The TExES English Language Arts and Reading / Social Studies 4 – 8 Exam is a certification examination that is designed to determine whether or not an individual has the knowledge necessary to teach English and social studies at the middle school level in the Texas public school system. This exam assesses the individual’s knowledge of the fundamental concepts of the English language, the individual’s knowledge of a variety of topics related to social studies, and the individual’s understanding of the teaching methods required to effectively teach these subjects. This exam may be required, in addition to or instead of the Generalist 4 – 8 Exam, in order to become a certified middle school teacher in the state of Texas depending on the exact type of teaching position the individual is pursuing. The exam consists of 110 multiple-choice questions, 100 of which are scored and 10 that are not scored, that are related to the following areas:
Language Arts – Oral Language Skills, Vocabulary, Word Analysis, and Reading Skills (17 questions)
Language Arts – Reading Comprehension, Methods to Improve Writing Skills, and Methods to Improve Learning Skills (33 questions)
Citizenship, Culture, Economics, Geography, Government, History, and the Effects of Science and Technology on Society (36 questions)
Social Studies Fundamentals and Effective Social Studies Teaching and Assessment Methods (14 questions)
The exam-taker will have five hours to complete the exam and the exam will be scored on a scale of 100 – 300 with 240 set as the minimum score considered as passing for the exam. The registration fee for the English Language Arts and Reading / Social Studies Exam is $82 and the exam is only administered in a paper-based format. However, there are usually other exams and fees that are required in addition to this exam in order to become certified as an entry-level middle school teacher within the state of Texas.
Sample Study Notes
1. Discuss the importance of fluency and vocabulary in learning to read.
Fluency is the ability to comprehend the written word accurately and quickly. Fluent readers recognize words and expressions and understand their meaning automatically. They don’t focus on the words, they concentrate on the meaning. They make connections between knowledge they already have and ideas and concepts discovered in the text. Vocabulary is vital to comprehension. In order to read, a student must be able to decode the letters, arrange them in a logical sequence, and know what each word means. Readers need to recognize what spoken words look like when they see them written. If readers don’t recognize the words they see in print, they won’t understand the ideas and concepts being discussed. As students are introduced to unfamiliar subjects, they must expand their vocabulary in order to understand the new content. Research has shown that most vocabulary is learned indirectly through conversation and reading. Complex words, words related to a specific subject, and words not relevant to daily life are learned by instruction or direct learning.
2. Explain direct and indirect vocabulary learning.
Indirect vocabulary learning begins at birth. A child learns to recognize and understand words by how they are used, who is saying them, and what is going on around him when he hears them. He adds to his vocabulary:
Through conversations, especially with adults.
When adults read to him, explain new words, answer questions and discuss the content.
By reading on his own. Encouraging a child to read is one of the best ways to help him expand his vocabulary and improve comprehension. A student is taught unfamiliar words by direct vocabulary learning in an effort to help him understand and comprehend new information. A teacher enhances the experience by:
Explaining unfamiliar words to help comprehension before he reads the assigned text.
Encouraging the student to look for the new words and use ones just learned.
Providing the same words in different contexts to help understanding, memory and retrieval.
Defining new words, using them in sentences, and relating them to familiar scenes and situations.
3. Discuss the importance of background knowledge in reading comprehension.
Background knowledge is the understanding of social and cultural influences in the world, which comes from being read to and reading for pleasure. To encourage reading, students should be allowed to select topics and media they find interesting and relevant. Any reading helps build a foundation of basic knowledge, expands vocabulary, and improves fluency. Participating in discussions helps activate background knowledge, integrate and connect new data with previously-acquired information, and leads to necessary revisions in understanding. For students to remember a word and add it to their active vocabulary, it should be relevant to them and essential to understanding the text. Students should be able to make a connection to information they already know, relate the term to personal experience, or use it to solve a real problem. Discussing examples and/or applications of the word in a different context, along with examples of how not to use it, help students understand. Requiring a written explanation of new terms is also effective, and makes new ideas easier to remember.
4. Discuss the writing process.
Students need to understand that writing is hard work and requires patience and persistence. A well-written paper takes thought and preparation, and shouldn’t be rushed. The steps in the writing process help produce a well-crafted, interesting paper. Explaining each step will help students write better papers in all their classes, not just in language arts.
Brainstorm by reading and researching different subjects to generate ideas. Take notes and highlight important facts. Write down book and article titles, authors and page numbers.
Develop an outline of the main topics to be covered. This guide can be general or detailed depending upon the writer’s preference.
Write the first version or rough draft to get the ideas on paper. Sometimes this is called the “sloppy copy.”
Revise the rough draft by rewriting awkward sentences, adding and deleting information and improving the introductory and concluding paragraphs.
Edit the revised version. Correct spelling and grammar errors.
Ask for feedback. Have a parent or peer review and comment.
Print (publish) the final version.
Learn from the teacher’s comments.
5. List some ways a teacher can improve students’ reading, writing, listening and speaking skills.
READ with expression and enthusiasm; share a love of reading. Assign novels, poetry, short stories, essays, editorials and biographies to keep boredom at bay. Let students decide what to read and lead a class discussion about the topic. Encourage critical thinking, ask probing questions, and pose different scenarios. Share personal experiences to diminish students’ WRITING fears. Assign essays, reports and term papers. Giving students the latitude to choose subjects encourages creativity. Critiquing and editing helps them learn to think critically and assess their work more accurately. Set a positive example by LISTENING carefully to what each student says and what they say to each other. Paraphrase to make sure meaning and intent are clear. Set up listening situations: one-on-one, small groups, formal speeches, oral reading, student presentations, and class discussions. Students learn good SPEAKING skills by listening to good speakers, so always use proper English when lecturing and during conversations with students. Assign a variety of activities: speeches, skits, debates and storytelling. Have students take turns leading class discussions, reading out loud, and making formal presentations.
6. Discuss the importance of making connections to other parts of the students’ lives.
Students need to understand that language is integral to learning and developing skills in all fields of study, and carries over into life after school. Language is not static or one-dimensional; it varies depending upon the audience (parents, peers, professors). Language has structural rules, patterns, and conventions, and changes over time with continued use. It entails speaking, listening and writing. It requires the speaker, listener and writer to respond, interpret, assess and integrate. In today’s information age, media and technology play important roles. Besides books, newspapers, radio and television, the Internet, CDs, DVDs and personal computers provide information. It is critical students be taught methods to dissect and discriminate the digital data received, and learn to scrutinize the sources from which it comes. The classroom should be a place where students feel safe to explore, ask questions, take risks and develop effective listening, speaking and writing skills. Exploring the relationship between school, home and the neighborhood helps students understand that individual actions have far-reaching consequences. Making that critical connection is a major milestone in an adolescent’s maturation process.
7. List some activities that make connections between school, home, and the rest of the world.
One of education’s primary functions is to prepare students to be productive members of society. To do that effectively, knowledge gained in school needs be meaningful and make sense to the students. Information learned and skills acquired should be used to understand facts, integrate data and apply lessons learned to problems posed outside of school. The ability to see the relationship between seemingly-unrelated topics and events requires critical thinking and advanced reasoning skills. Planning lectures, special projects and field trips that explore universal themes and address national or international issues makes lessons real and relevant. For example, a teacher might assign a Stephen King novel, then identify a similar theme in a Shakespearean play, and finally show the relationship of this theme to the political situation in a third world country. This kind of lesson teaches students how to think critically and creatively and make connections to the real world. Use unexpected opportunities to connect school life to real life. For instance, during career day students could interview a guest. They could then write an evaluation of the guest’s profession.
8. Discuss the importance of making social studies activities relevant to today’s world.
Social studies is composed of history and the social sciences (government, citizenship, sociology, economics, cultural influences and the effects of technology). It is a broad subject, indeed. Imparting the values and mores of society to impressionable young people and teaching them how to be involved, engaged, active members of the world is a huge responsibility. It is critical for teachers to use real problems appropriate to the students’ age, and prod them to use their creativity to dissect problems and devise solutions. Part of the process is to challenge students’ thinking by offering stimulating subjects from which to select their reading, writing, discussion and debate topics. The projects need to combine independent study with group responsibilities, because this is the way the real world works: people bring their unique perspective to the group and the group reaches a consensus on the best way to tackle a problem. Social studies is a class that can and should be realistic preparation for participation as an adult member of society.
9. Describe “authentic intellectual work.”
Dr. Fred M. Newmann is the Director of the Center on Organization and Restructuring of Schools and Professor of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Wisconsin. After studying many programs that various schools have used to try to improve the quality of instruction, he developed the concept of authentic intellectual work. (He defines authentic as “significant and meaningful rather than trivial and useless.”) He identified three criteria that are present in authentic achievement: students learn and gain knowledge; they use “disciplined inquiry” to learn; and they apply the knowledge gained to situations outside of school. Dr. Newmann believes “instruction is complex and quantification in education can often be as misleading as informative,” so in order to help students achieve the necessary knowledge to succeed, he devised five standards to measure the quality of instruction. They are: higher-order thinking, depth of knowledge, connectedness to the world, substantive conversation and social support for student achievement. These standards are rated on a one to five scale, from “less” to “more,” rather than with a yes/no assessment.
10. Define: higher-order thinking, depth of knowledge, connectedness to the world, substantive conversation and social support for student achievement.
HIGHER-ORDER THINKING requires manipulation of information by synthesizing, generalizing, explaining and hypothesizing; in higher-order thinking, students study a situation, solve a problem, and/or discover alternative ways to interpret previously acquired data.
DEPTH OF KNOWLEDGE occurs when students understand and can discuss and evaluate key ideas. They are able to explain core concepts, identify relevant problems, and devise logical solutions.
CONNECTEDNESS TO THE WORLD means students apply knowledge gained in school to issues in the real world. Information is presented in such a way that they are able to see the relevance to either the public arena or their personal lives.
SUBSTANTIVE CONVERSATION occurs when students can identify and discuss key concepts in a knowledgeable, insightful manner. They form intelligent questions, offer logical solutions and exhibit a clear understanding of the topic.
SOCIAL SUPPORT FOR STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT means teachers expect all students to meet high standards and create an atmosphere conducive to achieving that goal. Teachers expect students to help each other and require mutual respect in and out of the classroom.