A student's favorite words, "let's take a test!" To begin I make sure that they understand the reasons for the test and what it will cover. I also let them know what materials they will be needing for it. This test will go over what we have been reading from our biography. We are getting close to the end and I explain that I need to read what they know and see what they are thinking.
Knowing why they take a test is always good. I make sure to tell them how I am going to use the test. For this test I am going to use it as a grade and also to check their understanding. One of the grades they will be given is on complete sentences. Their sentences need to have capitals, spaces, and punctuation. I will not mark down for spelling if they try their best and stay away from words like "cuz."
I pass out lined paper to each student and right away they know something is different. With their curiosity peaked, I begin explaining that today the test they are taking will be what is called a short essay test. They will need to write multiple sentences to make sure I understand what they know and are explaining to me.
Although the test is different, I let them know that they will be allowed to use their Columbus biography. This will help them with support from the text and can be used to spell unknown words also.
The expectations for this test are different then normal. They have never had a test where they will need to do the test in short answer/essay style. I want to make sure that I set them up for success by giving them a good model for what a test that receives an "A" looks like.
I do my modeling with the document camera. I start by giving the class a question that a teacher might give to answer. I use a different one then the one I will give the class. I model how I start my answer by rephrasing the question. I then begin to answer and then use my book to add facts and support to make my answer better. This is the part I want to focus on. I put emphasis on this step and remind them of the writing we ranked and how the student who got the best grade did this.
When I finish the modeling, I ask for questions and do a brief recap of the steps.
It is now time for the actual test. The test will be five questions long and all of them are opinion questions. I have worded them so that they have to give me their thoughts, but the door is open to using their book. I tried to make questions that would be easy to answer and would be easy to gather support from the book.
I do not give the five questions at one time. I will give them one at a time and give the next one when the class is ready to move to the next. When I give the question, I repeat it a couple of times and rephrase it to ensure everyone understands. I then walk around and monitor their writing. When the majority, all but a few, have finished I give the next question.
An example of a question I used is, "Put yourself in the Native Americans shoes and tell me what you think of Columbus."
Once all tests have been turned in, I want to go over the test. Not the questions, but to point out how all of the questions asked for their opinion. When I bring this up and explain, students still do not understand the implications. I go on to ask if anyone knows how I might grade their opinion. I then ask them what movie is their favorite and why. Once a couple of students answer, I disagree and tell them that if that was a test I would give them a low grade because it is not what I think.
They begin to argue. They go on to tell me how this isn't fair. I listen to their input and ask clarifying questions. I then bring them back to the test they just took. I ask again, if anyone can think of how I might grade their test. The class and I discuss this. I use this discussion to demonstrate the importance of adding evidence from the text to support their opinion.