PSSA: A Helpful Strategy

We’re just a few days shy of spring, although you couldn’t tell by the weather here in the northeast. Public school teachers and students are preparing for the dreaded PSSA test, which occurs in April. I’ve long been a believer in acronyms and their value to students. For years, I prepared students in both middle and elementary school students to successfully navigate the PSSA reading test. Early in my career as a reading specialist, I devised this the PCQC approach. Over the years, most of my students agreed that it helped them to stay on task, feel confident, check their work and not panic. So, if you are a parent or teacher who has a stake in helping youngsters do their best on this test, here is a brief synopsis of PCQC. Now is the time to familiarize and practice this with students so that they can easily rely on these steps as they work through the reading portion of the PSSA. I’d be happy to hear your response or answer any questions. 

PCQC TEST-TAKING STRATEGY

P – Preview

Students carefully read all the text features (title, heading, sub-headings, sidebars, pictures, captions, charts, graphs, maps, etc.) to activate background knowledge and set themselves up for a successful read. In addition, students are taught to read each test question carefully. At this point, I only want the kids to read the questions, not the answer choices. Since questions typically zero in on important components of the text, this provides more clues to the passage, introduces names and places, and enables a student to know what will be asked.

C – Chunk

Breaking text down into manageable pieces is a beneficial reading strategy. Chunking the long passages offered up in many reading assessments, enables the reader to hone in on one portion, encouraging careful reading and self-monitoring. I tell my students to “Chunk with pencil in hand”. That is, mark up the text by underlining, coding, jotting marginal notes. Chunking the text helps students to feel confident and decreases the overwhelming feeling of having to read the whole text. “Just take one bite at a time,” I tell them, “You don’t have to gulp the whole passage down at once”.

Q – Questions

Ah…the scary part is next. Answering those long, tricky questions can be a stressful experience for many students. In this part of the strategy, students read the questions for the second time. I show them how to read each question carefully and underline what the question is asking. I make sure they circle key words like NOT (which one of these is not…) and tell them to number two-part questions. We practice paraphrasing the questions to help them understand what is being asked. From there, students read each choice carefully. Remind them that they are looking for the best answer and must read every choice. Then, they should eliminate those choices they know to be wrong and return to the text to verify the choice they think is correct.

C – Check

The job’s not finished!  As teachers, we all know how easy it is for students to finish the last question, close the booklet and relax. Teach students to read each question again (yes, it is the 3rd tie they will read the questions) and then read only the answer they have chosen. Does it make sense?  Did I mark the answer sheet correctly? If they can answer yes to both these questions, then they really are finished and can relax knowing they have taken a deliberate approach and done their best.

About Rita K.

Veteran educator and Certified Reading specialist, Freelance writer
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