Elements of Literature Pre-test

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Students will be able to define and analyze elements of literature by taking a pretest.

Big Idea

Rather than wasting precious instructional time, pretests allow you to focus on students needs to keep instructional time productive.

First Read of "Seventh Grade" and Vocabulary Selection

15 minutes

Today students are embarking on a series of activities that will allow me to formatively assess their understanding of literary terms and their ability to analyze plot, setting, and characters.

Sounds fun, right?  Yes, it is a pretest.  However, students won't just be taking a quiz. They'll be reading, writing, analyzing, and selecting words for our vocabulary inquiry.

The first step is for students to read the short story "Seventh Grade" by Gary Soto.  I use this story for the introductory unit to literature because it's easily accessible for all students, students can totally relate to the themes, and it allows me to touch on almost all of the literary terms. 

This story is in our literature book, the Language of Literature published by McDougal Littel. It was originally in Baseball in April and Other Stories, but you can also download and print a pdf copy here.

Did you notice the first read?  Yup, we're reading it more than once.  The first time, I asked students to do two things.  First, record words that were unfamiliar to them and they didn't know.  These are part of Tier 2 words in the three tiers of vocabulary acquisition. The absolutely cool graphic is by Jen Jones and can be downloaded here at Teachers Pay Teachers.  Check out the words under Tier 2.  It's not just academic vocabulary such as navigate, apply, determine, analyze, and so forth.  It's all the other words that students encounter while reading that can be applied in multiple areas.  Words like bicker, elongated, portly, and astute.  Those are the words that I'm asking students to identify.  Words they don't understand and are getting in the way of them understanding the text.

I asked students to write them on sticky notes. You could also use a handy dandy device like Poll Everywhere.  I recently learned about this handy dandy tool at the Camp Plug and Play conference. It's through the Arizona K12 Center.  If you're an Arizona teacher, GO TO THIS CAMP I MEAN CONFERENCE.  SERIOUSLY.  AND EAT THE CHOCOLATE NACHOS. With Poll Everywhere, students can either text or use the web to enter responses.  For today, I asked students to enter words that they were unfamiliar with.  I'll talk about what I did using Poll Everywhere, but of course, you could also use sticky notes if you don't have access to the technology.

Here's what you see in the poll.  The question appears on top.  The directions say to either text a response or submit a response at a URL.  That means that you can use a class set of iPads if your students don't all have phones or texting. 

The way I set up this poll was a word cloud, similar to Wordle.  If a response is submitted more than once, it's larger.  Smaller responses were entered fewer times.  That means that I can clearly see that the words we need to focus on are catechism, lingered, bluff, portly, quiver, scowl, and ferocity. I can also see that there are words with multiple meanings like quiver, conviction, and bluff.

Once the poll is done, I can close it.  If you tried to text a response now, it wouldn't work.  Go ahead and try it. No really.  I'll wait.


Assessing Students Understanding of Literary Terms

15 minutes

I want to see two things in regard to students and literary terms. First, I want to know how comfortable and accurate they are with the actual definitions. Second, I want to know if they can recognize those literary terms within a story. Therefore, this next part of formative assessment has two parts.

The first part is a simple fill in the blank part.  I gave students the definitions and they provided the term.  I kept this very short.  Super short. Like five minutes short. I can revisit this formative assessment throughout the year to ensure that students are retaining the information taught. I can also make it more rigorous for students (honors students and throughout the year) by providing the terms and asking students to write the definition.


The second part is the plot diagram that I asked students to fill out. It's just your basic plot diagram with space to record the conflict, protagonist and antagonist, theme, and the events that occur in the exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. I gave students about fifteen minutes to complete the plot diagram.


I teach both honors and inclusion classes. There are students in my inclusion classes who have recently moved up from a resource to co-taught environment and that's a pretty big change.  I have students who are reading at a second grade level.  I have students who, if I gave them the plot diagram, would give up, become a behavior problem, and I would not be able to tell what they really knew.  They need some scaffolding in order to succeed. So what scaffolding do I give them?

A word bank like this. It's pretty basic.  It gives a list of characters, setting, plot events, etc. that students can use to fill in the diagram.  I didn't give every student a copy of this right off the bat. Instead, as I walked around the room, I kept an eye out for students who were struggling more than usual.  Those students were given a copy to use.

So what did I discover after giving students this assessment? Watch this video to see.

Responding in Writing

5 minutes

The last thing I asked students to do for this pretest extravaganza was respond in writing through a short paragraph. A T3C paragraph, if you will.

I asked students to consider what the author, Gary Soto, wanted them to understand.  This question is getting at theme.  What does the author want us to understand about people, life, and love?

I asked them to write a minimum of five sentences.  One topic sentence, one set of concrete evidence and commentary, and one concluding sentence.  For the concrete evidence and commentary, I asked for at least one set, but of course, students could write more because I totally love overachievers.

The picture, by the way, was made with Photovisi, another tool I learned about at Camp Plug and Play. Photovisi is an online picture collage maker.  You can upload pictures or take them with a webcam and add text.  I have spent way more time making tiny posters with Photovisi than I should have, but doesn't it look spiffy?

Lesson Resources

Today's lesson picture was created with Photovisi. Do not click on this link unless you have ten years to devote to clicking.  I love this website more than I should.