FTCE Professional Education Test: Ultimate Guide and Practice Test
Preparing to take the FTCE Professional Education Test?
You’ve found the right page. We will answer every question you have and tell you exactly what you need to study to pass the FTCE Professional Education Test.
FTCE Professional Education Test Quickfacts
The FTCE PET tests your knowledge of pedagogical and professional practices;
you are required to take this test in order to obtain a professional teacher certificate in Florida.
The test is approximately 120 multiple-choice questions.
The FTCE PET covers eight competencies:
- Instructional Design and Planning
- Student-Centered Learning Environments
- Instructional Delivery and Facilitation
- Assessment Strategies
- Professional Improvement
- Principles of Professional Conduct
- English Language Learners
- Literacy Strategies
The test is computer-based (CBT) and must be completed in 2.5 hours.
A scaled score of 200 or higher is considered passing. An unofficial pass/fail score is given immediately after testing, and a detailed score report will be released within 4 weeks of testing.
In 2017, out of 8,736 first-time testers, 80% passed.
In order to feel prepared for the test, plan to spend several weeks preparing. It is helpful to create a schedule for yourself ahead of time by breaking down the test topics into different weeks. This way, you will know you have enough time to study each topic covered on the test.
What test takers wish they would’ve known:
- Watch for questions that include the words, “not or except,” which indicates that you need to choose the answer choice that does not apply.
- Keep an eye on the time and make sure you are able to complete the test in the 2.5 hour time frame.
- It is better to guess on a question you don’t know the answer to than to leave it unanswered.
Information and screenshots obtained from the Florida Teacher Certification Examinations website: http://www.fl.nesinc.com/testPage.asp?test=PET
The Professional Education Test has eight competencies:
- Instructional Design and Planning
- Student-Centered Learning Environments
- Instructional Delivery and Facilitation
- Assessment Strategies
- Professional Improvement
- Principles of Professional Conduct
- English Language Learners
- Literacy Strategies
So, let’s start with Instructional Design and Planning.
Instructional Design and Planning
Instructional design and planning questions account for 18% of the test.
This section tests your knowledge of designing and planning instruction. This includes but is not limited to:
- cooperative learning
- guided reading
- Bloom’s Taxonomy
Let’s take a look at some concepts that may appear on the test.
Cooperative learning is a teaching strategy in which small groups of students use different activities to improve their comprehension of a certain subject. It is important that the groups are formed with students of varying ability levels (heterogeneous grouping).
Cooperative learning is more than grouping students together while they work or even allowing students to work on a specific assignment together. Authentic cooperative learning requires:
- face-to-face discussion between students
- dividing tasks between students in the group (individual accountability)
- processing the project collectively
- assigning specific jobs to students
- group members to complete their assigned task before the project is complete (positive interdependence)
- social skills that develop due to the cooperative learning process
Teachers can turn most assignments, in any subject, into a cooperative learning opportunity with intentional and well-thought out planning. Providing students with many opportunities to learn cooperatively is important, because cooperative learning is found to:
- increase the retention of subject matter
- build positive relationships between students
- motivate students intrinsically
- improve students’ attitudes towards teachers
- motivate students to stay on task
- improve students’ self-esteem
- help develop social and emotional skills
Although students are working as a group, each student needs to be assessed individually (individual accountability).
Here is an example of cooperative learning. This is a social studies lesson about the Pilgrims.
- Choose groups. It is important to choose groups of varying ability levels; you can do so by drawing sticks, counting by numbers, etc.
- Present the material to the class. Ask students to read the chapter about the Pilgrims in their social studies book. Then, read students a fictional children’s book about the Pilgrims and their experience.
- Divide the students into their groups. Groups should contain 4-5 students.
- Assign specific responsibilities to each group member (individual accountability). Here are some topics to research:
- the Native American group the Pilgrims interacted with
- the geography of where the Pilgrims lived
- challenges the Pilgrims faced
- how the Pilgrims lived (what they ate, wore, traditions, etc.)
- Students are given time to research their assignment. Each member of the group will meet with another member from a different group who is researching the same topic. For example, students researching “Pilgrim life” will meet consistently to discuss the information they find on their topic. Each student is becoming an “expert” on their assigned topic.
- Once students have finished researching their topic, they should go back to their original group. Each student will share the information they’ve found. Basically, each student is the expert on one aspect of the lesson, and they teach the rest of the group. While students are sharing, each group member takes notes over the content.
- Students will be assessed over their specific topic, as well as the main points of the other topics.
Guided reading is an instructional strategy where a teacher provides differentiated reading instruction to small groups of students who have similar reading abilities. During a guided reading lesson, a teacher will give students the same text, which they can read on an instructional level (with support). It is suggested that students be able to read the selected text with around 90% accuracy.
While students read, the teacher will support them by prompting students to use problem-solving strategies to figure out unknown words, challenging sentence structures, and new concepts they have not been exposed to. The goal of guided reading is for students to become independent readers and thinkers.
Guided reading should take place daily, and each lesson should take 20-30 minutes. Many teachers make an effort to see their lowest reading group daily. Teachers leading guided reading groups should:
- work with a small group (4-5 students) with similar reading levels.
- provide a brief introduction to the text. This supports students as they attempt to problem solve while reading. Teachers can also introduce necessary vocabulary here.
- instruct students to read the entire text or the same part of the text.
- allow students to figure out unfamiliar words and their meaning.
- prompt, encourage, and affirm students while they are problem solving.
- engage students in meaningful discussion about the topic they are reading.
- revist the text with students to model comprehension strategies that were not used the first time.
Students who participate in frequent guided reading lessons will:
- improve their attention to details while reading
- develop stronger reading comprehension skills
- expand academic vocabulary
- improve fluency
- demonstrate clear strengths and weaknesses to their teacher
Bloom’s Taxonomy is a set of leveled models used to classify learning targets by complexity and specificity. There are six levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. They are listed in order from the lowest cognitive levels to the highest:
- Knowledge/Remember– recalling facts and basic concepts
- Comprehension/Understand– explain ideas and concepts
- Application– use information in new situations
- Analysis– draw connections among ideas
- Synthesis/Evaluate– justify or defend a stance/decision
- Create– produce new or original work
Bloom’s Taxonomy was developed in an effort to give teachers a common language when discussing and exchanging instructional and assessment methods. Learning targets can be created from the taxonomy, but more commonly, Bloom’s Taxonomy is used to create assessments. Teachers should use all levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy at different points in the lesson cycle, as well as when assessing.
Here are some examples of question stems for each cognitive level:
- Who __________________?
- What __________________?
- When __________________?
- How __________________?
- Describe __________________?
- What is __________________?
- What is the main idea of __________________?
- What differences exist between __________________?
- Re-tell __________________ in your own words.
- How is __________________ an example of __________________?
- Why is __________________ significant?
- Do you know of another instance where __________________?
- Could this have happened in __________________?
- Classify __________________ according to __________________.
- How does __________________ compare/contrast with __________________?
- What evidence can you present for __________________?
- What would you predict from __________________?
- What solutions would you suggest for __________________?
- What ideas can you add to __________________?
- What might happen if you combined __________________ with __________________?
- Design __________________.
- Build __________________.
- Create __________________.
These question stems, along with many others, can be used when questioning during whole group instruction, formative assessments (during learning), summative assessments (after learning), cooperative learning groups, writing prompts, or projects.
Student-Centered Learning Environments
Student-Centered Learning Environments questions account for 15% of the test.
This section tests your knowledge of student-centered learning environments. This includes but is not limited to:
- academic contracts
- nonverbal communication
- assistive technology
Here are some concepts you need to know.
Academic, or learning, contracts are completed by students and detail the commitments students are willing to make in order to succeed academically. Typically, students, teachers, and sometimes parents sign the contract.
Academic contracts can be created at any point in the year, but typically teachers will create one with a student as an intervention if that student is struggling.
There are four parts to be included in an academic contract:
- Purpose statement– why the contract is being created
- Student commitments– the things the student is committing to do in order to succeed
- Teacher commitments– the things the teacher is committing to do to support the student’s goals
- Signatures– the teacher, student, and sometimes parent, will sign the contract
Take a look at this example of an academic contract:
- Purpose Statement: Jane Smith and Mrs. Wilson are commiting to the following so that Jane can successfully complete fifth grade. Jane’s goal is to complete each grading period with no grade lower than 70% and meet standard on all exams.
- Student Commitments:
- Class participation– I will ask one question or contribute one original idea every class period.
- Attendance– I will arrive to school on time and not have any unexcused absences.
- Assignments– I will do my best on every assignment. I will complete work in a timely manner and will ask for help/attend tutoring if I don’t understand.
- Teacher Commitments:
- I will be prepared for class every day.
- I will provide engaging lessons.
- I will provide plenty of time to practice new skills.
- I will be available for tutoring twice a week.
Strong communication skills, both verbal and non-verbal, are essential for managing any classroom or group of children. Teachers use non-verbal communication to affirm or correct students’ behavior, as well as their learning.
Here are some examples of common non-verbal communication in a classroom:
- Eye contact- It is very important to make eye contact with students when they are speaking to you, because it demonstrates that you care about what they are saying.
- Body language- Body language in the classroom is very important, because if a teacher is frequently crossing his/her arms, he/she might seem closed off to communication. Teachers who use kind gestures and appear open to students are more likely to have a classroom culture where students are comfortable trying new things and taking risks while learning.
- Clapping- Clapping to get the attention of students, or as a sign of approval, can be used effectively in the classroom.
- Smiling- Smiling at students is a great way to communicate your approval of their behavior or work. It is also very inviting.
- Greetings- Waving to, hugging, high-fiving, or shaking hands with students are great ways to communicate that you are glad to see them and that they are welcome in your classroom.
Assistive technology, or AT, refers to any technology that is designed to help students who have learning disabilities. This can include physical or cognitive disabilities. Any device or piece of equipment that helps students compensate for their disability is considered assistive technology.
Assistive technology cannot eliminate the disability, but it can minimize a student’s weakness while building on a student’s strengths.
Here are some common assistive technologies in classrooms today:
- Screen Readers– these are used for students who are visually impaired. This software will read the student’s screen aloud for them to hear.
- Text-to-Speech– this software reads documents aloud while students follow along. This is a great resource for students with dyslexia or disabilities that impair their ability to read.
- Word Prediction– this is writing software that predicts what the student might want to say and offers a word bank of choices that the student can choose from when writing. This is a great tool for students who struggle with communicating their thoughts through writing.
- FaceMouse- this is software that turns a webcam into a mouse. Students with restricted movement can benefit from this, because if they can control their head, they can operate a mouse without having to use their arms/hands.
Video Magnifier– this is a video camera used to magnify work for students who are visually impaired. Students see the work, in a much larger version, on a TV type screen.
Instructional Delivery and Facilitation
Instructional Delivery and Facilitation questions account for 18% of the test.
This section tests your knowledge of delivering and facilitating instruction. This includes but is not limited to:
- the community-centered teaching approach
- learner-centered classrooms
- feedback techniques
Here are some concepts that you may see on the test.
One approach to learning is the community-centered approach. This approach values community and relationships as learning tools. This means the classroom and school are seen as a community, but students and staff also feel connected to the larger community including neighborhoods, businesses, the country, and even the world.
This approach focuses on the students building social skills while learning from one another, especially from each other’s mistakes. For example, a classroom that is successfully using the community-centered approach will be one in which students who make mistakes are encouraged to share their mistakes with the class, and in turn, the entire classroom learns from that mistake.
The community-centered approach also aims to connect learning experiences in school to life outside of school. This is important, because students will appreciate the instruction they are receiving when they are able to connect how their school work impacts their life outside of school.
Look at this example:
A science teacher, who is introducing the plant life cycle, can include a research project about hunger in the community and how to grow various produce. The students can then grow that produce and either provide it to those in need or use the food for meals served in the cafeteria. Students will be much more engaged when they are shown how topics impact their lives and are given opportunities to work as a classroom community to impact their larger community.
Learner-centered environment is a broad term that refers to any classroom or school that addresses specific learning styles, needs, interests, cultural backgrounds, and goals of individual students or student groups. To do this, schools, educators, counselors, and other specialists may use a variety of methods including:
- modifying assignments (especially individual/self-paced assignments)
- varying instructional strategies
- allowing students many choices while learning
- encouraging group projects and collaboration between students
- encouraging student reflection
- using open-ended questioning during instruction and assessment
Techniques to Provide Feedback
Teachers have a unique responsibility to care for a student’s education and provide feedback in a constructive, educational way. This is important, so students leave the classroom feeling empowered rather than defeated. Teacher feedback should be prompt, specific, and goal-oriented. Teachers should take great care in presenting feedback and should encourage student input as often as possible. Feedback in the classroom should be:
- Mostly positive– a good model is to give a compliment, give a suggestion/correction, and end with a compliment.
- Given quickly– Quick feedback helps the student connect their learning to the feedback more effectively than if the feedback is given at a later time.
- Sensitive to individual needs– Some students need to be pushed, while others need to be treated much more delicately
- Focused on skills– Rubrics are great to target and give feedback on specific skills. This is helpful so that you are providing targeted feedback on specific skills.
- One-on-one at times– Students look forward to having a teacher’s undivided attention, and using conferences to provide feedback also allows the student time to provide input.
- Provided verbally, non-verbally, or in written form– Students need consistent feedback throughout the learning process, but depending on the type of feedback or reason behind it will depend on the way it is delivered.
- Both ways– Allow students to give you feedback, as well so that you can model how to receive feedback in a positive way. Also, allow students to provide feedback to one another.
Assessment Strategies questions account for 14% of the test.
This section tests your knowledge of various assessment strategies to assess student learning. This includes but is not limited to:
formative vs. summative assessments
norm- vs. criterion-referenced assessments
Let’s take a look at some concepts that you may see on the test.
Formative versus Summative Assessments
Students should be assessed constantly throughout the learning process; however, many times the assessment is summative (after a unit of study) rather than formative (during instruction).
Formative assessments can be formal or informal and are used by teachers throughout the learning process in order to adjust instruction and activities to meet the needs of students.
Formative assessments are not included in student’s grades. For example, a math teacher presents a lesson over multiplication. Once the lesson is complete, the teacher may ask students to write a letter to a younger student describing how to multiply. The teacher can read the responses, discover what misconceptions students may have, and then adjust his/her instruction. This is happening early in the learning process, so no summative grade should be taken.
Summative assessments evaluate student learning/mastery at the end of a unit by comparing the student’s score to a specific benchmark or standard.
Summative assessments should be planned before instruction takes place and should only test material that was taught thoroughly with plenty of prior formative assessments. Unit tests, final projects, mid-terms, final exams, etc. are all examples of summative assessments
Norm- versus Criterion-Referenced Assessments
Norm-referenced tests compare and rank (usually in percentiles) students against one another. This type of test reports whether students performed better or worse than an average student of the same grade level. This is done by comparing scores to a selected group of test takers of the same age and grade level who have already taken the test. The benefit of this type of testing is to see a student’s progress compared to his/her peers. Many times, interventions will be based off norm-referenced assessments, and these are usually given at check points throughout the year (beginning, middle, and end.)
Criterion-referenced tests measure student performance against set criteria (learning goals/targets). For example, when students complete a unit over the American Revolution, they will take a criterion-referenced assessment over the targeted skills from that history unit. Typically, students are given a score based on how many questions they get correct; their score can qualify as “pass/fail, proficient, below standard, met standard, exceeds standard, etc.”
A diagnostic assessment is a type of assessment that occurs prior to instruction. This allows a teacher to identify students’ individual strengths, weaknesses, and skills before he/she begins instruction. This is helpful, so teachers can proactively plan instruction/intervention. Diagnostic tests can be given at the beginning of a new unit, or at the beginning of the school year. Diagnostic assessments can be formal or informal. Diagnostic assessment can include:
KWL charts (know, want to know, learned)
Professional Improvement questions account for 12% of the test.
This section tests your knowledge of professional improvement. This includes but is not limited to:
- anecdotal records
- parent/teacher communication
- teacher mentor programs
Take a look at these concepts.
Anecdotal records/notes are used by teachers to record observations of student skills, behaviors, and attitudes as they relate to mastering learning targets. Teachers use this information to design instruction. Anecdotal records should be brief, objective, and focused. It is important to take notes during or right after an activity, so they are most accurate. These notes can be used during common planning times, to provide feedback to students, and during parent/teacher conferences. The goal of anecdotal records is to:
- provide information about student progress
- keep ongoing records about instructional needs
- record observations of significant behaviors
- keep documentation that can be shared with students and parents
Parent/teacher communication is an essential piece of a successful classroom.
Communicating with parents:
- invites them into the learning process
- builds relationships
- fosters positive growth
- shows genuine care and concern by the teacher
Effective communication should be:
- Initiated quickly– Make contact as soon as possible
- Made in a timely manner– If there is a problem, communicate the problem right away.
- Consistent and frequent– Parents need ongoing communication
- Followed through with– Do what you say you’re going to do
- Clear and useful– Provide clear, non-emotional, and useful information
Communication can be made:
- at parent conferences
- through weekly newsletters
- phone calls
- the class website
- communication apps
- weekly/daily folders
Teacher Mentor Program
Teacher mentor programs benefit first or second year teachers by providing them with a designated, experienced mentor teacher. The mentor teacher has requirements as to how often he/she must meet with the new teacher, as well as questions that he/she must go through with the new teacher. Mentors are available to mentees for any questions regarding or help with behavior management, lesson planning, school/district protocol, parent communication, grading, etc. Providing mentors is important, because teachers are far more likely to ask a colleague for help before an administrator.
The mentor should be:
- an observer
- constructive in critique
Mentor programs improve teacher performance and impact student learning by:
- supporting/encouraging new teachers
- improving teacher retention rates
- creating and encouraging good habits/practices for new teachers
- building positive relationships between staff members
New teachers who feel supported, confident, and part of a team are much more successful in the classroom. Mentor programs also benefit veteran teachers by providing them the opportunity to learn new techniques and ideas from new teachers. It also forces veteran teachers to think about their teaching methods and continue to improve their techniques.
For example, during a meeting between a mentor and mentee, the topic of classroom management comes up. The veteran teacher explains a system of incentives she uses and how it aids in managing behavior. The new teacher remembers an app she learned about in a college course and shares that idea with the veteran teacher. The veteran teacher loves that idea, and they work together to implement the new system in both of their classrooms. That experience validates the new teacher but also provides the veteran teacher with new tools to impact student learning.
Principles of Professional Conduct
Principles of Professional Conduct questions account for 9% of the test.
This section tests your knowledge of principles of professional conduct for educators in the state of Florida. This includes but is not limited to:
- recognizing signs of abuse or neglect
- acceptable use policies
Here are some concepts that may appear on the test.
Recognizing Signs of Abuse and/or Neglect
Children who are abused are likely to show warning signs. Abused or neglected children may:
- seem withdrawn or depressed
- seem afraid to go home or run away
- shy away from physical contact
- be aggressive
- wear clothing that covers their whole body, even in the warmer months (this could also be a cultural practice and have nothing to do with abuse)
- have unexplained burns, cuts, bruises, and/or broken bones
It is important that educators who suspect abuse look for patterns. A single sign may not be significant, but a pattern of signs is serious and should always be reported.
If a child tells you about abuse:
- Be a good listener– show the child you believe him/her, but don’t pressure the student into talking
- Be supportive– tell the child they did the right thing by talking to you
- Don’t overreact– this can scare the child; also, do not speak negatively about the abuser
- Document/report- document as much of your conversation as soon as possible
- Don’t delay– it is every school personnel’s responsibility to report suspected abuse or neglect immediately; NEVER assume someone else will report
If you suspect the child is in immediate danger, it is appropriate to contact the police. All other reports can be made by phone or online to the Florida Department of Children and Families.
Many times, neglect is harder to recognize than abuse, because there typically are not physical marks from neglect; however, neglect is the most common type of mistreatment that children experience. Since neglect is typically a constant issue within the same family, children who grow up being neglected don’t always recognize it as a problem and may not speak out about it.
A teacher should be concerned about neglect if a student’s emotional, physical, or medical needs are not being met. If a teacher is concerned about neglect, he/she should ask themselves these questions:
- Does the child consistently have unattended material needs?
- Is the child constantly stealing or hoarding food?
- Are there community or cultural norms to consider?
For example, different cultures raise children differently.
- Do you suspect substance abuse by an adult living in the home?
- Does the child miss a lot of school?
- Is the child appropriately dressed for the weather?
- Does the child seem overly tired/lethargic in class?
- Is the child consistently dirty or demonstrate poor hygiene?
Acceptable Use Policy
An acceptable use policy details how school district employees and students should use district provided technology and network services. Most, if not all, school districts require that employees and students sign an acceptable use policy before being allowed to access the network.
Acceptable use policies outline acceptable and appropriate practices for provided technology and networks which is important for the safety of everyone involved.
Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA) is a federal law that protects the privacy of students’ school records. The law applies to all schools that receive federal money from the US Department of Education.
FERPA protects educational information and ensures that only people who have educational rights to a child (or the student themselves if they are an adult) are able to access confidential records. This includes test scores, grades, diagnostic exam details, etc. A parent or legal guardian has the right to access their child’s academic records (including discipline records) at any time.
English Language Learners
English Language Learners questions account for 7% of the test.
This section tests your knowledge of researched-based practices appropriate for teaching English Language Learners. This includes but is not limited to:
- second language acquisition
- language biases in standardized testing
- positive and negative language transfer
Take a look at some concepts that may pop up on the test.
Second Language Acquisition
Any student who is in the process of acquiring a second language will need a range of supports. There are five stages of language acquisition that students will go through, and it is important that teachers are aware of those stages, as well as what type of support and instruction is appropriate at each stage.
Look at the appropriate supports for ELLs:
- error correction
- explicit vocabulary instruction
- differentiated instruction
- providing students with a “buddy” in the early stages
Here are the five stages of second language acquisition:
Stage 1: Pre-Production
Known as “the silent period,” this stage is where ELLs may understand some words, but they are not speaking. Some will repeat words you say, but they are not producing language. Teachers should focus on building vocabulary, gesturing, and partnering students with a buddy who speaks their language, if possible.
Stage 2: Early Production
This stage could last up to six months. Students will usually speak in one or two-word phrases, but these phrases will not always be used correctly.
Stage 3: Speech Emergence
Students in the speech emergence stage of language acquisition will ask basic questions, initiate short conversations with peers, be able to understand basic story lines with the support of pictures, and be able to complete some content work with support from the teacher.
Stage 4: Intermediate Fluency
Students at this stage will have a more broad vocabulary and will begin to use more detailed sentences when speaking and writing. They will be willing to express their opinions and will ask questions for clarification. Students at this stage should be able to work on grade level in science and math with some support. Social studies and language arts are still more of a struggle, but students are progressing. Writing errors will be frequent, but they should be able to make inferences from what they’ve learned. It is appropriate to introduce more complex concepts at this stage
Stage 5: Advanced Fluency
Students will spend 4-10 years working to become proficient in a second language. Students in the advanced fluency stage will be fluent in speech, writing, and learning. Most students at this stage have been released from ESL and support programs but will still need support from teachers, especially in social studies and reading.
Language Bias in Standardized Testing
Language bias in standardized testing refers to the fact that there are clear biases in testing for students whose primary language is anything other than English. This should be important to educators, because more and more students are in one of the stages of second language acquisition. Educators need to be able to differentiate between assessing a student’s mastery of a learning target versus a student’s mastery of the English language. At times, the two go hand in hand, but many times they do not.
Positive and Negative Language Transfer
Language transfer refers to the influence of ELL’s native language on second language production.
- Positive transfer– the influence of the native language leads to quick acquisition of English (or any second language)
- Negative transfer- the influence of the native language leads to errors and misunderstandings of the second language
These terms are used as long as the ELL does not speak the second language fluently and translates his/her knowledge to what he/she is intending.
Typically, ESL teachers are only concerned with negative transfer, because that is where corrections need to be made. Most languages share some similarities (some more than others), but ESL teachers need to be aware of how a student’s native language is transferring to English and be sure to correct errors promptly (especially in the early stages of language acquisition).
Literacy Strategies questions account for 7% of the test.
This section tests your knowledge of effective literacy strategies that can be applied across the curriculum. This includes but is not limited to:
- content area vocabulary
- higher-order critical thinking skills
Take a look at some concepts that may appear on the test.
Summarizing helps students tell the difference between main ideas in a passage or text and extra information. Summarizing also helps students learn how to connect central ideas in a meaningful way. Summarization skills are very important, because students who learn to summarize retain information more easily than those who do not have summarization skills.
- encourages students to focus on key phrases/words
- helps students focus on main points of a text
- helps students determine key ideas and details
Here are some questions to ask when helping students summarize:
- What is the main idea?
- What details support the main idea?
- What information is unnecessary?
Content Area Vocabulary
Vocabulary is the basis for instruction across all content and grade levels. Vocabulary instruction should not be separated and taught individually, but should be built into reading across curriculum. This provides students with the proper context for words, as well as opportunities to see how words are used. The more students read, the greater their vocabulary and grasp of specific content will be.
Here are effective instructional practices for developing vocabulary:
- Interactive read-alouds- this, along with shared reading, gives the teacher the opportunity to discuss vocabulary in any subject. During read-alouds, teachers use intentional questions about main idea, important details, vocabulary, and author’s purpose.
- Collaborative discussions based on text- these types of discussions allow students to apply vocabulary that has been taught within the context of the subject area text. Students can apply these modeled skills during interactive read-alouds.
- Games- games help students use vocabulary naturally. Many classroom games can be used as long as the teacher puts an emphasis on using correct vocabulary while playing. If a teacher is creating a game to use, he/she should use question stems that encourage the proper use of content vocabulary.
Higher-Order Critical Thinking Skills
Critical thinking is the foundation for learning. Critical thinking goes beyond basic memorization and observation skills and happens when students are forced to evaluate content, create their own content, and make connections between content. Many times, Bloom’s Taxonomy is used as a reference to determine what level of thinking is being required.
Teachers can facilitate the development of higher-order critical thinking skills by consistently modeling their thinking. It is really important that students are shown what that skill is, because it is a learned skill. Teachers can also create lessons that require critical thinking.
A fifth grade science teacher, who is teaching the water cycle, has planned a lesson in which students have to list and define the terms associated with the water cycle. To encourage the use of higher-order thinking skills, the teacher can instead require students to evaluate how rising and falling global temperatures impact the water cycle on Earth.
The skill of defining is a much lower-order thinking skill than evaluating and making a connection.
And that’s some basic info about the Professional Education Test. Now, let’s look at a few practice questions in each area to see how these concepts might actually appear on the real test.