Quick Quizzes

A Quick Quiz is a short assessment on the content of the class that day – whatever it was (PQA, a story, or a reading). It takes five to seven minutes and is a perfect exit ticket for the kids because it requires them to pay attention in class.

Without such daily assessments, we can’t get a clear idea of what our students actually know. This can be a disaster at the beginning of they year, when students who are really D and F type students can “play us” in the wonderfully positive atmosphere that we create in the first months of the year. We want to avoid being played so that we can be accurate in our assessment from the beginning of the year.

Students, in general, reflect back to us what they think we want them to do, so when we make it clear in August that the game in our class is to authentically interact with us, then most of them do that, but some of the more gregarious ones fake it and even lie when doing the hand comprehension checks given every ten minutes, which is a problem with that method of formative assessment (eye contact is the best way to assess in class).

On the other hand, some of the quietest students who look like they are wearing window shades over their eyes are getting every detail. So these Quick Quizzes don’t entirely take care of the problem but they help a lot as long as the teacher is completely aware of any cheating. Our job is to hold the kids accountable and not let them fool us.

Quick Quizzes make the testing easy. If a kid knows that in 40 min. from walking into my classroom they will be assessed on most of what happened during the class, they conclude that they can succeed only if they pay attention. This causes them to in fact pay attention.

Quick Quizzes help create excellent classroom discipline. Most traditional language classes are heavily biased in favor of certain kids, and there is a natural imbalance created. Why not keep ALL of the kids in the classroom in the fold and happy by guaranteeing their success? Why not make your classroom an inclusive one? It is as easy as giving these quizzes and personalizing your instruction from the beginning of the year!

Quick Quizzes must be given fast. I really dislike stopping a story. They take awhile to build, and just when ideas are getting interesting and a lot of acquisition is occurring, we have to stop, get the quiz in, and let the kids go. But we work in schools and so we do it. 90 minute classes, obviously, are better, but we can assess fast in 50 minute classes as well. How does it work?

First, with about five minutes left in class (that is more than enough time – I once gave one and got it collected in 3 minutes, 37 seconds) two assigned kids jump up and get pre-prepared squares of paper (8.5 x 11 in four squares). Much preferably for ease in grading, however, if they are available, are the small ten point scantron sheets. When I bellow, “Question #1” the class knows it has only about twenty to thirty seconds to quiet down and get ready to start testing.

While the first two kids are getting the blank quizzes out, two other kids get stealable pencils out if anybody needs one (I have a big vase/cup thing full of pencils that I fill with pencils from Big Lots every August – costs me $20 for pencils for the year but I never have to get negative in class, which some kids expect and almost want, nor do I have to play the “I don’t have a pencil!” game.

Next, everybody moves their desks apart. If a kid tries to look on another kid’s paper I keep the kid after class and definitely call the parent about it. If I don’t do this the kids think that they can cheat. If they deny the cheating and I know it is a lie, then I make sure with my eyes that they know I know and then I watch them like a hawk for the next few weeks. If a visitor is there, I ask them to stand next to me and monitor the quiz.

Next, the kid who wrote the quiz hands it to me. This is a very bright kid whose instructions are to write, during the story, twelve questions that have yes or no as answers. The kid also indicates clearly if the answer is YES or NO for each question – with five classes it can get gnarly. I choose ten of the twelve offered, crossing out the two I don’t want.

What is to be noted here is that these yes or no questions (yes and no in L2 have to be spelled correctly or it’s wrong) GUARANTEE THE SUCCESS of the kids who pay attention and GUARANTEE A FAST QUIZ. So much time is lost in our schools to testing! This way of doing a story quiz recoups some of that time, and the kids get to learn more.

Parents and administrators are happy because they can go into the portal and see lots of grades. I’m happy because I did practically no work to get them and saved time for language acquisition. The students are happy because they can succeed if they pay attention, making them want to listen the next day.

When students are nickel and dimed to death in the kind of memorization torture testing put on them by teachers who are married to the old ways of teaching, all the kids want to do is quit, which is exactly what they do.