With the new year has come a new focus to our curriculum: Kaplan ACT Preparation.
In the beginning of the week we handed out 3 prep books to each student and walked them through what were essentially wedding vows betrothing them to their prep books. The goal was to emphasize how important our students should be taking their books and this prep season in general and to make things a little fun because, let's face it, the next 3 months will not be all that fun.
Teaching the Kaplan curriculum is scary and frustrating. Scary because what and how we're teaching our students really matters now. Before, we were having conversations with them: what kind of school do you want to go to? what is the best way to save money? what should you include in your resume? Now, we are entrusted with helping our students improve their ACT scores and properly teaching them the techniques to do so.
Teaching Kaplan is also frustrating because it doesn't all relate to our students. Some examples:
- Kaplan does all of these cheesy things with the word "Kap" in it. For example "Kap Wrap" is the end of the section question that is supposed to make them think. "Thinking Kap" is the question at the beginning of each unit that is supposed to use the same methods that we will be teaching later in the section. I'm assuming this was amusing for the authors of the kaplan curriculum, but my students are not amused.
- Kaplan uses language that is too technical or confusing. Here's a perfect example in a section that I have to practice teach tomorrow:
In the English sections students read an excerpt and encounter various grammatical and structural errors which they are then prompted to correct.
" I rose slowly through the wooded sections, but upon reaching the flat, open areas, I rode MORE FASTLY. (this is not really in caps, it's actually underlined"
The first step of the method is to figure out what the problem is. In my mind I say: "oh, ok, the problem is that 'fastly' is NOT A WORD" but no.... according to the Kaplan book, the issue is that 'more is incorrect with slow'- what does that even mean?? If I told my students that, they would just look at me with death stares.
In a broader sense, my issue, perhaps not just with Kaplan but with the ACT in general, is that so many of the English questions are wrong or right because they "sound right." That's great for the majority of American high school students, but not for those who have learned English as a second (or third or fourth) language. To them, things don't just "sound right" in English- partially, I would argue, because English doesn't make all that much sense in the first place, but also because they don't naturally think in English. The second language that I'm closest to fluent in is Hebrew (and, mind you, there's no way I would survive a day in an Israeli high school where I was expected to speak Hebrew)- but there are very few occasions where I could read something in Hebrew and tell you that it "sounds wrong" or "sounds right"- it's Hebrew and if I'm reading it I'm going to assume it's grammatically correct- or at least it's more grammatically correct than I could ever write it. For my ELL students who struggle so hard to write correctly in English, how can I expect them to notice someone else's mistakes?