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.
2. Are multiple choice quizzes a valid way to test student reading?
Aubrey: I’ll admit it. For me, in high school, the reading quiz was the way I proved academic prowess.
(pause for self reflection).
I understand the innate sadness in that statement. Let me try again.
Short answers I could always do. Aren’t teachers just looking for as much information as possible? Multiple choice though–not so much. I doubted. I erased. I re-bubbled. Now, honestly I understand the purpose of the reading quiz. I do. It’s hard to teach a novel/text if students won’t read it. I’m not even dissing the multiple choice reading quiz. But most reading quizzes aren’t testing skill application. This of course doesn’t mean that I will stop using them. It does mean that with of the sheer number of reading quizzes I use over the course of the school year, I need options. It’s not about taking away multiple choice practice from students. Instead it is about giving them a variety of assessments that challenge them to do more than simply regurgitate information. If you teach any novel, chances are you’re going to need at least three reading quizzes. Why not offer a variety of quiz forms to encourage student success and critical thought?
Emily: I agree that many reasons teachers quiz students is to ensure they read. I guess I’m just wondering if that actually does make them read. My students tell me they still wouldn’t read the novel; just read Sparknotes, which is another post for another time! Also, I can’t believe you give at least three reading quizzes per novel! I’m shocked by this. I rarely give reading quizzes. I used to give quizzes all the time, I guess I’m just becoming cynical about their purpose: do they really encourage kids to read? Does the standard multiple-choice really test their reading ability? I’m just doubting their validity.
3. What is your purpose when you quiz students?
Aubrey: To make sure they read. To make sure they comprehend. To see if there is any knowledge they constructed of their own. They are smarter than me (some of the time). Quizzes that ask for synthesis quite frequently prove that their view can be just as sharp if not sharper than mine. I’m mired in the text for the sixth time. They’re seeing it with fresh eyes.
Emily: Come on. You know they aren’t smarter than you. Not possible!