Saturday, October 18, 2008

My Students' Turn to Have a Voice

My students and I have just finished our first theme: utopias and dystopias. Because of my new essential questions, as we headed towards the final assessments, my mind was spinning looking for ways to make these assessments real world and challenging. I ended up tossing both the test and writing assignment I had used for the past few years and coming up with new ones.

1. The Test:

A. The first part of the test was student-written multiple choice questions on a passage from Brave New World. Since this is an AP class, MC questions loom over us, but I do not do this just for the AP exam. Instead, my department is looking to inject a LITTLE more practice on this kind of assessment just to fully prepare our college-bound students for what they will encounter. Our school as a whole rarely gives MC tests, so a little practice now and then means we are offering our students a fair shot at future MC tests. But more importantly, the act of breaking down a passage and formatting complex analysis questions (with both right and plausible-yet-wrong answers) calls for high-level thinking. Just because the format is MC does not mean they are easy to write.

B. The essay was my favorite part: Test Essay. My students soared. They obviously spent time preparing, and in the end they showed me they understood the literature we had discussed, its implications for our own world, and how they could read an argument, understand it, and decide whether they agreed or not with it based on their own wealth of knowledge.

2. The Writing Assignment: I purposely scaffolded the test essay to link to this writing assignment. After the students had fully understood and digested Greenberg's editorial, they got to write their own. They had to think about both their content and style, and they were striving to become published authors. I just finished grading their editorials, and I think the journalism teacher is going to have a hard time narrowing it down to only four to submit. In the end, my students thought about their own worlds with the founding knowledge of centuries of others thinking about their worlds. They joined the conversation.

P.S. Once my winner is selected, I will be sure to publish the link to their editorial!

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