I was just reading something that Carol Gaab wrote about “mixing things up” in your classroom–always trying to provide Comprehensible Input for your students. It gave me an idea. When you want to find out whether kids are really ready for one of your “unannounced quizzes”, this might be a fun, informative way to prep them:
- Give the kids small pieces of scrap paper or post its. How many you give them depends on how many questions you have on your quiz. Jody suggests 5 or 6.
- Project a question on the board about the reading, or section of reading, you just worked on or the story you just did in class making sure to focus on target/important structures you are working on or want to review.
- Kids each answer the question on their little piece of paper. They do NOT write a number on the paper, but do write their name on the back of the paper. When finished, they turn the little paper over and put it to the side of their desk.
- Project the second question and have the kids do the same as with the first question. Etc., etc.
- When you have finished projecting all the questions and the kids have finished writing all the answers, walk around, collecting the little papers and throw them in a grocery bag. Mix them up good. Kids put away all writing paraphernalia during the collection process. Desks are now clear.
- Project the first question on the board again. Ceremoniously, fish around in the bag and choose an answer. Read it aloud.
- Students give two thumbs up if it is correct or two thumbs down if it is not. If the answer is wrong, it may sound really silly. Encourage appropriate laughter. 😀 (If you can engineer your questions to go together in a way that mixed-up answers might be funny, even better.)
- If the answer is correct, read the name of the brilliant student and have the class applaud. If it is not correct, shake your head sadly, and throw the answer back in the bag. Shake bag even more.
- Continue with the questions until all are correctly answered.
- Start with Question #1 again; have someone in the class say the answer aloud; write it on the overhead and read it again yourself aloud. Do this with all questions. Turn off the overhead. You’re done.
At the start of the next class, put the questions on the overhead again and ANNOUNCE that they are having a quiz. Have the kids answer all the questions. They turn their papers in for a quiz grade.
Some might ask:
- Isn’t this prepping them too much? Prepping them is giving them tons of Comprehensible Input.
- Won’t everyone get 100%? Interestingly enough, not everyone will get 100%, but everyone will do well.
On a quiz like this, I will not find out whether they remember everything about the reading or story that we did. What I will find out is whether they are able to use the important target structures or not. This is more important to me as a language teacher and will inform the content of my future lessons.
A higher-level way you might do this activity would be to do the opposite. Instead of projecting the questions for them to answer, project the ANSWERS and have the students write the QUESTIONS that go with the answers from your story or reading. There would likely be many different questions one might ask, so this activity could definitely hit some higher-order thinking skills. On the quiz, I would have them answer MY questions. It’ll be a breeze by then.
1) When reading the questions aloud the first time, make sure the students comprehend them by:
- having target structures w/translation on the board and do pause and point as you read the question
- ask a student translate the question into English aloud
2) What if a student says they can’t write the answer in the target language because they don’t have enough language?
- Have them write the answer in English (although if this is the case, this activity may be at an inappropriately high level for your class and you should wait).
- If you should choose that student’s little paper out of the bag, just write down and say the answer in the target language (more CI for that student)