Reflection: Student Communication Unraveling Gatsby with Text and Film Interpretations - Section 1: Introduction


While I absolutely love the reading quiz format for teaching this novel (and others like it), I do want to warn you that it's likely that unless you get out in front of parent and student communication, you will get irritated emails from parents and students.  The short answer for why this is is that students are used to the kinds of surface-level, Sparknotes-able, and thoughtless quizzes that they have been taking their whole lives.  These quizzes are HARDER.  Not because they are tricky or complicated, but because students need to do more than regurgitate information and recall inane details--they need to think and construct rationales with evidence to answer these questions.  That's a new skill that is critical to the Common Core, so as we see more vertical integration and students coming up through this more-rigorous system from Kindergarten on, I imagine that resistance to this type of quiz will be greatly reduced. 

As I've said earlier, I use these quizzes to identify students that are not reading or listening in class, and then I email students and parents to reach out to offer help.  This step makes parents IMMEDIATELY aware that their child is struggling, and rather than wait for the child to tell them and put whatever spin they want on it, I find it's 200% better to get there first.  As teachers, we can tell if students have read the material.  These quizzes make that abundantly clear, especially if students suddenly start missing questions related the second assigned chapter of reading (when they were doing really well on the first part).  A detailed explanation of what they missed (and where, if it seems like they just stopped reading or started skimming at the end) will help show parents that we are professionals who are using data to "diagnose" their children.  The same theory works for looking at the in-class questions that were answered during the previous class period's reading.  I always keep track of what questions we explicitly answered in class discussion so that if students do poorly on the section we read aloud, I have a concrete number to offer parents showing what we covered in class.  It's extremely powerful to be able to say with a fair deal of certainty that you "suspect that Jimmy was not fully engaged in the reading assignment in class last period, because of the 13 questions about that chapter, we explicitly answered 11 while reading."  From there, Jimmy's parents will likely be more open about working WITH you to put a plan in action to keep him on task during class!

Also, don't be afraid to really dive into the data and student's test results when you see scores that suggest that while they might be reading the material, they are just not GETTING it.  We are the professionals.  We have the data.  We have the experience.  We shouldn't devalue our role in education by stepping back from our chances to evaluate and "treat" the learning experience.  I attached an email in the resources section here that shows an email that I send as a part of an exchange with a parent.  While this email is lengthy and did take some time to write, it's entirely worth devoting this time to the task.  Parents appreciate it, students improve, and everyone appreciates the extra time you spend on helping their specific child.  

  Student Communication: Treating Quizzes as a Formative Assessment & Tools for Open Communication
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Unraveling Gatsby with Text and Film Interpretations

Unit 9: Is Gatsby Really so "Great"?
Lesson 6 of 12

Objective: SWBAT analyze the development of characters in the hotel scene using textual evidence and evaluate multiple film interpretations of the same scene to compare to novel's intentions.

Big Idea: Let Robert Redford and Leo Dicaprio help students return to the deep, text-based characterizations inherent in the Common Core instead of surface-level thinking!

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