Archive for September 30, 2011

Reading Quizzes: Week in Review


     Friday Dialogue from Your

Two Favorite Educators 

As Emily and Aubrey look back over the week they use their razor sharp wit to assess their innermost feelings about reading quizzes and The Outsiders.

1.  Reading Quiz Flashbacks?  

Aubrey: Is it wrong that I can still remember my 8th grade Language Arts quiz on the final section of The Outsiders?

Emily: Is this a rhetorical question?

Aubrey:  [without paying attention] This day is perhaps my largest failure as a reader.  In an effort to hurry so that we could watch the movie version which my language arts teacher billed as a “treat” I neglected to realize there was a back side to the reading quiz. After the lights dimmed I realized the gravity of my situation.  Answering only two short answer questions guaranteed me a 50 percent.  That was not going to cut it.  I had suffered through the novel.  Every painful page with Pony Boy.  I got up and, perhaps a little bit too loudly, asked if I could have the quiz back.  Let’s just say my request went unanswered.  Let’s also say that I didn’t make any friends that day.

Emily:  Oh no.  Isn’t Emilio Estevez in that movie?  I loved him growing up. Maybe I should Netflix this one. Read more

Reading Quizzes: Day Four

Okay, I feel like the multiple-choice quiz has gotten a bad rap this week and I hate hurting other’s feelings.  So today’s post is dedicated to making the multiple-choice quiz feel more accepted and loved.

However, this post is going to be a little bit like What Not to Wear.  I’m going to be Clinton Kelly and give the multiple-choice a make-over that it needs and deserves.

Just like there is a place for animal print in everyone’s closet (in moderation, of course), there is a place for the multiple-choice quiz.  High-stakes tests almost exclusively use multiple choice tests as an indicator of reading ability…but that is the key:  reading ability, not memory.  I think that is where my hatred of the multiple-choice quiz lies:  I’m a good reader.  I swear.  I am.  Really, I’m a pretty good reader.  But I have the memory of a fish.  Multiple choice quizzes have developed a bad reputation because many teachers use them to test students’ memory or trick them.  Most multiple-choice reading quizzes aren’t actually assessing reading ability, but, just like a guy with a mullet, that doesn’t mean they can’t be transformed to be practical and effective.

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Reading Quizzes: Day Three

Oh that dreaded Lord of the Flies multiple choice question.  It has haunted me since my youth. Because of this, I have made it my mission as a teacher to create quizzes and activities that allow students the creativity to explain their knowledge of what they read, as opposed to just bubbling in an answer.  I have tried to create quizzes that go beyond just comprehension and really ask them to apply their knowledge.  One strategy I have been employing with my students is something I have dubbed the “interpretive mindmap.”  A mindmap is like a graphic organizer.  They are boxes linked together by conceptual lines.  Some lines have arrows on one end to indicate the action on something.

Now, to complete this successfully, students have to have some background knowledge of how to construct a mindmap.  It isn’t just as simple as drawing boxes and lines.  The students have to be able to explain how the lines connect the boxes.  In the beginning of the year I give them various mindmaps as viewing guides to films or to discuss literary time periods.  Many times I will give them a mindmap with words in the boxes and they have to write a description over the lines, requiring them to think about the use of arrows on the line itself.  Below is a mindmap from the website (described in more depth below) I have created for viewing The Crucible to model how to go about constructing a mindmap.

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Reading Quizzes: Day Two

In the age of unlimited messaging and 40 hours per week of video gaming, kids aren’t used to deciphering words.  They are better consumers of images.  To support their visual addiction and because I love hearing them say “ugh….it’s so hard, Ms. Richardson,” I have started replacing the multiple-choice quiz with image quizzes.  What this means, is that I determine images that are representative or metaphorical to a text or time period and ask students to explain how the image connects to the studied content.  Sounds simple, but it is actually quite difficult for the kids because it asks them to prove their knowledge by thinking critically about what they read, not just repeating/regurgitating it.

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Reading Quizzes: Day One

You know you’re old when you start a story with “Well, I remember when…”

Okay, yeah, I’m old.  At least I’m not denying it.  Hi, my name is Emily…and I’m 31.  I’m sure you are all responding in typical AA fashion with “Hi, Emily.”  At least this realization hasn’t sent me into a quarter-life crisis (or maybe it has and that is why I’m contributing to this blog).

With this admission of age, I now begin my story with…

Well, I remember when I was sitting in my sophomore English class and our teacher, who seemed in my young naive mind to be an old, debilitated, frail man (who was in all actuality probably 31), wanted to go over the answers to our recent unit test over Lord of the Flies. Read more

Weekend Tech: ITunes U Part 2

Yesterday I profiled a teacher treasure:  ITunes U.  A scholarly resource equipped with videos and podcasts that are appropriate for and accessible in classrooms through a teacher’s ITunes account.  Even though ITunes U has material for every discipline (history, religion, art, music, etc.), today I’m going to profile some of my favorite outlets within the site and some ways they can be used in the classroom. These can be found through doing a search in ITunes.


UPenn’s 60 Second Lectures:  During the spring and fall UPenn’s School of Arts and Sciences invites professors to give a guest lecture to the campus on their favorite topics.  However, the professors are limited to sixty seconds.  Imagine summing up a topic as sweeping as the Crusades in one minute while making it witty and enjoyable to the majority.  Not an easy task.  Yet the professors manage to accomplish it with flair and precision.  Even though they are sixty seconds and prepared by ivy league professors, the material is widely accessible to students of all ages and abilities.

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Weekend Tech: ITunes U

I have joked that I would marry my IPhone if I could.  I love it more than any other material good (and probably more than most of my family members–just teasing, Mom).  Reminiscent of the sage Jerry Maguire , my IPhone ”completes me.”  While there are many great things that an IPhone can bring to your life (or any Apple product for that matter), one of the best has to be ITunes…but not just the standard “I want to download music and episodes of Saturday Night Live ITunes.”  The “I want to be smarter and learn about the ways of the world” ITunes.  Have no fear; there is a way to leave the ITunes Store with an increase in your IQ and without a decrease in your wallet.   It is known as ITunes U, a website found in the ITunes store that offers educational materials for learners of all ages.  Apple markets the site as a “powerful distribution system for everything from lectures to language lessons, films to labs, audiobooks to tours.”

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Annotation: Week in Review


     Friday Dialogue from Your Two Favorite Educators 

As Emily and Aubrey look back over the week they use their razor sharp wit to assess their innermost feelings about annotating.

1.  When did you start marking texts?  What does your personal style of annotation require? 

Emily:  I think it started with Mrs. Nell in my senior English class when we were reading Macbeth.  She asked to look for repetition of words or images.  When I started to recognize the trends I was hooked on annotating and close reading like I’m hooked on Arby’s Beef and Cheddar sandwiches.  However, one of the biggest compliments I have ever received about my annotating abilities came on a flight a few years ago.  My students were reading Kite Runner and I was re-reading and marking up the text for the stylistic patterns.  The woman sitting next to me asked if I was an editor.  My response:  “No, I’m just a really anal retentive reader.”  Still one of the biggest compliments of my life…which maybe says more about my personal life than it does my annotating life!

Aubrey: It’s funny that you say senior year because it was for me too.  Mrs. Biehl had us read “The Wife of Bath’s Tale” and I can remember color-coding the entire story at my part time job on a dinner break.  Especially the suggestive bits.  I highlighted those in green.  Back then I was “highlighter.”  Now I’m obsessed with post-it notes.  Nothing makes me happier than those post-it note flags.  I can write just enough on them and also have them on all three sides of the book.  They’re so neat and tidy something that comes into direct opposition with my messy annotation.  I went to a book club once with my copy of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (see day one again) and the response I got was “oooooh” but not an ooooh like people watching fireworks on the fourth of July.  More like oooooh, crazy town has arrived.

Emily:  Let’s be honest.  They thought crazy town had arrived before you pulled out your book!

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Annotation: Day Four

Using technology in the classroom is difficult.  Novelty can’t be the only reason to employ a new system.  Where does that leave you?  Online collaborative tech of course.

The basic goal with using tech for annotating is to find something that fills the following categories:

  • Creates a whiteboard space
  • Upload documents/images so they can be marked
  • Offers easy to use tools that are intuitive and need little explanation
  • Creates a URL for users so they don’t need to construct another account/login Read more

Annotation: Day Three

“But,“ they entreat, “I’m a visual learner. I can’t be expected to do well with text on a page.  It doesn’t ‘speak’ to me.”  “It was cool that you rearranged the room and I could sit with my friends and I kind of even understood the annotating thing, but now we’re back to the harsh reality of being seated in rows.”

Okay.  Fine.  [Also enough with the imagined student dialogue.  Blurgh.]

Most classrooms today are tasked with creating well-rounded, “global” citizens.  If there is anything about being a teenager that screams this is a natural progression, I have yet to find it.  To be honest, how many of us were global citizens at 17? Read more