- Teaching in a Pandemic: Help Teachers, Help You - February 2, 2021
- The Importance of Feedback in Distance Learning - October 9, 2020
- What a Teacher Wants: One Teacher's View - March 25, 2018
- Artist is Not a Dirty Word - March 18, 2018
- The Death of Reflection in English/Language Arts Classrooms - March 9, 2018
- More Than A Teacher - March 4, 2018
- Real Teaching Resolutions - January 5, 2017
- 23 Times I have Questioned My Sanity While Teaching - September 7, 2016
- Part 3: Adventures in Real Word English/Language Arts - Let Them Be Great - August 23, 2016
- Part 2: Adventures in Real World English/Language Arts: Making Them Care - August 4, 2016
The days of “Who is the main character of the novel?” questions are over. Multiple questions should be challenging our students to think and use textual evidence to prove their answer. (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.11-12.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain). Keeping rigor and authenticity in the tests you design helps your students confidently acquire the new standards they must learn.
Remember, you should be testing skills, not memorized facts. If your test assesses skills, students should be able to use the book. All state and national assessments allow the students to return to the text, so why would you take the text away for your tests? Tests are not only for your students. They are also for you, to see how well you taught the material. They should be able to take any skill you taught and apply it to any piece of literature that the PARCC or EOC will give them. There is no “correct” way to make a test.
Here are some tips and tricks to help format your tests to help your students be more prepared:
Label sections. For example, Part I: Multiple Choice, Part II: Short Answer, etc. This way the students are aware of what is expected of them. Make sure there are clear directions for every section. Do NOT assume anything. If possible, use the word choice of the PARCC or EOC. If short answers are to be answered in a paragraph, write it down. Otherwise you will get five students asking, “How long does this have to be?” Always put the point value. They will ask.
Part III: Short Answer. In a minimum of five sentences, respond to the question. (5pts each).
Multiple Choice: Multiple choice questions should be inference level questions. They should not all be identification level questions. Here is an example of an inference level question which was obtained from docstoc.com:
What does Proctor mean when he tells Danforth, “God damns our kind especially, and we will burn, we will burn together”?
a. We who commit wrongs knowingly are the most guilty of all.
b. The whole community will suffer damnation for the injustices being committed here.
c. Danforth will suffer damnation if he condemns Proctor to death.
d. Although women are accused of witchcraft, men are greater sinners.
They will not find the exact answer to this question in the text. They will have to think about it and remember what they know about the character and the context of what is going on in the story.
PARCC tests are using two-part questions. The first question is standard procedure. Then the second part, asks your students to find the textual evidence that supports the answer to the first part. Or explain HOW they achieved the correct answer. Students must get BOTH questions right to receive credit. I highly recommend putting at least one per test so your students are familiar with these.
13. (PART A) Which phrase BEST describes the theme of “The Haunted Palace”?
a. Evil is not always what it seems
b. All good things come to an end.
c. One cannot escape fate
d. Challenges to the throne are common
14. (PART B) Which piece of evidence supports your response to number 13?
a. But evil things, in robes of sorrow, / Assailed the monarch's high estate;
b. A hideous throng rush out forever, / And laugh -- but smile no more.
c. In the greenest of our valleys,/ By good angels tenanted,
d. Along the ramparts plumed and pallid, / A winged odour went away.
The part B question should include textual evidence that could apply to the answers. It is so important that you go over test and explain WHY B is the correct answer to number 13 and how A is the correct answer to number 14.
Cold Reads: I am a firm believer in cold reads. Cold reads are texts that the student has not read before. This could include nonfiction, fiction, or even poetry. I try to find things from the same time period or a similar theme. If your state has written a curricular package, be sure to use some of the text you have not taught on the test. If you are required to teach everything in the curricular package, here is Louisiana’s. It even has questions you can formulate into multiple choice questions.
Remember you want to check the skill, not put something completely random (text wise). If we are studying American Revolution literature, and I taught The Declaration of Independence, and Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, I might use Patrick Henry’s “Give me Liberty or Give me Death” speech. Or I might pull something modern like FDR’s “Day of Infamy” speech. And it does not always have to be text. If you teach Social Studies, a political cartoon that comments on the time period you are studying would be an excellent cold read. For science teachers, an article about a new procedure in Biology, or a lab report from a chemistry lab would be a great text to use. Use multiple choice questions, short answer, or even make them use the cold read as a source for their essay. Cold reads are great to use on a test because you do not know what is on the state test or the district assessment.
Essays: On every test I give I include an essay, unless they are writing a formal paper the week of the test. I always require the use of two sources because my writing assessment requires the use of two sources, cited correctly. They must always argue a point using evidence. Persuasive essays are found on the English III EOC. Find out what your state requires and add these type of essays to your own tests. For English II, I find these prompts are effective, and you can put the text you would like them to use on the test. For English III, I find these work well.
I know a test like this can sometimes be very difficult, not only for the students, but for you to grade. That is why you should use it for larger assessments, such as a unit test. You could use bits and pieces for weekly quizzes and skills checks. A test like this allows you to see what you need to review and teach again. I set aside two days for these type of tests. Writing your tests to reflect the state test ensures your students know what to expect. When students understand HOW to take a test like this, they will perform better on formal assessments.