Posts Tagged ‘index’
Memorial Day was my day of work. I didn’t get much work done.
However much I racked my brains, I had tried and failed to brainstorm good multiple-choice questions. However long I stared at Microsoft Word, satisfactory test items just didn’t come. Then, an idea.
Inspired by a faint memory of one of my high school teachers, I decided to let my seniors write their own test questions for this semester’s pass-the-class-in-order-to-graduate cumulative final. Having students write hypothetical questions about course content is an excellent review activity — that’s the main impetus behind a local iteration of Cornell Notes, at least.
I gave them a short primer on effective test questions — make the question a complete sentence, have all the answers about the same length, no silly answers — and a list of a few topics I’d like questions written about. I warned that only the very best questions would make the cut.
At the very least, it was an excellent way to gauge which students needed help understanding the content, and who was doing just fine. I could then intercede on their behalf and give them a little nudge in the right direction.
There was a range of questions, including fact-recall:
22. What are the names of three major Federalists?
a. Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, Thomas Jefferson.
b. Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, Patrick Henry.
c. John Jay, James Madison, George Washington.
d. James Madison, John Jay, Alexander Hamilton.
There were some questions with a little bit of higher thinking:
5. In which system of government do states have more power than a national government?
I rewrote most of the rest to make them a little bit more challenging, or edited them for style errors.
Of course, I had a few questions that certainly didn’t make the cut.
xii. What are names of the two houses of Congress?
a. Executive, judicial.
b. Legislative, Supreme Court.
c. Judicial, executive.
d. White House, Pentagon.
In case you don’t know American government, this doesn’t even include the correct answers. Considering who giggled as I read that question, it’s safe to say that this was a joke, but just to be sure, I walked that whole section of the class through the names of each house in our bicameral duplex of a legislature.
Just plain silly made an appearance, also.
vi. Why am I so sexy?
a. My style.
b. My looks.
c. My hair.
d. The way I talk.
The student who wrote this question made sure to ask me the next day what I thought of it. I hesitated a bit, and then told him, jokingly.
I’m not going to put it on the test. It had a false premise.
After two minutes with a dictionary, he laughed out loud.
My sophomores had to learn, and quickly, about Chinese history. The year’s winding down, and they need to know at least the basics for our next unit, on Tibetan protest and the 2008 Olympics.
I didn’t have the time or inclination to put together representative jigsaws, or make copies. What we did have: textbooks and index cards.
There was also a leftover transparency of that photo of a guy standing in front of the tanks at Tiananmen Square from an earlier period’s presentation. I used it as a set induction, and I asked my students to, without talking, write about all that they saw in the picture.
When we were done, we talked for a time about how this photo came to symbolize, in the minds of the West, how the PRC responds to protest, and how that’s different from American responses. Now that they were riled up and more-or-less interested, it was time to look at China’s side of the case.
On each of about 20 index cards, I wrote a page number in the upper right corner.
Each of these page numbers correlated with a page in their textbook that talks about the history of China. With a partner, they were required to write on their card what happened on their page, how Chinese people lived, how China viewed the West and how Chinese people viewed their government. Not all pages were able to answer all questions.
After 20 mins., they presented. In both classes, we didn’t finish, but we would have had more than enough time to do so had we cut down on the Tiananmen Square discussion.
Quick and dirty. More importantly, effective.