Making Curriculum Pop

Thank you to all the folks who have been wishing us the best in our move. For those of you new to the Ning, Nicole and I recently moved from NYC back home to Chicago. Our first week back we stayed with our families in the northern suburbs of Chicago. Our jobs, and new home are about an hour away from the parental units.

Since Nicole started school started yesterday we checked into a hotel Sunday night to make the commute manageable.

Today we finally received "official" word that we will be closing on our town home Thursday morning! We were slated to close almost two weeks ago. Now we just have to hope it doesn't take until mid-September for our worldly belongings to arrive from the mythical warehouse in Jersey. While our displacement is an annoying speed bump, a little perspective reminds us that this is nothing compared what some folks endure. If you're a fan of This American Life do check out Act 1 of Episode 177 "American Limbo"...

Act One. The Family That Flees Together, Trees Together.
The Jarvis family, a group of eight, goes on the run from the law — for seven years. They live on a boat, in a treehouse in a swamp. They escape capture time after time. And how do the kids turn out, living a life outside of society, as fugitives? Surprisingly great. (22 minutes)

Stories like this are not only teachable (7-12th Grade), but they help you view life with a wide-angle lens.

Now you, being an inquisitive person, are probably wondering what I have been doing with my "American Limbo?" Mostly, I've been taking care of moving logistics and working with Nicole to get her curriculum organized. Her school has an fairly traditional curriculum in the core literature classes so we've had romantic candlelight dinners at the Holiday Inn restaurant. Every evening we sit, stare deep into each other's eyes and whisper sweet nothings about ... the ways we can make her curriculum pop.

I'll share the fruits of those labors in a later Ning post. In the meantime, all you really need to know is that we created a Ning for Nicole's students. I was on the computer here at the hotel, checked in on her Ning and caught a glimpse of the kids "working." In the lower right hand corner of MC POP and Nicole's Ning there's a little pop-up chat interface. You've gotta love this classic exchange:

I was, as the kiddies say, LMAO. If you're not up on your txt lngo check Frank Baker's blog post or this t-shirt...

Hopefully the image is self-explanatory.

In the midst of all this curriculum planning, I've been pulling files from the Mindblue / RRG archives that might be helpful for Nicole. Could there be another brilliant, wonderful and elegant (cough, cough) PDF on the horizon? Funny you should ask that question....

All teachers, across every discipline and grade level encounter situations where they have to find out if students did their reading. To do this you can ask students to annotate a text (see last week's post) or do a journal. These are good assessments, but sometimes you just want to quiz the kids to see, without Internet and in class, if students have been reading. Often, to accomplish this goal we default to a series of questions that hover on the bottom rungs of Bloom's Taxonomy.


My favorite example of these questions come from one of author and professor Bill Kist's Power-Points I happen to have on my computer:

Questions for Chapters 1-8 of To Kill a Mockingbird
1. Where does the story take place?
2. Who are the Ewells? What makes them special?
3. What do the children find hidden in the tree in the Radley yard?
4. How do Jem, Scout, and Dill spend their summers?


While these can be efficient, they generally don't generate evidence that a student carefully read or processed a text.

To avoid these kind of assessments, I've developed about ten higher-level "Did You Read?" assessments over the years. Today, I'm going to share the Cartoon "Did You Read?" Quiz. When elementary teachers see this quiz they'll be like, "Cha, I do this all the time!" Elementary teachers always have crayons and coloring paper on tap - this is one of many reasons I believe elementary teachers have the deepest understanding of pedagogy. Me? I just keep trying my best to be as cool as elementary teachers.

I first used this cartoon quiz at the college level. During the quiz, a student remarked, "you actually have to think to take this quiz." I explained that answer was so correct that he had earned an extra credit point even though I hadn't asked a question. All the "Did You Read?" quizzes use higher level thinking skills, are easy to grade and in some cases are even FUN.

It is a very simple document, but a powerful tool to engage students with any text assigned for homework. It also allows you to quickly assess if students have done their reading. If you plan to give this a try or end up using it in class please drop some feedback on your experience below.

If people dig this quiz I will periodically post more of the "Did You Read?" Quizzes if there is a demand.

Happy assessing!

Ryan

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Woza Marek, thanks as always, for sharing!!

RRG:)
I like this idea, but have a few technical questions. How long do you give students at the high school level to take this quiz and do they have access to the original text while taking the quiz? The last part of the quiz seems to imply that they have access to the text while taking the quiz. These questions relate to my concern that a savvy student could still do this quiz even if they did not actually read the work when assigned. I want to set parameters that "encourage" doing the work.
Thanks,
Amy
Amy, I have them do part one for about ten minutes w/out the text and then let them add the text for 4 minutes.

You can also ask them to write down their favorite quote from the text beforehand and then have them put the books away.

Either way works well! Great question!

RRG:)
Thanks, that helps and seems like it would get the results I am looking for. Look forward to seeing other quiz varieties in the future.
Best,
Amy
Great to hear that helped. Yes there are more on the way! Thanks for writing! RRG:)
I tried out a little experiment with my reading of OF MICE AND MEN. I gave students choices for their chapter quizzes. They could choose multiple choice, short answer, or the cartoon/comic strip quiz. I tried to make each challenging in its own way, and by chapter six I was surprised to see that about 50% of the students were choosing multiple choice and the other 50% were choosing short answer. Students were very wary of the comic quiz.

I have to possible reasons why this might be:
1. They have never had this type of assessment before. They are comfortable with multiple choice and short answer, but don't know what to expect with a cartoon quiz!

2. The quiz is very open ended and requires a lot of critical thinking on their part. It's much easier to have ME tell them what they need to focus on.

It is for reason #2 that I plan on using this as the ONLY option in future lit circle reading.

Melissa
Melissa, I think you're 100% correct - while, in theory, that impulse to give choice is obviously a great way to differentiate if your students are not comfortable with a non-traditional assessments they will need to play with it a bit before it becomes a comfortable choice.

Do let us know how it goes when you try it on the whole class!!!

RRG:)
thanks for sharing! Am going to use this for my Literature class for my 13-year olds! :)
VZ - I hope you dig it - it can take some getting used to but it works really well (even with grad students).
I would love to see more of these quizzes! This is brilliant!
Thanks Rachel - so glad you dug it! A lot of the stuff on the playlist can be used for quizzing - I'll keep brining the love.

I can't wait to try this next fall!! Please post more! Great idea!!

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