Must Teach Spring Skills

February 2, 2023 No Comments

It is that time of the year. State testing is looming. As teachers, we start to think about: what have we taught this year? What do we still need to teach? What do we need to circle back to?

While I am not fan of state tests, they aren’t going away anytime soon. I do find it important to prepare my students so that they are not overwhelmed. I hope that by preparing them, they are less anxious.

I brainstormed a list of my must-teach ELA skills. It was hard to narrow it down to just six, but I tried.

Main Idea

Students must be able to identify the most important point of a text. There will be questions that ask them to do this. Also, if students are not able to explain what the text is about, the more difficult skills become even harder.


Students need to think beyond the text and use their background knowledge coupled with the text to answer the questions. The answer to an inference will not be explicitly stated in a text. This is a very difficult skill for students. Inferencing is also one that students use for a variety of other skills as well.

Text Structure

I don’t know about your state, but there is ALWAYS a compare and contrast question for my students. This requires them to read two passages and identify the similarities and differences. This can be difficult, but it is important. I try to start small with topics that interest them, then move into shorter texts before doing full passages. Students must also have an understanding of the other text structures as well for state tests: problem and solution, cause and effect, sequencing and description. I find that every year, there are questions about these structures in some form or another.


 I always stress to my students that if they can support their thinking with evidence their answer is correct. Students MUST be able to go back into a text and select the BEST piece of evidence. This takes a lot of practice.


This year, my students are having a harder time with theme than in previous years. This is another skill where inferencing plays a role. Themes are not usually stated in the text; they have to be inferred. Some students also confuse the theme and main idea. I try to stress that a theme can be applied to several books, movies, poems while a main idea is specific to just one book. When students struggle with theme, I have them use the sentence starter “The author is trying to teach me…” to begin. We eventually cross it out, but it helps them frame their thinking.

Context Clues

One of the most common types of questions I see is context clue questions. I find that my students want to just select a meaning, but don’t try to actually figure out the unknown word. I really try to hammer home the different types of context clues: inference, synonym, antoynm, definition and example. By making them identify what type of clue is given in the text, it makes them take the time needed to come up with the meaning of the unknown word.

My list could keep going. There are so many important skills, but when I narrowed it down to six this is what I got. 

Would you take any off? Add any?

Jennifer Marchione

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My name is Jen! I am a wife, girl mom and teacher. I love creating engaging ELA lessons that make my students excited about reading and writing. More