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Many teachers have just endured an especially frustrating and stressful round of Grade 3 and Grade 6 EQAO testing - that annual event that can be stressful for teachers and demoralizing for many students.

In spite of various Ministry and Board initiatives, school improvement plans, and the best efforts of teachers, too many students are struggling with EQAO assessments year after year.

What keeps going wrong?

For starters, let’s look at mathematics. The complex math texts many teachers are told to use have not always worked in the past and are still not working for many students today. Most teachers are tired of watching too many students struggle with complex math texts they can’t read. Teachers are tired of watching students wasting time, transcribing inaccurately, from these texts when they could be using their classroom time actually doing math.

The problem with writing is different. It’s not the use of inappropriate texts for writing, it’s the complete absence of a comprehensive writing program. Students are expected to demonstrate proficiency in process writing and in the grammar and punctuation expectations that support it. In the absence of appropriate student writing books, teachers are left to spend inordinate amounts of time creating their own writing programs - time that could be put to better use.

Unlike writing, there are a wide variety of reading materials available to teach the Ontario curriculum. Most teachers have confidence in many of these. What is needed in reading, however, are supplementary materials that help students understand and respond to the EQAO style of short answer, longer answer, and multiple-choice questions.

In math and writing, many teachers are forced to turn to a hodgepodge of photocopied worksheets and questionable Internet lessons resulting in grossly inadequate programs that do not thoroughly cover the Ontario expectations.

In desperation, others resort to the “dollar store” solution. Here, teachers shell-out hundreds of dollars of their own money to buy cheap, foreign-made materials to try to build some semblance of a program to teach the complex and challenging Ontario curriculum.

Teachers and principals reflect on the unique needs of each student and on the realities of their local school community. They must be the decision makers when it comes to doing what is best for their students and that includes deciding what learning materials and strategies work best in their classrooms.

Teachers who have had success using math textbooks, will, of course, use them. Those who have not must search out alternative approaches.

Teachers who have had success using  mobile devices, will, of course, use them when appropriate. Those who have not had success must look elsewhere.

Teachers know that a disorganized hodgepodge of work sheets and inappropriate Internet lessons don’t add up to viable Ontario math and language programs. The dollar store option is even worse!

So what can be done?

Many Ontario teachers have turned to workbooks to solve these problems, NOT the “skill-drill-kill” variety, but rather, Ontario specific and pedagogically sound StudentBOOKS. A good example, would be the StudentBOOKS written specifically for the Ontario curriculum. I’ll post a link to these at the end of the article.

Personal StudentBOOKS can be highly effective learning tools. They encourage exploration and investigation. They advance understanding and learning skills.

They are:

  • strategy books that are creative and motivating
  • loads of fun for boys as well as girls
  • convenient, fast and easy-to-use by teachers and students
  • personal to the student and instill values of pride, responsibility, curiosity, and self-initiative
  • fully illustrated, in full-colour, many with dynamic characters living marvellous adventures
  • books that integrate reading, process writing, word study, viewing, and technology
  • comprehensive records of student achievement and next steps that students will proudly share with parents/guardians

You can achieve high educational value at a price LESS than photocopying. The low cost of a renewable Personal StudentBOOK is less than the cost of photocopying its parts.

For many Ontario teachers, Personal StudentBOOKS have become an important component of their school improvement plan. With these resources. students can enjoy the benefits of improved math and literacy skills - they can experience and enjoy success.

Here are some links to math and literacy Personal StudentBOOKS:

EQAO Writing
Writing 3
Writing 6

EQAO Reading
Ontario Reading 3
Ontario Reading 6

Ontario Math 3
Ontario Math 6

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