually sounds like and reflect on its relevance and effectiveness at addressing the given topic. Students will also get feedback from their peers if they can discuss it together. This can help them imagine what the SAT test graders might think of their essay response. This also builds new strategies to increase students’ effective writing skills and gain confidence in making points. They can begin to understand sentence structure and SAT vocabulary usage better.   

Assign memorization and recitation exercises to help students build vocabulary, confidence and examples they can use on essays.  

Memorizing a favorite poem is an example to students that they can read and remember something. At some point, students will need to use examples from their studies (and the real world) on their SAT essays. If they can recall a favorite poem, maybe then they will believe they can also memorize and/or recall other information to help them write a dynamic essay with effective and accurate examples to prove their point. 

These activities will be especially effective, yet challenging, for students who speak English as a second language. But it also offers those students the most benefit through practicing and learning new skills in a hands-on way, with their students and teachers actively helping them.   

Maybe SAT Reading and Writing Scores are dropping because more students are taking the SAT than ever before? Maybe scores are dropping because of the use of too much technology? Or maybe it is because more students speaking English as a second language are taking the test? Regardless, teachers can use this simple approach to help their students improve reading and writing skills in the classroom and on the SAT. It’s a win-win!

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