Teacher’s Lounge Blog

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

MA DESE is Updating MTEL Teacher Certification Exams

January 7th, 2021 | Comments Off on MA DESE is Updating MTEL Teacher Certification Exams | Certification Prep, Literacy Certification, Math Certification, Reading Certification, Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses, Writing Certification

No matter what state you hope to teach in, potential educators in their junior year of college should begin planning for taking teacher certification exams. Your college advisor can help you determine what tests you need to take, or you can research the state education website to decide the most suitable time to take them. Early consideration can be quite beneficial, particularly if you lack specific skills and knowledge evaluated on the tests.

For Massachusetts residents who will take MTEL licensing exams in 2021 or 2022, it is essential to note that many of the tests are undergoing redevelopment. Numerous MTEL tests are being updated, and others are being introduced. This can affect your preparation strategy. 

When you learn which exams you must take, explore the MTEL site to know which ones are subject to change and if yours will be affected. The Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure website offers various helpful tips for exam preparation, from videos to practice tests and tutorials. They also provide information about online courses that can assist you in areas where your skills may not be as strong.

PrepForward is the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s only preferred provider for MTEL prep courses.  You may want to take test preparation courses in areas that you may not feel as confident about or for a comprehensive review before sitting for exams. The earlier you learn about your required exams, the better prepared you will be.

While taking these exams is no doubt stressful, early and all-inclusive preparation is vital for not only peace of mind but also receiving a passing score. Learning what you need to do if you do not pass is just as crucial. Knowing what to expect beforehand can help you do well and save you the cost of re-taking your exams.

MTEL Comm & Lit – Passing the Summary Exercise with Fidelity

April 25th, 2019 | Comments Off on MTEL Comm & Lit – Passing the Summary Exercise with Fidelity | Certification Prep, Literacy Certification, Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses, Writing Certification

Passing the Summary Exercise: Fidelity

Communication and Literacy Skills Test

On the MTEL Communication and Literacy Skills Test, candidates are asked to complete a summary exercise.  In this article, I will share the most common errors I see and tips for making a solid score on the fidelity performance characteristic. 

A summary with fidelity gives a fair picture of the original. Common synonyms of fidelity are trustworthiness, dependability, and faithfulness. Your ability to give a representation that is loyal to the original will be evaluated in this trait. How can you do that?

You succinctly restate the main ideas and supporting details in your own words, omitting less relevant material so that your summary is considerably shorter than the original.

Steps to follow:

  • Understand the task. This summary is a “true” summary. Your task is to recap the original, preserving the content, tone, order, relationships, emphasis, and point of view. You accurately retell the article in your own words. Summarizing is a skill we practice from childhood. We use summary techniques to answer questions such as “What did you do at school today?” and “What’s that book about?” We don’t retell every event or every detail; we tell the most important ideas in our own words.
  • Read the original. Read with understanding, highlighting the main ideas and supporting points and formulating in your mind the overarching message.
  • Retell the original. In your words, retell the article, omitting the support and examples that may add interest but are not critical to the main idea. The power of your summary rests in your ability to discern what to include, what to leave out, and how to package the key details and ideas.
  • Check word choice, grammar, and mechanics. More about that in a later blog, but clean writing using precise vocabulary is always an asset.

 

Errors to avoid

  • Avoid starting with an author/title/main idea statement. This is not your seventh-grade book report. Instead, begin your summary with your rewording of the first main idea from the original. The original does not begin with a statement such as, “Ryan Heimbach’s article, ‘Deception,’ emphasizes…” When you give an accurate representation of the original, you should not begin with this type statement.
  • Avoid tagging the author. Tagging the author is a common strategy for a summary. I would caution you to use this strategy sparingly if at all. A “true” summary reflects only the content of the original. The original does not say, “In his article, Heimbach stated…” Statements like this burn words without adding content.
  • Avoid spinning. It is not your job to argue, interpret, analyze, or “give your spin” on the text. You merely give a concise picture. That’s why the test evaluators use the term, fidelity—be fair to the intent of the original.
  • Avoid mismatching relationships. If the original article says, “Parental involvement was shown to improve student productivity,” you cannot distort the relationship between ideas by saying, “Student productivity was shown to improve parental involvement.” Using words and ideas from the original is not enough. The relationship between the ideas has to be accurate. Ideas have to stay in context.
  • Avoid considering your audience. Your responsibility is to preserve the message. It’s not your responsibility to communicate in a way that appeals to a particular audience.
  • Avoid shifting verb tenses unnecessarily. Note the tense of the original. You will most likely write in present tense, or what is sometimes called “historic present.” Think about describing a piece of art. For example, “In American Gothic, a farmer is standing beside a woman who is thought to be his daughter or wife.” We describe art using present tense verbs; do the same for your summary. If the article you are assigned to summarize is written in past or future tense, your summary would follow suit.
  • Avoid introducing new ideas. No points for original ideas; in fact, you’ll lose fidelity points if you distort the original with your ideas.

On the MTEL CLST, a summary with fidelity gives a true picture of the original. It doesn’t talk at length about a minor point and then rush over a major point. It gives a brief accurate representation which reflects your ability to discern and synthesize.

 

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

Teacher preparing

 

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.

 
Please visit our Florida page for additional help on preparing for your Florida FTCE General Knowledge exam.

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. Review our teacher certification preparation courses if you need more help.

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.