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Somebody Needs You

Power Verbs Ensure
Students Test Success

This strategy for improving student test performance is one that Larry Bell includes in his book Twelve Powerful Words That Increase Test Scores and Help Close the Achievement Gap. See the sidebar for more information about Larry Bell and this book.

In my experience I have often found that students will miss questions on a test not because they dont know the answer but because the test vernacular was different from what they were accustomed to on tests their teachers gave. That awareness has led me to create a list of 12 Power Verbs that, when students know them, can make powerful differences in test scores. The 12 words are often seen on standardized tests but they are not normally used or discussed by classroom teachers on a daily, or even weekly, basis.

It seems unfair to me that students might take the same kinds of tests all year long. They get use to tests that are all true-false questions, or tests that are constructed in any certain way. Then, when the big test comes, those students have to take a test that is very different from tests to which they are accustomed.

And then we blame parents for the poor test results. Or the students economic situation. Or [content block] But I have found that when you put the same kinds of words -- Power Verbs that empower students and teachers -- on regular teacher assessments as appear on most standardized tests, then you have given students a tool that will vastly improve their chances for success.

Many of the at-promise students in your schools are like I was when I was a kid. Neither of my parents finished elementary school. They could not have helped me with some of my homework and some of these power terms. But if a teacher will spend 7 to 10 minutes a day introducing these words, they can have a big impact on test results. If a teacher includes these words on the tests she creates, that can make a big difference. If a teacher models the words in his classroom questioning techniques, he is preparing students to succeed on their tests. If a teacher challenges students to use the power verbs to create test questions of their own, then students awareness of and comfort with those words increases.

It makes sense to me that it is hard for a student to pass a test if he or she cant read the test. Doesnt that make sense to you?

Many schools I have worked with tell me that their test scores have been very positively impacted because they introduced their students to my 12 Power Verbs. Simply stated, students exposed frequently to the 12 Power Verbs do better on state tests than those who are not as familiar with them.

To put it a different way, maybe you can ask yourself this question: How many times did you teach something that you know you taught well? You know your kids understood it, yet on the test day one of your best students raised her hand to ask, Can you tell me what this question means? You know you cant answer that question when state tests are in progress, so you know that student doesnt have a snowballs chance of getting it right if she cant even tell you what the question is asking.

Let me give you an example: A student runs into a question that says something like

From the passage, what would you infer the authors point of view to be?
A student who doesnt know what the word infer means is dead in the water. Will it matter how well the teacher taught the material (authors point of view, in this case)? Will it matter how well the teacher reviewed the concept before the test?

What you have here is a classic case of a Power Verb that trips up students.

By using my 12 Power Verbs each day, an including them on tests, you can help students achieve success. My book, Twelve Powerful Words That Increase Test Scores and Help Close the Achievement Gap, includes 88 ways in which teachers, administrators, and even parents can introduce and reinforce this vocabulary so students never fear the words and so they will have much more confidence when they sit down to take state tests. These 12 Power Verbs will allow students to start with -- to be familiar with -- some words that normally might confuse and frustrate them so that when they see other words like them they are more likely to tackle them.

Every educator should take my 12 words and look around for other power verbs that might trip up students in their subject area or at their grade level. They should do something every day to make up for the lack of vocabulary with which many students come to school.

My friends, somebody needs you.
Larry Bell