Today, students are taking a multiple-choice quiz for the entire novel they finished over the Thanksgiving break, Their Eyes Were Watching God. I tell them that we need to briefly discuss something else before they take the quiz. At the end of the previous lesson, they turned in a chart where they identified a concept in the novel, a concept from Feminist theory or the definition of autonomy. The chart asked them to select textual evidence that points to the concept they identified and to analyze the quote in two or more sentences. I share my observations of the lack of attention students have been giving to their writing. I tell them that I continue to see the same weaknesses in their writing even though I have addressed these weaknesses repeatedly. I list some of my observations in stern words, such as, “I tell you to write at least two sentences of analysis per textual evidence, and many of you don’t. I tell you to use analytical verbs, and many of you don’t…” I am trying to put pressure on them to take control of their writing. They tend to leave their written work unedited and they tend to ignore guidelines I give them. I know that once they explicitly follow the guidelines and carefully edit their work, they will still need instruction and feedback to improve their writing. I need to get them to the point where the issues with writing have nothing to do with carelessness and lack of effort. I tell them that I believe they can produce better writing than what I am seeing and I urge them to do this. For accountability, I let students know that I am going to be making these short written assignments count enough to have an effect on their grade. I let them know that I will be returning their chart while they take the quiz and instruct them to work on improving it after they are done with the quiz.
The quiz I am using is actually off of the Spark Notes website. I copied and pasted the questions on a word document and printed one copy for each student.
You will notice that the quiz is largely recall, and does not gauge deeper levels of student comprehension required by the Common Core. This quiz helps me make students accountable for the reading they are expected to do outside of class. The last seven chapters of this novel were assigned for the Thanksgiving break with the understanding that they would take a quiz as soon as we got back from the break. It is very likely that if no quiz was planned, students would have come back from the break having done little or no reading. More importantly, it allows me to gauge how students were able to handle a complex text like this one. I gave them a lot of support in class to access the text, but I also gave them opportunities to tackle some of it on their own, especially during this last school break. The pressure of a quiz that would have an effect on their grade makes it more likely that the results I get are a good indication of their ability to handle a complex text on their own.
I make sure students do not know that I am using quizzes from Spark Notes. I do not want any of them to be tempted to take a look at the questions before the quiz. I have used their quizzes several times over the year and I have not had one student who figured this out. I distribute the quiz and give them the following guidelines:
The purpose of these guidelines is to take away any temptation to cheat. While they take the quiz, I stand at the front of the room and casually scan the room once in a while. The class is perfectly quiet the entire time they are taking the quiz. The quiz has 25 questions and it takes a good amount of time.
After they all turn in the quiz, I give them an opportunity to ask about the answers for any question they were unsure of. I do this because I know there are always certain questions on a reading comprehension quiz that they are unsure of and that they are dying to know if they ended up selecting the right one. It is also a good opportunity for additional discussion about the text. They ask a few questions and cheer or groan depending on whether they selected the right one or not.
After the quiz, I ask students to turn to their charts and work on improving their writing by making sure they follow the guidelines I have given them, and editing carefully. Some had some light editing to do and are able to finish in this short amount of time. Others need to take it home and finish it for homework.