Teacher’s Lounge Blog

Learn more about teacher preparation, test tips, online learning, professional development, and a variety of other valuable teacher topics.

How to Prepare for MTEL Exams

February 10th, 2018 | Comments Off on How to Prepare for MTEL Exams | Certification Prep, Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses

teachers taking examThe MTEL exam was designed to ensure that educators have the academic preparedness to succeed in a school community. You’ll need both academic proficiency and professional communication skills. Qualifying scores on the required tests indicate that you are knowledgeable in your respective areas of expertise and able to communicate clearly with students and their parents or guardians. Understandably, passing such all-encompassing tests is a challenge that requires teacher candidates to prepare thoroughly. Here is some advice on how best to prepare.

Understand the Process

Familiarize yourself with the state requirements and gather relevant material in your subject area. Look at the MTEL Test Information Guide and Test Objectives for information on each kind test. You’ll find samples of “weak” and “strong” essay answers, multiple choice practice tests, and thorough question analyses. With these resources, you should have a better understanding of the expectations for passing each test.

Establish a Timeline

Think ahead before you register for your test. You don’t want to make the mistake of registering for the Communication and Literacy Skills exam and the content test on the same day. You’ll need time to study for each one separately. Also, plan to take the MTEL CLST well in advance of your application for admission to a program. You’ll be notified of your score six weeks after taking your test, and you’ll want to allow time to retake the test if necessary.

Begin Smart, Purposeful Preparation

The right MTEL prep courses can help you establish your plan of action. Consider taking a practice test which offers a realistic picture of where you stand and where you need improvement. The best trial tests are timed, adhere closely to the test objectives stated on the MTEL website, and follow the correct format. Taking a rigorous trial test in an environment you simulate to duplicate the actual testing site can make you more prepared on test day. Part of the challenge of the MTEL is dealing with the anxiety. A couple timed tests, and you'll be much more relaxed with required test pace. Then, don’t ignore your test results. Tackle your weak spots. Refer back to specific college courses, follow a prep course, or conduct your own research to learn more about the objectives you need to master.

If you follow these rules, you’ll be in a good position to pass the MTEL and get started with your career. Good luck!

 

 

Why Use Online Teaching Certification Preparation?

January 10th, 2018 | Comments Off on Why Use Online Teaching Certification Preparation? | Certification Prep, Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses

Online teacher certification prep

One of the minimum requirements for becoming a teacher is a bachelor’s degree. Many teachers choose to pursue an even higher level of education, but a bachelor’s is the bare minimum for teaching students from kindergarten to grade 12. If you’re a full-time student, a bachelor’s degree will take four years to get. If you’re a part-time student, it could take six years to graduate. During that time, you’ll have to juggle more than just assignments. If you have a job, you’ll have to balance work and school. Older students may have families to take care of in addition to pursuing their degree. Many students are taking some of their teacher certification preparation courses online to avoid some of the issues traditional courses might present.

Accessible Anywhere

Online programs are more flexible than traditional programs. Your lessons are accessible anywhere you can access the internet. You don’t have to drive across town at an inconvenient time if you take an online course. And, you don’t have to leave the house to go to class when the weather is bad.

Flexible Lessons

Lessons can be completed on your own time. If you have a job, you can focus on working without being worried you’ll miss something. Taking care of your kids can come first and you can listen to your professor’s next lecture after the little ones go to bed. Slower learners can take the time they need to understand their lessons without the fear of falling behind. And, fast learners can zip through their classes at a comfortable pace.

Enriched Material

The basic content doesn’t change just because you’re learning online. You’ll still be taught the skills you need to succeed as a teacher. Also, online courses can accommodate different learning styles so you don’t feel forced to learn in the traditional one-size fits all format.

You may even learn some additional lessons along the way. Online preparation is a completely different experience. It may teach you to learn and study in ways you’ve never thought of before, which can be applied to teaching your own classes someday. Online teacher certification courses can give you the education you need while being flexible enough to fit into a busy life.

Passing the Composition Exercise: Usage

December 18th, 2017 | Comments Off on Passing the Composition Exercise: Usage | Certification Prep, Literacy Certification, Teacher's Lounge Blog, Writing Certification

PrepForward provides online preparation courses to candidates practicing compositions for state teacher tests, including the MTEL Communication and Literacy Skills exam in MA. In this series, I’ll share the most common errors I see and tips for making a solid score on each performance characteristic.

“Careful and precise”—that’s the expectation for usage on the MTEL exams composition essay. To achieve a top score, candidates can demonstrate mastery of two different but related word choice skills: selection of academic language and maintenance of error-free usage.

Usage – Language

Your use of academic language and domain-specific vocabulary are assessed under the characteristic Usage. While writing to the audience is rated under the Appropriateness criteria, audience must also be considered with word choice. If your composition is to be directed toward educators, which it likely is, it should incorporate educator-ese —those words you hear at professional development conferences: assessment, learning gap, pedagogical, curriculum-centered, and so on.

Tips:
Build your vocabulary. Read scholarly journals. Make a mental or physical list of domain-specific vocabulary. Become comfortable using the words in speech or writing.
Remember word choice. As you’re concentrating on development, unity, and appropriateness, don’t forget that usage is just as important as any other point. Assessors will read your composition looking specifically at your word choice. Make sure they find what they are looking for.
Skim the test passages. If you have time and you know you need more precise words, skim back through the test passages looking for a few interesting words. Replace general vocabulary in your composition with exact, vivid language.

Usage – Grammar

Writing must be free of grammatical errors. Watch out for these trouble spots.

Pronoun/antecedent agreement Sample error: Everyone in the test group met their goals. NO! Everyone is singular; it takes a singular pronoun such as his, her, or its. If you want to avoid the awkward his/her, try switching the antecedent to a plural. (Correction: Students in the test group met their goals.)
Troublesome words Do I mean affect or effect, continual or continuous? Ideally, you can recall the definition and choose the correct word. If not, substitute a different word.
Pronoun reference Sample error: In the standards, it says students should master two-digit addition. NO! What does it refer to? Revise to avoid a pronoun reference error. (Correction: The standards indicate that students should master two-digit addition.)
Subject/verb agreement Sample error: The first two characters in the novel is Gretchen and Beatrice. NO! Use a plural verb with a plural subject. (Correction: The first two characters in the novel are Gretchen and Beatrice.)
Modifiers Sample error: While evaluating test results, students were found to be well prepared in math. NO! The students aren’t evaluating the test results. (Correction: While evaluating test results, teachers found that the students were well prepared in math.)
Parallelism Sample error: The student demonstrated skill in vocabulary, mechanics, and he could decode. NO! Compound parts, or parts with similar meanings, should be written with similar grammatical structure. (Correction: The student demonstrated skill in vocabulary, mechanics, and decoding.)

Before submitting your exam, read aloud or mouth your composition. If a sentence or phrase sounds awkward, stop and smooth it out. In the process, you’ll sharpen your writing and earn a solid score reflecting your “careful and precise” usage of language and grammar.

Getting My MA Teaching License

November 29th, 2017 | Comments Off on Getting My MA Teaching License | Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses

Securing your first teaching license can feel like navigating a winding, endless path to an uncertain destination. The journey, however, need not be ambiguous at all. The MA Department of Education (http://www.doe.mass.edu/educators/) has quite efficiently outlined the steps you must take. The requirements can feel daunting and rigorous, but they are part of the process of verifying that every classroom teacher is equipped for handling the responsibility of educating Massachusetts’ youth.

Massachusetts has established multiple pathways to teacher licensure. The purpose of each pathway is to verify that Massachusetts educators are academically and professionally prepared to instruct students. In the simplest terms, securing a Massachusetts teaching license requires completing coursework, passing teacher exams, and applying through ELAR.

License Requirements
This tool from the Massachusetts DOE will help you determine the requirements for your license.
https://gateway.edu.state.ma.us/elar/licensurehelp/LicenseRequirementsCriteriaPageControl.ser Your license will most likely require the list of items below.

Bachelor’s Degree
The MA Department of Education requires that licensed educators earn a Bachelor’s Degree from an accredited college or university. Your degree may be a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science and it may be in a variety of majors.

Approved Teacher Program
Teacher candidates must complete a state-approved educator preparation program in the field and grades for which they will be licensed. Education programs are typically found in 4-year colleges or universities. The course work includes training in instructional strategies, curriculum, technology, and assessment.

MTEL Communication and Literacy Skills
This test is a requirement for all pre-K to grade 12 licensed teachers. It has two subtests: reading and writing. The reading subtest is multiple choice; the writing subtest is a combination of multiple choice, sentence correction, and open response.

MTEL Academic Subject Matter
Depending on your field and grade level, you will also need to pass MTEL licensing tests. Early Childhood educators must pass both the MTEL Early Childhood test and the MTEL Foundations of Reading test. Elementary teachers must pass the MTEL General Curriculum test and MTEL Foundations of Reading. In grades 5-12, tests align with the field of study. For example, biology teachers must pass the biology content test and mathematics teachers must pass the mathematics test. Some alternate tests are listed on the MTEL (Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure) page of the DOE site. http://www.doe.mass.edu/mtel/testrequire.html

Massachusetts Sheltered English Immersion
In July of 2014, SEI Teacher Endorsement became a licensure requirement. One way to complete this requirement is by passing the SEI teacher exam offered through MTEL. http://www.mtel.nesinc.com/TestView.aspx?f=HTML_FRAG/MA056_TestPage.html. Another option for securing the endorsement is completion of a course approved by the DOE. The course covers such topics as the structure of language, significant factors in language acquisition, principles and strategies for sheltered English immersion, and information about English language learner population. Courses are readily available throughout Massachusetts. (For listing of approved courses, visit http://www.doe.mass.edu/retell/For-Cost.html).

Application
Massachusetts has established the web based system ELAR (Educator Licensure and Recruitment) http://www.mass.gov/edu/gateway/ to manage the licensure application process. You can submit paperwork, pay fees, and gain access to information regarding the status of your teacher licensure through ELAR.

You can also review PrepForward’s solutions for MA educators.

Graphing Fun – Math Teacher Certification

November 14th, 2017 | Comments Off on Graphing Fun – Math Teacher Certification | Certification Prep, Math Certification, Teacher's Lounge Blog

Most teaching licenses will require that you pass a certification exam with math concepts. Thoughts of this test often induce fear and stress in even the most talented prospective teachers. Ensuring that you have a deep understanding of the math fundamentals will alleviate this anxiety and help you pass your exam. One topic that many struggle with is graphing linear equations. Let’s review the basics.

Linear equations make straight lines when graphed. The equations can all be written in the format y = mx + b, where m is the slope and b is the y-intercept. The slope describes how slanted the line is and the y-intercept is the point where the line will cross the y-axis.

On these certification exams, you may see a couple problems where you are asked to match a graph to an equation. Here is one possible approach.

  1. Start by determining whether the slope is positive or negative.
    If you are looking at a graph, if the line goes up when looking at it from left to right, then it has a positive slope. If the line goes down, it has a negative slope. Once you determine the sign of the slope, look at the equation when it is in the form y=mx+b and determine whether the m has the same sign. See if you can eliminate any answer choices.
  2. Find the y-intercept.
    The next easiest thing to identify about a linear graph is the y-intercept. Look at the y-axis (the vertical one) and determine the point where the line crosses the x-axis (the horizontal one). Compare this value to the y-intercept in the equation that is represented by the variable b. See if any answer choices can be eliminated.
  3. Determine the slope.
    Pick any two points on the line and write down their coordinates. Then, figure out the slope by calculating the rise over the run or the change in y over the change in x. Find the difference in the y-values divided by the difference in the x-values. This slope is represented by m in the standard equation, y = mx + b. Using the slope and y-intercept, find your answer.

If after following this approach you still have two or more viable options, you can always try different points. Remember, a graph represents all the points that make the equation true. If you are struggling, just pick a point on the graph and plug the coordinates into the equation. If the equation does not work for a coordinate pair that is graphed, then that equation can’t represent the graph.

I hope you find some helpful tips in this quick review of graphing linear equations. We have full-length comprehensive teacher prep courses for all topics on your teacher certification exams if you need help preparing. Best of luck.

Dodging Distractors on Foundations of Reading, Part 2

October 25th, 2017 | Comments Off on Dodging Distractors on Foundations of Reading, Part 2 | Certification Prep, Reading Certification, Teacher's Lounge Blog

As you are preparing for the Foundations of Reading test, think back to your coursework on creating assessments. In addition to the open response, the FORT is made up of 100 multiple-choice questions. Understanding the mechanics of a good, critical thinking multiple choice question can help you to choose the best alternative and dodge the distractors.

Test makers often create distractors from what they know to be misconceptions of their testing pool. Consider the following distractors.

  • Guided repeated oral reading is an important part of a balanced literacy program for students who are reading with fluency and automaticity.
  • Confusion between spelling of wait and weight demonstrated the student’s weakness in phonology.
  • The student’s reading “the play started” with the miscue of “the play start” could best be addressed by teaching inflected phonemes such as -ed.
  • The student’s pronunciation of courageous as /ker- ay -gus/ demonstrates a lack of awareness of phonological shift in a derived form.

Do you see any problems? The problem is that the distractors themselves have errors.

  • Guided repeated oral reading is indeed an important part of a balanced literacy program, but not for student who are reading with fluency and automaticity. Once a student has reached fluency, guided repeated oral reading is no longer generally considered to be a best strategy.
  • Phonology is the systematic organization of sounds. It does not include spelling.
  • An inflected ending such as -ed is a morpheme, not a phoneme. The morpheme -ed contains two phonemes: /e/ and /d/.
  • The student who pronounced courageous with a long a sound made the phonological shift from the root form courage to the derived form accurately. The /j/ sound of courageous does not shift from the root form courage.

Multiple-choice questions on the FORT are designed to test your knowledge and critical thinking skills. They will require that you have mastered vocabulary and that you can apply strategies to classroom situations.

One way you can eliminate a distractor from consideration is if it contains an error. Apply all those comprehension strategies that you are teaching your students: monitoring, rereading, metacognition. Search out the traps and avoid them.

Are you looking for additional resources to help you prepare for the Foundations of Reading exam? We have a full-length comprehensive course that provides instruction, practice, and expert support. Best of luck.