The introduction to today's class informs students that it's U.S. Constitution Day (the Constitution was adopted on this day in 1787). I point out that the writers from the period will be who we are studying following this test.
While sharing this information, I'm passing out the bubble answer sheets for the multiple choice section of the test.
While going through procedures (where to turn the test in), format (how to put their names on the answer sheets and test forms), and any other questions that may arise, I'm passing the short answer/free response "Blue Books" and multiple choice questions out to the students.
I then remind students that this is a test situation. They are to work independently and any communication between students could result in a zero: "Please Don't Communicate While You're Taking A Test"
As with all Daily Holidays, I make note of Constitution Day to share information with my students, but it also serves as a turning point; we will be moving on to The Enlightenment and writers of the Revolutionary War period following today's test. Going through test procedures, especially because this is the first test of the year, but also before every test, reassures the students and gives them a framework to fall back on. I stress to my students that if they have questions, to please ask. The worst thing that will happen is that I will encourage them dig deep to remember a term.
As students take their tests, I circulate the room: answering questions, making sure students eyes are on their own tests, returning work to them, and that they have not reached the point where panic overtakes rational thought.
In addition to written work and projects, I typically provide a traditional test like this to assess students' understanding, and to echo that we are preparing them for the state testing, as the structure of both my tests and those are similar. The questions on this test are modeled to assess students, but also to prepare them for the Common Core aligned PARCC assessment (see link for sample questions). This is skill-based test, with reading selections in which students identify and justify a concept we have addressed in these unit; I'm able to asses that students don't only know what we reviewed, but also how to use these concepts in class. This particularly assesses students' ability to select strong and thorough textual evidence, and utilize that evidence to support inferences drawn from the text (RL.9-10.1/RI.9-10.1).
From a personal standpoint, I rarely assess recall of plot events. For one, this is something that can always be looked up easily; two, my focus is on the skills the students need to understand a piece and their appreciation of it.
In order to gauge students' understanding further, and give them increased practice writing with a purpose, I ask two short answer questions. While in the future, I will provide options, on this test I required these two in order to keep the students focused. short answer questions provide an opportunity for students to demonstrate their understanding of development of theme within myths and poems (RL.9-10.2); the central argument of a sermon (RI.9-10.2); the complexity of trickster characters (RL.9-10.3); and on structure: plot structure, diction, syntax, rhythm, meter of the myths, poems, and sermons (RL.9-10.5/RI.9-10.5), as students develop their writing and provide thorough evidence in a short time frame and form (W.9-10.10). Short answer questions such as these, rather than long-form essay questions, demonstrate knowledge, comprehension, and the ability to distinguish key information to answer the question at hand from extraneous, unnecessary information (W.9-10.4). One of the short answer questions asks students to explicate Edwards' "Upon a Spider Catching a Fly," a work I have included on the exam. This use of other works by authors we study calls upon students to demonstrate deep understanding, not just temporary memorization of the material.
The rule of thumb followed by my department is that students can answer two multiple-choice test questions per minute. As such, this gives students fifteen minutes to complete the multiple choice, and fifteen minutes for each short answer. This is typically enough for students to complete my tests with a short amount of time remaining, though some will keep their tests to the bell.
As students complete the test, I greet them at the table in the front of the classroom on which I have separate piles for the bubble answer sheet, multiple choice questions, and short answer "Blue Book." I always make sure to thank students for turning in the test, and hand them an short reading taken from "The New England Primer" (pages 87-90 of the linked.pdf) the primary chapbook used in American education until 1790. This reading provides students insight into the connection between faith and daily life for the Puritans (RI.9-10.2), and serves to minimize distractions for the students who have completed their tests.
By meeting the students as they take their tests, I can check to see that they have answered everything, and in the event the missed something point it out and encourage them to address the question to the best of their ability. "The New England Primer" reading features a breakdown of the alphabet in rhymed couplets, each including a bit of moral instruction for the young reader. I also includes a few questions I direct the students to "be able to answer," but is not for a grade. It will serve as the basis for a later review project.
As the class winds down, I ask for the students' attention; remind them that this means, "Don't disrupt the students still working," and ask them to make sure they leave quietly. I add that if anyone needs to finish writing, I will write them a pass to their next class, I congratulate them on "surviving" their first test, and let them know they should get them back in a week. Finally, I reiterate that "The New England Primer", which I ask all students to complete for homework if they do not finish it in class, will come up again in the future.
While I personally dislike interrupting students still writing their exam, I know that I need to keep the students who have completed their test from creating a distraction for others. Also, this serves as a chance to show that I am impressed with their maturity so far in wrapping up the test.