Friday, December 16, 2005

For Dindrane, re quizzes

Dindrane was kind enough to ask for some sample questions from my quizzes. You're going to be disappointed, but I'll reveal my deep dark secret. Ready? My quizzes are EASY.

In Shakespeare classes, I'm really interested in checking that students have done the basic reading AND taken decent notes. I don't want to spend more than a few minutes on quizzes in a class period, so they're short. I grade them on a ten point scale, because tens are easy to add.

A typical Shakespeare quiz looks like this:

1) What important gift has Othello given Desdemona? [The play revolves around the danged handkerchief, and we're going to talk about it, so I sure hope they've noticed it.]

2) How does Othello die? [Did they finish the play? Did they understand Othello's final speech? ("That in Aleppo once...")]

That's it, pretty basic. Most of my students do quite well.

I used the Brief edition of Allyn and Bacon for my writing class, and quizzes tend to come directly from reading. One of the things I like about Allyn and Bacon is that they talk about three stages of college student thinking, dualist (there's a right and wrong answer for everything; definitions basically require dualist thinking, for example), multiplist (any answer is as good as any other; you need to guess what the prof wants), and relativist (there are multiple potential answers; you have to decide which you think is right and be ready to explain and support your decision). (I don't have my book or notes here with me, so I can't give you a page ref, sorry.)

So, I try to ask one question that will use dualist thinking, and one question that will push my students towards relativist thinking.

For example, when we first hit these concepts, I may ask my students to list and define the three stages of college student thinking presented on page X. The next question can then ask them to explain which of the three stages of college student thinking that the first question asked them to use.

So, students should give the quick list (remember, my quizzes are open notes) and definitions. If they understand the definitions, they will be able to explain that the first question asks for dualist thinking, it's right/wrong, as are most definitional questions.

Here's another example, also from Allyn and Bacon; at one point, they introduce Freire's concept of the "banking method" of learning. So I'll ask them to define Freire's concept of the "banking method." The second question would then likely ask them what Allyn and Bacon's attitude towards using this method in teaching is. That's a bit more complex: do they really understand what they're reading?

I generally write quiz questions in my class prep notes for the day, and then put them on the board in class for the quiz. I always give students an opportunity to ask questions about the reading before the quiz, and if one of them asks a quiz question, the whole class benefits.

When I do well, the quiz opens up the points I want to discuss about the reading on a given day.

Hope that helps!

I'm always looking for suggestions to help my teaching, so if you have any, please help!


  1. Yep, my quizzes are exactly the same. Once in a while I throw in something slightly harder (for MY Othello quiz, I asked them to list everyone who's dead at the end of the play--but that's because 90% of my students had already read Othello in their Western Civ class, and I wanted to make sure they'd RE-read it for mine), but even on the easy ones I get complaints!

    When we read the Second Shepherd's Play, for example, they complained that questions like, "What crime does Mak commit?" and "How does he attempt to hide this crime?" were TOO OBSCURE. Dudes, that's the entire plot of the play!

  2. You cracked me up... "how does he attempt to hide this crime?"!!

    Think they're just not getting the plot?

    I remember the first time I read "The Miller's Tale" (still struggling with Middle English), having to reread the "kiss" scene about 12 times because I was CERTAIN I was completely misunderstanding. Turns out I wasn't. Tee hee!