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Adult Secondary Education (ASE)
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) from New GED Teachers
Compiled by the staff of SABES Central – August 2005
General Educational Development (GED) comes under the umbrella of Adult Secondary Education (ASE). ASE also includes the External Diploma Program (EDP) and the Alternative Diploma Program (ADP).
The purpose of the Frequently Asked Questions is to briefly answer pressing questions, to give out general information regarding both GED teaching and testing, and to offer useful links and resources, which the reader may find useful. These questions and answers are by no means complete or thorough.
For an overview of what is on the test, for an opportunity to learn and practice teaching techniques which demonstrate potential promising practices in teaching a GED class, for sharing ideas, experiences and opinions with peers, and for discussion of the various challenges that GED teachers face in class—multi-level classes, open enrollment, unmotivated students, behavioral issues, etc.—we would strongly recommend that you register in the GED Orientation for New Teachers workshops that SABES offers. (For information regarding workshop offerings and schedule, please go to: www.sabes.org/calendar.htm)
1. Is there a set curriculum for GED classes?
The Adult Basic Education Curriculum Frameworks for Massachusetts can provide guidance as to the types of things to teach in the classroom. For the Adult Basic Education Curriculum Frameworks, go to the Mass Department of Education website: www.doe.mass.edu/acls/frameworks. Also, check with instructors/administrators within your program as GED programs may have their own curriculum defined based on these frameworks or may have pieces of curriculum (units developed as part of a project, etc.).
2. How do I determine what to teach in my GED classes?
The needs assessment of your students dictates what to teach. Pre-testing in grammar, reading comprehension, and mathematics can help you determine their needs. Check with your program for relevant pre-tests. Pre-tests can also be found in most GED books. Careful analysis of your studentsí results can help you to determine on what parts of the curriculum to focus and what to teach.
While the test does involve some content knowledge and some background is helpful for students, it's still essential to teach reading comprehension and critical thinking skills in all areas: testing for evidence, looking at validity of arguments, analyzing a passage in social studies or science, etc. It is a good idea to take the GED Official Practice Tests yourself (if you haven't already). This will give you the best understanding of what is covered in the test, as well as the level of thinking and reading required.
GED students should also take the GED Official Practice Test before they sign-up or take the actual test as the results will give them and you, the teacher, very useful information. The score is the same (200-800 rating) and it usually is within 20 to 30 points of what they would get on an actual test if done with time limits.
Also, follow your students' interests whenever you can. For example, there are many things you could teach in the area of social studies, but if you have a group of students who are most interested in consumer/economic/job market issues, you could try to gear some of what you teach on those areas (while always remembering to emphasize reading comprehension and critical thinking skills).
3. What type of instruction—group, individual, or a combination of both—works best with the adult learner?
There is no one best method of instruction for adult learners. Usually, a combination of both group and individual instruction is preferred. The type of instruction you use is driven by the learning styles of your students, their individual needs, the lesson content, and personal preference.
4. My GED classes are three hours long. How should I structure this time?
There are several different models that can be used. You may want to talk with other adult educators to learn what models they find successful and experiment to find what works best in your classroom situation.
One model is to begin class with a group activity as a "warm-up" (a good way to bring in creative and critical thinking lessons) for 30 minutes, follow with a one-hour lesson (group or individual) in one subject area, break for 15 minutes, do another 1-hr lesson in a different subject area, and spend the last 15 minutes on oral reading or some other activity that your students enjoy as a group.
Or you may want to start with some quiet time for individual work (this might be particularly helpful if you have students who are not very punctual), add in a group discussion or group activity, change gears with vastly different content and perhaps conclude with some reflection on what your students learned, liked/disliked within that particular day (and change if necessary next time).
5. What is the best way to deal with open (rolling) enrollment?
Open enrollment is challenging for all classes, GED included. One way of dealing with open enrollment is to maintain a general curriculum order for the year. If US government is studied in the fall, the student who enters in January will have missed this unit. This student can be given individual work on this topic to be done during self-study time. Here are some additional ideas:
You may want to address the issue with your director and counselor and explore ways to have new students at certain pre-determined intervals. You will be able to plan better for new students when they enter the class at the start of a unit of study rather than in the middle of it.
6. What books are best for teaching GED?
There are several publishers of GED content series. To choose the books that you are most comfortable with, peruse the materials that other instructors use, visit the publishers' booths at conferences, visit publishers' websites (such as Steck-Vaughn, Contemporary/McGraw Hill, Critical Thinking Press, Peppercorn Press, etc.). You can also borrow books and materials from SABES.
A variety of books may be essential because many of the GED texts give only pieces of information without much explanation or background. It is a good idea to look at lots of different types of materials and not to use only one book, especially if you are new to teaching GED.
7. Are there materials other than books that are useful in teaching GED classes?
All GED classes should have basic reference materials available: an almanac, a dictionary/thesaurus and an atlas, world map or globe. A newspaper is a great resource to have (you can get a classroom set through newspapers-in-education programs, often for no charge from local publishers). Calculators are a must; the Casio fx-260 is the official GED calculator. General art supplies, such as rulers, construction paper, post-it notes, scissors, glue sticks, etc, are good to have on hand. Videos and software are also useful.
8. Most GED materials have the answers in the back. How do I keep my students from looking at these first?
Point out from the start that the answers are in the back. Note that there are no grades in adult classes and that the point is not getting the right answer (and, therefore, a better grade) but knowing how to find the answer.
In class, model how the answers in the back are meant to be used. One way to do this is to work a GED practice section with 5 or so questions together with the students (no looking in back by the teacher either!). Then go over the answers that everyone got having everyone explain the reasons for their choices, teacher included. Highlight the thinking processes that were used by the students in coming to their solutions. Check answers in the back at the end of this process.
Most students will see fairly early on that there truly is no point to "cheating." The key is to build the habits of thinking: "How did you get that answer?" I wonder why that person got this and I got that? How do we know this is right? The more trust students have in you, the teacher, the more receptive they are to the above kinds of questions and the less likely you are to have to worry about "cheating."
9. How much emphasis should there be on technology in the GED class?
With the exception of the calculator, the use of technology is not directly tested on the GED test. Awareness of technology and technological advances are tested indirectly on the GED test. Bringing newspaper or magazine articles that deal with current technological issues/information into the classroom and discussing them can help students when they encounter similar readings in the course of testing (as well as in their daily lives).
However, if technology of any sort is available to you, it is to your student's advantage for you to incorporate it into your classes, to add variety to your lessons and to provide them with experience that can only benefit them in life outside the classroom. There are many good websites and interesting software. The use of Microsoft Office type products (Word, PowerPoint, etc.) can be very good for real life and can provide experience with software that is commonly used in the workplace.
10. There is Internet access at my class site. How useful is the Internet as a teaching tool for a GED class?
Internet access is a wonderful resource to have available. It can be used to answer questions that come up in the course of a discussion, to get background information on authors' that you are reading, to obtain timelines for historical events, etc.
There are websites that can be used for interactive practice of math and grammar skills (www.aaamath.com, www.mathgoodies.com, www.chompchomp.com, www.gedpractice.com, www.mathnotes.com, www.cagle.com, www.4est.com, www.gedpractice.com) and for current events (/www.nytimes.com/learning), as well as for online GED practice. Interactive GED materials may be available online through the publisher of any GED materials you are using.
11. How important is teaching test-taking skills? Study skills? Organizational skills?
Test-taking skills, study skills, and organizational skills are life skills that should be taught and modeled in the adult classroom. Elimination on multiple choice questions, reading actively, taking good notes, organizing thinking for the essay—all these things will serve them well on the test and in college if they pursue it.
The content of the GED test is defined broadly. The exact questions that a student will get cannot be predicted. Knowing how to study and how to take a test can help your students to be as successful as possible both on the GED test and in life.
12. Should I assign homework?
All adults have lives outside the classroom. The classroom time is their study time and should be used fully and productively. They should never feel that they cannot come to class because their homework is not done.
On the other hand, homework can provide valuable reinforcement of classroom skills and can allow more content to be covered in the time allowed, but only if it is done. Take the pulse of your class and do what is most successful for you and your students.
13. My class is made up of students of many different age groups. Is there anything special I should know about dealing with a multi-aged class?
Multi-aged classrooms provide a wonderful opportunity for bringing different generational perspectives to classroom discussions both on current issues and on life in general. The views of younger and older students sometimes clash but always present an opportunity for learning allowing for gaps in background and knowledge of history to be filled in another manner. Use it to your advantage.
14. Does the GED classroom typically have official rules? Do students have input to them?
Often, it's up to you and your class to set some rules, although programs will usually have some kind of policies in place about general behavior at the program. Ground rules (as they are often called) can be negotiated and set by the class in the beginning of the year, semester, etc. Based on your experience, you may want to foresee something that may be disruptive and include it in the ground rules (for example, "Show respect for all."). Ground rules can be posted on the wall of the classroom throughout the year. In general, the rules of employment (be on time, stay the whole time, call if you won't be in, and respect your fellow workers) can be the standard for any adult classroom.
15. What behavior issues are common in the GED classroom, and what is the best way to address them?
Coming in late and leaving early are very common issues. Leaving the classroom frequently for bathroom/cigarette breaks is another common problem. Address these on an individual basis with the student, or with the class if the problem is pervasive as it is disruptive to the learning process for everyone. Also, you may want to note that this type of behavior is not tolerated by employers and, as a consequence, it should not be tolerated in the classroom.
In general, a lot of issues can be addressed by noting that this is an adult environment. When someone does or says something that is disruptive, the teacher can point out the ground rules that need to be abided by. (Please see question #14.)
16. How should I deal with students making racist, sexist, anti-Semitic or homophobic comments during a class?
Briefly note the inappropriateness of the comment, point to the class ground rules (if it is appropriate) and move on with the lesson. If these comments persist, you might try making up a lesson on stereotypes and addressing the issue as a learning objective without targeting any individual. The goal is not to put a student on the spot publicly, but sometimes the comments need to be addressed somehow. A way to do this is to create some lessons around them. There are some resources you can explore and take ideas from:
In some situations, the administration of the adult program may need to deal with a student on an individual basis.
17. What strategies are best for encouraging active class participation from all students?
Make yourself part of the class. Do the work with the students. Explain your reasons for your answers and have the students explain theirs. As a teacher, model learning in your classroom, as opposed to "imparting knowledge". Encourage open discussion and value each person's opinion. Get your students talking. In addition, incorporate activities that require some level of physical participation (moving around, regrouping, acting something out, working to solve a problem, etc.).
18. How can I motivate an unmotivated student?
Most often those who appear unmotivated are scared of failing or are ashamed of past failures. Spend time learning the student's interests and plan lessons that target these interests. Plan lessons that emphasize participatory learning rather than rote learning.
Give them some time and when possible give them some choice. Develop a relationship with that student, too, in the "off time." Just smiling and saying "hi" in the hall way or at break time starts to let them know you're approachable and on their side.
19. What is the most challenging aspect of teaching GED classes?
A very common challenge is the always-starting never quite-finishing feeling, especially with open enrollment. It's hard to maintain continuity even in the best circumstances. Because change is inherent in the adult classroom, another challenging aspect is planning lessons that meet the needs of the students.
20. What is the most rewarding aspect of teaching GED classes?
Seeing a student succeed in life outside your classroom is one of the greatest rewards of teaching adults.
B. PROCESS/STATE ISSUES
1. What should my students do to start the process of GED testing?
An applicant who would like to register for the GED tests should go onto the GED website, www.doe.mass.edu/ged, then click on the link "GED Test Centers." This will show a list of all 31 official test centers in Massachusetts. The tests must be taken at one of these sites. The applicant should choose the test center at which it would be most convenient to take the tests, call up the test center and inform the staff member that he or she would like to register. The applicant will be told the next available registration date and time, the testing schedule, and what to bring to the registration session.
2. Are there any regulations regarding GED testing?
Go onto the GED website, www.doe.mass.edu/ged, then click on the link "GED Requirements." Here you will find information on residency, age, and school status requirements, among other things.
3. What about GED testing fees?
Go onto the GED website, www.doe.mass.edu/ged, click on the link "GED Requirements," and scroll down to "Fees." The entire fee structure is explained there.
4. What accommodations, if any, are available for people with disabilities?
Go onto the GED website, www.doe.mass.edu/ged, then click on the link "Applicants with Disabilities." The list of available accommodations is provided there.
5. What is the process by which a potential examinee would apply for Special Accommodations for the GED tests?
Go onto the GED website, www.doe.mass.edu/ged, then click on the link "GED Test Centers." This will give you a list of all 31 official test centers in Massachusetts. Your students must take the tests at one of these sites. They can choose the test center at which it would be most convenient for them to take the tests, call up the test center and schedule an appointment to meet with the Chief Examiner regarding Special Accommodations. At that interview the Chief Examiner will determine which Special Accommodations application form is appropriate for them. The Chief Examiner will give them the proper form along with a checklist detailing how the form should be filled out and what documentation is needed. After they have completed the form and acquired the proper documentation, they should return the material to the Chief Examiner. He or she will review it and forward it to the State GED Office for evaluation and approval.
Teachers/Counselors or Advocates for your students should start a "dialogue" with the Test Center prior to the individual actually signing-up, so that information that should also be available with the ADA Coordinator can be used and may cut down on paperwork and time frame.
6. How much time do students have to complete and pass the GED tests?
In Massachusetts your students have three years from the time they take their first test to pass the tests with the requisite scores as long as they complete the initial five-test battery within one year of their first test. If they do not take the five tests within that year, all their scores are sunsetted and they must begin the entire process again, including the payment of all fees.
7. Where can my students take the GED tests in Spanish?
In Massachusetts, the Spanish-language GED tests are administered at ten regional sites. For the addresses and phone numbers of these sites, go onto the GED website, www.doe.mass.edu/ged, click on the link "Spanish Information," then click on the link "list" in the text.
8. Will passing the Spanish-language GED tests help my students get a job or get into college?
The Spanish-language GED tests are for the most part a direct translation of the English-language tests, and the two versions are at exactly the same literacy level; therefore, passing the Spanish-language GED tests is a very worthy accomplishment.
An Examinee who passes the GED tests in Spanish will receive an official transcript from the test center and the "High School Equivalency Certificate in Spanish" from the GED Office at the Department of Education. Both of these documents are written in Spanish. In regard to gaining admission to college and to obtaining financial aid, the High School Equivalency Certificate in Spanish is equivalent to the English GED credential.
9. How many Examinees take the GED test each year in Massachusetts, and how many pass?
On average, Massachusetts tests between 10,000 and 15,000 GED candidates per year. The passing rate ranges from 68% to 76%.
Last updated: August 30, 2005|
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