Teacher: Carla Beard (retired)
School: Connersville High School
The kids weren’t doing their homework, and I had resorted to the age-old stratagem of quick reading quizzes at the beginning of the period to remind them that they were accountable. However, I had run into a snag: students were failing the quizzes even though they had done the reading.
After throwing away 2 or 3 quizzes, I figured out that the details that seemed important to me weren’t the details that stood out to the students until after we discussed the story. I just wanted to know that students had done their reading. How could I make that happen?
So was born “Write Your Own Quiz” day.
Over time I refined the procedure to this set of instructions:
I want to know that you read the story. Write 10 statements – not questions – 10 statements that will convince me that you read the whole story. They don’t have to be in order. You must include something from the end of the story so that I can be sure you read all of it. If you can’t remember a character’s name, use a description like “the basketball player.”
If you only read half of the story, write five sentences. If you read most of the story, write 7 or 8. If you didn’t read even half of it, write me an apology and explain how you will make sure that this never happens again.
While some students wrote their sentences, others crafted apologies, usually masterpieces of comedy that went over the top in abjectness. Sometimes a student presented an explanation that let me negotiate a second chance privately. Everyone wrote something; I shared the humorous pieces anonymously; and I had a sense of where to begin the lesson by the time all the papers were handed in.
Students were telling me what they knew in their own voices. I still had the information I needed and the accountability I wanted. We were back on track.
Carla Beard recently retired from Connersville High School in Connersville, Indiana. She is also the founder of www.webenglishteacher.com, where educators can take advantage of online technology to share ideas and to benefit from the work of others. Beginning teachers can find guidance; experienced teachers can find inspiration.