Mum Versus NAPLAN

Tomorrow, our son will finally sit for the NAPLAN test.

You will hear people try and tell you that NAPLAN is an acronym for something sensible like National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy.

Don’t believe them.

I am now convinced that “NAPLAN” is yet another confusing, IT technical term. You know what computing is like. They always use heaps of acronyms, which don’t make sense to anybody else and the more they explain it, the more confused you get. Everybody knows IT is like that. Well, since LAN stands for Local Area Network in computing, I’m sure I’m on the right track.

Here goes…

 NAPLAN…. (n) when your computer network has a nap, also referred to as downtime.

and…

NAPLANNING (v)…. to practice for the NAPLAN tests.

As a parent, you really have to take a position on how you are going to handle the NAPLAN tests at home. In the true spirit of NAPLAN, you can do your own multiple-guess…

Will you…

a)      Remortgage the house to pay for professional coaching.

b)      Do practice tests at home and do the coaching yourself.

c)       Forget all about it.

d)      Book your family holiday for NAPLAN time and avoid it altogether.

e)      None of the above.

I couldn’t justify professional coaching and as much as going on a holiday was tempting,  I thought a bit of practice in an exam situation would do him some good. My next  concern was how much practice we should do at home and whether that would stress him out or help him relax. It was at this point that I spoke to a few people. Bought the book and realised that I didn’t really know much about NAPLAN after all. Not the nitty gritty anyway. Sure, I’d seen the booklets before but that was quite a different thing to actually sitting the test. I decided that the only way to know how to handle the test with my son, was to take the test myself and make a more informed decision.  I am very pleased that I did.

Perhaps, I was taking things to the extreme but I decided to take on the NAPLAN test myself.  After all, how could I help my son prepare for NAPLAN if I didn’t know what it was and what was involved. Rather just reacting to fear and panic or sticking my head in the sand, I did the test to make an informed choice and I found the whole exercise very beneficial.

While some other parents thought I was a bit crazy and over-the-top, it seemed like a very sensible approach to me. I usually try to put myself in my kid’s shoes to get a better understanding of what they are going through. I have taken up the violin to help our daughter and I learned the basics of AFL (football) to help our son. I don’t believe putting yourself in your child’s shoes makes you a helicopter parent. It just means you’re better informed.

Or in the case of NAPLAN… very confused!

The maths, even though it’s not my thing, was pretty straight forward. It’s either right or it’s wrong.  I didn’t do spectacularly well but I passed. That’s all that matters. My husband scored 100%.

Hmm… at least, I caught up in the literacy.

That was until we came to the persuasive writing and then I was completely stumped. Funny that because I am a professional writer. If a third grader can do persuasive writing, surely so could I? However, it wasn’t quite so easy. Things have changed a lot since I was at school. Back then, all you needed was a bit of imagination, a few big words and a basic plot to write a good story. Now, it seems you need to be a journalist instead.

Feeling out of my depth, I decided to cheat and asked my son to teach me persuasive writing. Well, he folded a piece of paper into three and then started writing points…firstly, secondly, finally. Now I was completely lost wondering how origami ended up on the syllabus. Upon conferring with his teacher, however, I found out this was a good visual approach to explain the structure to the kids. Three folds…beginning, middle and end or was that three sections one for each point?

Personally, I could see a few paper planes taking flight during the NAPLAN test if modern kids are anything like how we used to be.

I don’t know why it took me so long to get my head around writing persuasive text. Could it be that after years of parenting and being nagged out of existence that “just do it!!” is now about the full extent of my persuasive powers?

For this reason, I’d like to lodge a formal complaint to who or whomever it was who had the bright idea of teaching our kids how to be more persuasive. Whose side are you on? Surely, you have kids? Why are you teaching our kids to fine tune their powers of persuasion when all we parents can muster is a two letter word… “No!”? They’re already experts! No, it’s us poor, struggling parents who need the help. How about holding a session on “Writing Persuasive Texts” at the Sydney Writer’s Festival? The place would surely be packed.

By now, you’re probably wondering if I actually reached any conclusions at all after all this research? Unfortunately, thinking about NAPLAN all got a bit much. I think they call it PTA or “Paralysis Through Analysis”. It’s quite a serious disease characterised by an over active brain and limited movement. I’m afraid my case is terminal, which is why I’m writing about NAPLAN, instead of getting on with it.

My preliminary research has shown that the NAPLAN test is a bit like sitting for the HSC without any set texts. These poor Year 3 kids have to know a hell of a lot. But you know what, I sometimes forget my son is growing up and that he isn’t in Kindergarten anymore. He actually knows much of this stuff and has come such a long way since he started school barely able to write his name.

I have also found that when it comes to NAPLAN, the usual communication gaps between parent and school still exist i.e. “the child”. My friend’s daughter had forgotten to tell her that NAPLAN was coming up. Instead, my friend read about it on my Facebook page and wasn’t happy. After a bit of cross-examination, she told her daughter to “pull her socks up”. Well, her daughter gave her a puzzled look and literally pulled up her socks. No doubt, she is still wondering how that is going to help her in the NAPLAN test!

These are the sort of hurdles you have to overcome when your child is doing NAPLAN.

Seriously though, I did buy a NAPLAN book from our local bookshop and he has done a few practice tests and we’ve gone over the results. When I found out he was struggling to tell the time, I quickly printed off a few worksheets from the net. But as the enormity of NAPLAN hit me, I realised that I couldn’t cover everything in such a short space of time.

More importantly, I realised  that if we spent too much time on it at home, I might actually camouflage his difficulties and might not be helping him after all.  If my son does have gaps in his learning, it is better that they’re picked up now and ironed out properly. His education is far more important than getting a perfect score!

I know a lot of people who are cursing NAPLAN but it hasn’t been all bad. I can’t help thinking about all those kids who can’t do their shoe laces up in Year 3. I bet they’re all euphoric! Tying up your shoe laces isn’t on the NAPLAN test so it’s perfectly okay to use velcro instead.  and I can’t help wondering if these kids are all slipping under the radar these days.

Now for one last word on NAPLAN. It doesn’t really matter what everybody else scores as long as a child does their personal best. For some of those kids who are in the lower bands, their results may actually be a real achievement for them personally and for their school who has dedicated many hours helping them to do what they can. This is a real achievement that needs to be acknowledged and celebrated perhaps even more so than the kids who are naturally gifted and automatically score well without a lot of effort. and we really need to make sure we don’t look down on these kids, their teachers or their schools. They are fantastic!

Having largely missed the boat with our son, I am hoping to put all this research to good use when our daughter does NAPLAN in a few years’ time. However, you know how these things go. It will all probably change by then!

That just goes to show. With the way NAPLAN is constantly changing, it really must be an IT term after all.

Best wishes,

xx Ro

13th May, 2013 NAPLAN A Year On…

Tomorrow, the NAPLAN tests start all over again. This article has been very kindly reblogged and I’ve had quite a lot of visitors… Welcome to my blog. It’s been very exciting to have so many people read my post.

After much anticipation, my son was actually very ill for the NAPLAN tests and actually missed all of the tests and had to do the make up tests.  So, NAPLAN was actually quite an anti-climax.

As it turned out, he sat for the make up tests and completed all of the NAPLAN tests except the writing. My son was probably relieved but I was interested to see how he went and we had both worked hard. While the work we did together wasn’t wasted, I did feel a bit let down. It had taken me quite a lot of effort to understand how to write persuasive text but looking back on it all now, it seems so straight forward. I’ve been writing persuasive test in my blog ever since. There was just some kind of blockage in my head.

I thought I’d put the NAPLAN tests behind me but a friend very kindly reminded me that I he will be sitting the year 5 test next year and out daughter will be in Year 3 so I’ll have 2 Naplanners (This better not be the equivalent of having two children doing the HSC in the same year LOL!)

However, now that we’ve been through the first one, I am feeling much more at peace with it all. Bring it on!

xx Rowena

4 thoughts on “Mum Versus NAPLAN

  1. Mandi

    Loved the article Rowena – I think the reason we do sit the practice is exactly for what you found – a gap in something he didn’t yet know – we had to teach clocks with only 1 hand on too 🙂 If we can help catch up something they don’t yet “get” then that is one more thing they can do – surely our role as Mums and Dads. I hope he cruises through the week with his smile on 🙂

  2. justteachglobal

    Great article Rowena. I googled funny NAPLAN acronyms for our education facebook page Just Teach (facebook.com/justteachAUS) and came across your article. I have posted it on our wall for the 7000+ teachers to enjoy. As a parent in the same situation I could emphathise with your thought process & logic. All the best next year with whatever format NAPLAN may appear in 🙂

  3. roweeee Post author

    Thank you so much for reblogging my post. I never went back and wrote up how the NAPLAN test actually went. It was quite ironic because after all our preparations and getting my head around persuasive text, he was really sick and missed the whole thing. He sat makeup tests for everything except the writing component. I was spitting chips.
    We had a followup session at the school and I was able to get his individual results and find out where the gaps were and work on these. Well, have good intentions anyway.
    A year down the track, I’m still pleased I went through it myself so I could understand the beast instead of relying on hearsay.
    Best wishes,
    Rowena

  4. Carlin

    wow Rowena it sounds like a lot of hype over not much. I haven’t applied my brain to NAPLAN yet because I haven’t had to. Good on you for having a go yourself. I too like to try and understand what my children are experiencing. I am kind of hoping the system DOES change by the time Hamish is in year 3 and things go back to normal testing, whatever that is….

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