The ACT – those letters strike fear into the heart of almost any midwestern test taker. This week, the ACT is being offered to most midwestern schools nationwide, in a new initiative from state governments to try and ensure that every student is college bound. The ACT is nothing truly new; it's simply a new form of standardized testing, but it's one that almost every single college around the nation accepts, which means that it's doing double duty – giving the state's the information they crave about school performance, and giving the colleges more evidence for admittance.
ACT prep classes are nothing new either. In these courses, students are drilled with practice passages to help accustom them to the types of questions the ACT likes to ask, the types of strategies to use for each, and to ease the fear and trepidation that these high stakes tests often cause.
One teacher is doing things much differently though. A teacher in Northwestern Illinois, is using some different methods for ensuring that students do better on the reading section of the test – he's using poetry.
Teaching poetry is nothing new in a standard English class. However, poetry is not offered on the ACT, and three of the four reading passages are non-fiction, which has caused many to question his methods. Most teachers will teach a skill like speed reading, or will work on inferring information from the test.
“Poetry is a skill that appeals to those with low verbal intelligences,” he says, referencing the theories on multiple intelligences which cite differences among learners. “Some students struggle with verbal, which is very bad for their chances on the reading section of the ACT, but might be great with logical/mathematical, natural, inter or intrapersonal, or musical. Poetry appeals to each of these kinds of intelligences in some way or another.”
This teacher uses Robert Frost's nature poems recited to a beat, shows local and national poetry slam champions reading their work, and even introduces modern songwriters and rap artists as a way to teach vocabulary, inference and meaning.
“I get a lot of flak from the other teachers here,” he says, citing the fact that there is no direct correlation between poetry and the test, “but I do use real ACT passages as well. Unfortunately, nobody has discovered a really good way to teach reading comprehension, only ways to measure it, so I don't think I should use outdated methods to make my points.”
The ACT test is being offered free of charge in most schools across the midwest on Wednesday and Thursday of the coming week.
Free Speed Reading is a website offering a reading test that measures your words per minute, as well as articles and software which can help you start speed reading right away.
Free Online Speed Reading Test