Teacher’s Lounge Blog

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

Selecting Essay Topic on FTCE

October 16th, 2018 | Comments Off on Selecting Essay Topic on FTCE | Certification Prep, Literacy Certification, Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses, Writing Certification

 

Many teacher licensing exams, such as the Florida FTCE, have a writing test that gives you an option to choose your prompt. Both prompts will lend themselves to excellent essays. The trick is to choose the one that fits your skills and experience. Here are some points to consider.

 

  1. Match your selection with your knowledge. When you read the prompts, you will likely have one of three reactions: “Yes, Yes, Yes!! I know this one!” Or “No! No way! Can. Not.” or “Hmmm…looks about the same.” If you have a “Yes!” choose it and be done. If you have a “No,” obviously you know what to do there. If you have a “Hmmm…,” don’t overthink it. Continue to the other strategies for selecting your topic.
  2. Consider the grading criteria. Your score on some areas such as conventions or organization will not be particularly impacted by your selection; however, your score on focus, ideas, and word choice could be doomed with the wrong choice.
    Support Because your essay needs focused support to develop the topic, try to jot down a thesis statement. Can you come up with two or three points that you’re able to support adequately? Do you have some anecdotal evidence or some research to work in?
    Word Choice List your key vocabulary. Make sure you have the domain specific vocabulary you’ll need. For example, if your topic is reading levels and you can’t remember the words instructional, frustration, and independent, you’re going to be in trouble. Look at the other topic.
  1. Evaluate the purpose. The FTCE gives you a choice of a topic to explain or a topic to defend with a position. Identify which prompt tends to expository and which lends toward a position. What’s your preference? Would you prefer to write an expository essay supported by facts or a position paper supported by reasons?
  2. Commit If you’ve followed steps 1-3, by this point, either one option is the obvious right choice for you, or it probably doesn’t make much difference. Today’s world offers more options than any human can accommodate. As a result, we flip through movies, shows, songs, posts, etc. We struggle with commitment. Don’t be non-committal on the FTCE essay. Commit. Commit quickly and completely. You’ve got your topic. Now write.

One early prep strategy: anticipate essay questions. What are the topics you’ve addressed multiple times through your courses? Think tech, school choice, teacher’s rights/responsibilities, student needs. Write out strong essays on viable topics. Develop some stock answers that you can massage on test day.

One last minute test strategy: On test day, as you answer multiple choice questions, note the academic vocabulary in the questions. Those words may become very precious when you write the essay.

 

Preparing Yourself for Teacher Exams

May 9th, 2018 | Comments Off on Preparing Yourself for Teacher Exams | Certification Prep, Teacher's Lounge Blog

In addition to developing a deep understanding of the content included on teacher exams, you also need to prepare yourself emotionally and physically to test. Technology and social media have beckoned us into a world of living in the instant. In sharp contrast to tweets and snaps, teacher exams require that you sustain mental focus on one task while sitting in one chair staring at one screen for up to four hours. When did you last sit for four hours, much less sit and focus on one demanding task?
If you are not in the habit of sitting for a long session focused on a single challenging endeavor, you’ll want to follow some strategies to prepare yourself for your test day.

Prepare Emotionally.

Assess your anxiety level. A measure of anxiety is to be expected and may even provide a boost while you’re testing and preparing. Too much anxiety can paralyze. As you prepare, take time to think through the root cause of your anxiety. Do you lack confidence in your critical knowledge of the test objectives? Does the multiple choice or the open response seem more foreboding? Do you think about the logistics of waking up, getting to the test, and navigating the test site? What piece of the testing threatens your night’s sleep? Identify your stressors, and set about to resolve them.

Develop mental stamina. You’ll need to focus on the exam every minute for up to four hours. There are no commercial breaks and no ninth-inning stretches. One of the best ways to prepare is to read a challenging book or to study for the exam for four uninterrupted hours. No phone. No flipping to a social media site. No breaks.

Know the test. One of the best strategies for easing emotional distress is to be fully informed. Study the test website. Know the standards and objectives. Understand the types of questions and test features such as flag for review. You’ll want to make use of all of the information and helps that are provided by the testing site.

Prepare Physically.

Train your body. We snack at home, snack in class, snack at the movies, snack in study groups in the library. We carry around liters of water and make frequent trips to the bathroom. Unfortunately, snacking and sipping won’t be smiled upon at your test.

Be time sensitive. Work on developing an inner awareness of the passage of time so that you can avoid frequently checking the clock to make sure you’re on track.

Choose practical clothing. The normal strategy is to layer. You can add or take off to make sure your body is at its best temperature to be mentally sharp.

Simulate Test Day

After you register for your test, try simulating your test day. Plan your sleep, wake up time, meals, transportation, and arrival. Follow your plan as nearly as possible and station yourself at a library or quiet study area. Sit for four hours and engage in a mentally-demanding task. Avoid snacks and other distractions. When you finish, evaluate your experiment. Did you feel fatigued? Did you stay mentally sharp? Do you need to make changes, plan another simulation, or rest assured that you’re ready?
In the midst of your eons of preparation for this one very important test, remember that emotional and physical preparation will help you to perform at your best.

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.
Other articles in series: Passing the Composition Exercise: Mechanics

“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.