The TExES English Language Arts and Reading 4 – 8 Exam is a certification examination that is designed to determine if an individual has the knowledge necessary to teach English language arts at the middle school level in the Texas public school system. This exam assesses an individual’s knowledge of the basic concepts of the English language and effective methods of improving student’s reading, writing, and learning skills. 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 100 multiple-choice questions that are related to the following areas:
- Oral Language, Early Literary Development, Word Identification, and Reading Fluency (33%)
- Reading Comprehension, Written Language, Study and Inquiry and Viewing and Representing (67%)
The exam-taker will have 5 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 4 – 8 Exam is $131 and the exam is only administered in a computer-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. Define the whole language approach used in reading instruction.
The whole language approach to reading is based on the constructivist learning theory, which asserts that the teacher is a facilitator, who instructs by building on previously-acquired knowledge. According to this theory, a teacher should encourage active learning and emphasize working in groups to develop social and communication skills. Constructivists believe that students learn better and retain information longer if they are actively involved instead of listening passively. This approach encourages students to connect the information presented to their own experience. Students learn by taking the initiative for their own learning.
Teachers using the whole language, constructivist approach to reading develop lesson plans that combine speaking, listening, reading, and writing experiences to create a rich literary environment that emphasizes quality literature and cultural diversity. The meaning and context of the word is more important than its sound. When students connect new data with information they already know in a meaningful manner, they will better understand the new material and be able to use it more effectively. They integrate the old and new information more rapidly, retain it for a longer period, and are able to retrieve it more easily.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. Describe the guided oral reading strategy.
Guided oral reading is an instructional strategy used to improve verbal reading skills. Its main function is to improve fluency. This approach can be used with students of any age and grade level, and will help both native English speakers and English language learners. This exercise can be used at home, in the classroom with the whole group, or with the students in pairs (e.g., a fluent reader with a struggling student). The process works as follows:
- A parent, teacher, or peer reads a passage out loud at about 80-100 words per minute. The material needs to be at the student’s level of comprehension.
- The student reads the text silently several times.
- The student reads the passage out loud. The parent, teacher or peer offers encouragement and constructive feedback. It usually takes four times before the student is able to read the text without errors.
5. Discuss context clues and other elaboration techniques that help students comprehend new words.
Learning new words is important to comprehension and integration of unfamiliar information. For a student to remember a new word and add it to his active vocabulary, it should be relevant to him and essential to understanding the material. One way to determine meaning is by considering the context in which the word is used. These indirect learning hints or context clues include definitions, descriptions, examples and restatements. As most words are learned by listening to conversations, it seems people use this tool all the time, even if they do it unconsciously.
The words and terms presented at the start of a lesson should reflect key concepts that form the foundation of the material and will be used often. Paraphrasing gives the main idea plus essential details necessary to understand and clarify the core idea. 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, can also help.
6. Discuss the reasons students should read, and list strategies to help them make the most of their reading experiences.
There are two reasons to read: for pleasure and to learn. Students read to improve comprehension, develop a broad, eclectic background of knowledge, and to expand their vocabulary. It is important to read different media, such as books, magazines, newspapers, and carefully screened articles on the Internet. Using class discussions to highlight, summarize, review and critique the material contributes to a positive reading experience.
Comprehension improves when students actively think about what they are reading, apply new knowledge, and connect new information to their world. When a student is able to visualize the material, it becomes more personal and real. When he engages in an internal dialogue with the author, he learns more effectively and retains the information for a longer period. Students need to know how to determine the importance of information and discriminate between the essential and the inessential. Carefully-worded questions help students learn what to look for when they read.
7. Discuss integrated language study.
Students need to understand that the language process is integral to learning and developing skills in all fields of study, not just English. Language is not static or one-dimensional. Students need to know that language 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, the listener and the writer to respond, interpret, assess and integrate.
In today’s information age, media and technology play important roles. Books, newspapers, radio and television, the Internet, CDs, DVDs and personal computers provide information. It is critical for students to be taught methods to dissect and discriminate the digital data received, and 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.
8. 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.
- Make corrections.
- Print (publish) the final version.
- Learn from the teacher’s comments.
9. 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.
10. Discuss the importance of and ways to help students learn to be creative thinkers.
One of the primary purposes of education is to teach students to become critical thinkers. Language arts classes are fertile fields in which to sow the seeds of original thinking. One method is to teach students not only facts but also how to answers through research and reasoning. Students learn better, retain data longer, recall it easier, and integrate it more effectively when they understand the how and the why, rather than just the what.
Teachers should plan activities that use the newly-acquired skills and knowledge, and that encourage students to probe more deeply into the subject. Exploring texts through different lenses (social, historical, ethical, political, cultural, psychological, personal) is an extremely effective way to help them move beyond first impressions and obvious interpretations. Asking open-ended questions and responding to students’ concerns, ideas, and unique interpretations is another way to probe deeper, elaborate further, and encourage them to move beyond their initial understanding. Assigning challenging problems, collectively developing solutions, and applying them to contemporary issues makes learning exciting and relevant to the real world.