How and Why to Try Partner Quizzes in Your Classroom

partner quizzesI love to mix up my assessment strategies to incorporate old, faithful methods as well as creative, new approaches.  Today I want to talk about why and how partner quizzes work for a secondary English classroom.  Note: I have heard of some teachers/professors successfully using small groups of 3-4 on both quizzes and exams, but I only have experience with partners on lower-stakes quizzes.  I’d love to hear your comments, questions, and suggestions below!

Why partner quizzes work:

They work to compel-

  • Engagement: Add the word quiz in place of a normal collaborative assignment and suddenly they really want to get the answers correct.  Even my less motivated students love the idea of getting a great quiz score because they were able to discuss answers with a partner.  They feel like they are cheating the system, when really they are having amazing debates and conversations about the material I want them to master!
  • Collaboration: In partner quizzes students are able to add to each other’s ideas and bring each of their strengths to the table, which usually leads to more complete, thoughtful answers.  As we prepare them for adulthood, learning meaningful collaboration is paramount!
  • Student-led Teaching: We all know that students understand the material better when they can teach/explain it to another student.  Partner quizzes help provide this teaching opportunity.
  • Preparation: Group quizzes can add a little bit of healthy peer pressure to prepare.  This is especially true if the partnerships are not announced until the day of the quiz.  Most teenagers do not want to appear unprepared to their peers (even though they often pretend like they are too cool).  A gentle discussion of the embarrassment that may ensue for an unprepared student can go a long way the day before a quiz.

Tips for How to Make Partner Quizzes Work:

  • Instructions: Make sure to give clear instructions about what successful collaboration looks like and how the process of taking/grading the quiz will work. Explain the most advantageous ways to go about completing the task.
  • Grouping: Decide how you want to create partners- by ability, by choice, by random draw.  There are benefits to each of these methods, which you can play around with given your own classroom context.
  • Multiple Quiz Versions: If you are worried about other groups overhearing and copying answers, you can make multiple versions of the quiz.
  • Individual vs. Group Grades: In my view, you have three main choices here:
    • Each student fills out the quiz and you randomly grade one quiz and enter for both students.  This helps make sure they are checking each other’s work and both participating.  I grade for content and mechanics, so they have to proofread for each other too.
    • Each student fills out the quiz for his/herself and is each quiz is graded.  This allows students to discuss answers, but ultimately come to different conclusions.
    • Each pair fill out one quiz.  This cuts down on paper.
  • Types of Questioning: Generally, open-ended, higher level thinking questions are better for partner quizzes so that students have something meaningful to discuss and write about.  I only use multiple choice for partner quizzes, with my advanced placement class with very difficult rhetorical analysis questions.
  • Sporadic Use:  I think partner quizzes work best when they only happen occasionally.  I only use them for formative quizzes and then have individuals work on tests/exams.  In my experience, when they are used too often, students start finding ways to avoid the work.

What are your questions or experiences?  We’d love to hear them!

7 Assignment Ideas for Movie Day in the English Classroom

moviesMovies days in high school classrooms have a bad reputation for being a waste of time or a teacher cop out, but English teachers show movies for a variety of reasons, including but not limited to:

  • Giving context to a novel unit (e.g. showing the Emmett Till biography during the  TKAM unit).
  • Helping students understand the authors behind their favorite works (e.g. showing the Ken Burns documentary on Twain before starting Huck Finn).
  • Adding to a universal theme that will help students understand literature in a deeper way (e.g. showing an American Dream movie during the Gatsby unit).
  • Helping emerging readers visualize the characters or plot (e.g. showing the 1968 Romeo and Juliet while going through the play).

Even when we have the very best of intentions, adding a student assignment is one way to make movie days even more productive.  Below are 10 ideas for student assignments during movie days.  We’d love to hear your questions, comments and suggestions in the comment section.

  • Write a critique or review of the movie or documentary.  Students can be prompted to think about arrangement/organization, costuming, or other elements of the film.
  • Create a Venn Diagram to spot the similarities and differences between the movie and the book.  This can work with the movie version of a book or a related movie if students look at the similarities/differences in context or theme.
  • Create mock interviews with characters or commentators.
  • Take guided notes. This takes a lot of preparation from the teacher preparing the guide before hand, but it can help students focus in on the important elements that you want them to pay attention to.
  • Ask socratic questions. Students can prepare questions as they watch and participate in a socratic seminar after the movie is over.
  • Write a synthesis essay in which they bring together elements of the novel and the movie to support their argument.
  • Structure a debate around questions raised in the novel and the movie.

What other questions or suggestions do you have for movies in the classroom?  We’d love to hear from you in the comment section below!

The Evaluations Teachers Should Be Getting

Teacher evaluation pin

Teachers are sick and tired of evaluations that focus primarily on standardized test scores or a short observation from an administrator who may not have a full picture of the scope and context of the class.  Most teachers take their work extremely seriously, working long hours to improve curriculum, communication, intervention, and the general quality of life and education for their students.  Below is the evaluation I think we should be getting. What do you think?  What would you add?  Let us know in the comment section below!

 

Teacher Evaluation

Teacher/Department:

Evaluator/Administrator:  

The following questions should be answered after a collaborative discussion between teacher and administrator. (Response boxes can be expanded)

1. What are you Proud of?   Please Share some of the success stories from this school year so far. How have you impacted the life of a student(s)? What creative strategies have you tried? What is going well in your classroom?

2. Let’s talk about overtime and extra-curriculars. Document the clubs, sports, field trips, and extra support services that may not be recognized by the administration or required in your contract. How are you balancing your time planning, grading, contacting parents, and preparing for class? Is there anything the school can do to support you in this area?

3. What kinds of additional support can the school provide? Do students need food, school supplies, emotional support, academic intervention services, or anything else? Do you need resources, professional development, or other work related items? How can the school ensure the financial burden is not solely yours?

Employee Signature

Administrator Signature

Date

Date

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