Fun Prep for UNANNOUNCED Quiz

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Project the second question and have the kids do the same as with the first question. Etc., etc.
  5. 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.
  6. Project the first question on the board again. Ceremoniously, fish around in the bag and choose an answer. Read it aloud.
  7. 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. ūüėÄ (If you can engineer your questions to go together in a way that mixed-up answers might be funny, even better.)
  8. 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.
  9. Continue with the questions until all are correctly answered.
  10. 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.

More thoughts:

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)

Cap√≠tulo 2 – Quick Comprehension Quiz Results

Five minute/15 item quiz based on the information/CI from this chapter which we used to play Todos para uno. Short answer and fill-in.

What I noticed:

  • They understood the Spanish sentences they were reading.
  • They remembered what happened in the chapter.
  • They used new words/structures from the chapter or wrote other answers in Spanish which conveyed the correct information. The new vocabulary was nowhere on the quiz.
  • This was a complex task that they did easily even though they hadn’t seen the book for several days.
  • All kids used verbs that made sense. However, many of them didn’t write all the verbs in the correct tense/correct subject agreement all the time. Many are still focused on the root meaning–not the details. (More comprehensible input needed, not verb drills.) My top kids really notice the little details and have better accuracy. The number of hours these kids have heard/read Spanish matches the kinds of developmental errors they make.
  • There was only one answer of all the answers that just didn’t make sense. The student obviously did not understand some key words in the question.
  • They applied new structures/vocabulary appropriately. This wasn’t a Spanish to English translation exercise.
  • Class averages: 90%

Cool. We can move on. They are ready.

Character Collages from Quiz #1

Here they are (only 16 of the 44):  warts and all

I like them because I really get an inside look into my students’ other mind-the symbolic one, the artistic one, the free one.

Remember, these students are 11 and 12 years old.

I focus on whether the student communicated “meaning”.

What I notice:¬† Where English and Spanish align grammatically, there are few errors. Where English and Spanish grammar differ, there are more errors–which just means they need much MORE input (not correction).

Common beginner errors which eventually disappear:

  • Henry le gusta _______.
  • la mapa
  • misspelled cognates
  • quere, queire, quire, etc. ARGGHHH!
  • article usage
  • noun/adjective/article agreement (Oh, no! Oh, no! Back to Chapter One of the textbook to drill them and kill them–oh, yeah, it doesn’t work.)
  • Antonio’s barco (NONE of the kids did this. Yup. It has disappeared!)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


When I think about how well this quiz went for the kids, I now think it may have had a great deal to do with being able to get up, go outside and do the poster activity where they got to talk, and then, come back and do something like this which stimulated very different brain activity. They were so calm and settled as they were creating these.





Todos para uno y uno para todos

Sounds a little like a pirate slogan, yes? Three Muskateerish even. Todos para uno y uno para todos. It’s what I decided to name my new review/assessment game.

“Numbered Heads Together” has been around a long time. I always do Lettered Heads Together because I like to practice the alphabet that way. I use the game often to:

  • give all students one more chance to hear the new material from the chapter in context
  • give the slower processors a pretty safe space to work out their thinking and their tongues with peer support
  • give the faster processors an opportunity to show their maximum acquisition (a nice way to say “show off”)
  • encourage them to share information instead of covet it
  • let them move around the classroom
  • get them to key in and “laser listen” to the material
  • provide the comprehensible input in a format that makes them WANT to find interest
  • assess output to see how they’re doing

After hearing Alfie Kohn speak the other night, I decided to change the rules of the game a bit. I have always set up the game in a cooperative/competitive format:¬† Teams discuss and come up with an answer. I call a lettered head. The first one who pops up gets to answer–wins or loses the point for their team. There is a winning team and, of course, there are losing teams.

After listening to Alfie talk about the dangers of “academic competition” in school, I really rethought this game. Now, it’s “all for one and one for all”. The whole class is working for points for the class–and there still get to be teams. It worked great and was a huge hit with the kids and with me. Big time fun, engagement, focus on meaning, focus on success, fight the fear. All good. No “team” is smarter or better than any other team. No “team” is lesser, dumber, etc. than any other team. I thought they might think it was lame since they are very competitive, sporty kids. I was wrong. Doing it this way took off a layer of worry for them.

Read on:

  1. I choose four names out of the box for each team.
  2. The teams gather in different areas of the room. I say: “Equipo 1 aqu√≠, por favor. Equipo 2, aqu√≠, etc.” When they get really good at organizing themselves, after a few times of playing the game, I let them come up with an “appropriate” Spanish name for their team. For instance, this time we had Los Fatales (silly name based on one kid who ALWAYS answers the question, ¬ŅC√≥mo est√°s?, with “Fatal”, Los C√°llates, Los Azules, Los Habladores Cabezones, etc. Dumb stuff, fun stuff. I help them out or this takes forever.
  3. I assign each team member a letter: a, b, c, d “Fulano, eres A. Sutano, eres B., etc. Todos los A’s, levanten la mano, por favor. Los B’s, etc.”
  4. I ask the question*. I speak SLOWLY (can’t impress upon you enough the necessity to speak slowly in all activities).
  5. Each team physically huddles together to discuss the answer. I say: “J√ļntense. Arr√≠mense. (with motions)”
  6. I give the groups time to discuss the question, come up with the answer. Each group member must feel confident that they have an answer (they will need it for the next step). Then I repeat the question to the class.
  7. I choose a letter. For instance:  B
  8. All the B’s run to the center of the room away from their teams, huddle up with the new group, and tell each other what their original team believes is the correct answer. Each one weighs in. Then, they either agree because they all have the same answer or they negotiate a better answer among themselves. I love watching that part.
  9. When they are ready, I choose one of their tickets. That person answers the question.
  10. If they answer correctly, their team gets the point which goes immediately goes toward the class score. If they get it wrong, no point.
  11. If anyone speaks English (smart alec remarks, criticisms, whatever) during the “answering part”, profe gets a point (that happened a couple of times in one class).
  12. Before we began, we did one practice round with a silly question in English (since I had changed the rules). The question was: ¬ŅQui√©n es Joe Biden? I just walked them through the format slowly. It was easy.

At the end I asked them:

  1. how well they had understood me?
  2. how well they had remembered the new vocabulary?
  3. how well they had remembered the details of the plot?
  4. how well they thought they had contributed to the activity?

They give me 0-5 fingers to answer the above questions:  0 Рlowest to 5 Рhighest

Lots of fives on all questions. The cheers at the end of the game were loud and enthusiastic. Many yelled out, “¬°Todos para uno y uno para todos!” Alfie was right.

*I used the Comprehension Questions (reworded) and Discussion Questions in the Treasure Chest which accompany Piratas.

Post Quiz #1 Thoughts

Novia esperando a su marinero - El malecón en Campeche, México

Section I:  49/50 kids aced this listening comprehension section.

That tells me:

  • they understood the Spanish I spoke (new vocabulary/structures)
  • they knew what happened in Cap√≠tulo 1

Section II:  See rubric post on Differentiation Rubric for Vocabulary/Structures (click in column to the right)

In order to qualify for the “advanced-level” structures part of the quiz, a student had to ace that section on regular quiz. I did have a couple of “sleepers”–kids I hadn’t expected to do as well as they did. I love those surprises. It kind of surprised them, too.

Section III: Comprehension Quiz from the Treasure Chest – Easy peasy. Very few errors.

I forgot to mention the five “inferential thinking” questions that I used from the Treasure Chest about Raquel. Found out who my concrete sixth-grade thinkers were!

Section IV:  Personalized Reading Section РPosters on bulletin board outside Рungraded

I loved this. Once again, as soon as¬† we personalize “anything” in a language class, it:

  1. engages-gets their attention
  2. becomes meaningful–yes, it’s all about me, me, and me
  3. likely gets remembered because of that “connection” with the self

It also made them feel really smart for some reason. I put the posters up on the whiteboard the next day. Here are just a couple of examples of the discussion in the target language (Spanish) the next day. You can imagine the possibilities if you check out the original test post.

“So, in Piratas del Caribe, Raquel has a boyfriend. According to this, no one has a boyfriend in our class. Interesting. Is that true or do you think people are afraid to say it publicly? Do you think that there are people in our class who have MORE than one boyfriend/girlfriend and that is why they didn’t sign?”

“Raquel’s father won’t permit her to go to Spain with her boyfriend. The fathers of Bob, Fran, Sally, and Deshaun won’t let them go to Spain with their boyfriends/girlfriends either. Does your parent let you go to the movies? Does your parent let you drive a car? Does your parent let you read books and drink coffee at Starbucks?” (Slightly silly. They are only 12-years-old.)

Section V:  Character Collage

The “character collage” was truly just one more sneaky ruse to get them to focus on the text (the notes they took from the book about each character) and to make some meaning of it. I graded these collages liberally–looking for major qualities of the character expressed through symbols and words. It’s just a quiz, not a thesis.

Oops. Still have to bring some of those home to scan–maybe ma√Īana!

FINAL THOUGHT:  The new vocab/structures are truly falling out of their mouths after so much repetition. Mission (on the way to being) accomplished.

Differentiation Rubric for Vocabulary/Structures

Well, here it is. It really made me analyze the kinds of errors my students made and where that puts them developmentally.

Things I noticed (predictable):

  • Vocabulary and Structures in context were EASY for almost all of them. 47/50 students had excellent accuracy.
  • Verb meaning was EASY for almost all of them. 45/50 students had very good accuracy.
  • Consistently recognizing when and who is “doing the action” was challenging for many of them. They need many more reps and probably need to be older (than 11 and 12) do this kind of task well–even though it is meaning based. I am asking them to do an analytic task that is probably beyond many of their abilities in first language. In many ways, this is an awareness exercise for them–to start noticing that it really does matter (while you are reading) that you know whether something already happened, is happening, or is going to happen and who is/was responsible for the action. My lower kids are “chunkers”. They are just looking for general meaning. They are not thinking about the subtleties of language.
  • Some students scored very much to the left side of the graph–and really appreciated the challenge of more advanced level figuring out (taking the advanced-level section on the quiz). Their parents also like to know that “I know” that their child is capable of these kinds of tasks.

Here was the kicker. I didn’t grade the students. I marked the area (1/3) of each box which most closely matched what I gleaned from looking at their errors and their correct answers. Yes, there is an A, B, C or lower above the categories–that was just a ballpark notion for them.

What I told them:

  • They will not receive a grade on structures/vocab until we are at least half-way through Piratas. What I expect now is to see gradual movement to the left over the next few months.
  • I cannot, in good conscience, grade them when we are just beginning
  • They are still responsible for the information on Vocab List #1 for Chapter #1.
  • We will add on new vocabulary/structures as we go through the chapters. Having taught this book twice before, I know that the vocabulary and structures are repeated an enormous number of times throughout the book, making their gradual acquisition much more likely.
  • They will never be responsible for vocabulary and structures until we have finished a chapter and have worked on them sufficiently to make sure most students experience success.
  • We will have many unannounced pop quizzes.

There was lots of head bobbing up and down. A few of my more reflective students commented that they thought this was very fair. We’ll see how it goes.

Today, as we were reading Chapter 2, I noticed much keener attention to words. Connection? We’ll see.

Piratas Quiz #1

I gave a pop quiz. OK, it was really a pop test.

Section I:¬† Aural Comprehension – 10 T/F questions from Mira’s Treasure Chest

Section II:¬† Vocab/Structures Section – 25 words or verb structures to translate from Spanish to English – I had the kids turn these in immediately after finishing them. I did a quick correct. If the student missed more than 2 or 3, I didn’t correct any more. If they only missed a few, they qualified for the Advanced Challenge section – 15 more verbs in different tenses (present, imperfect, preterite). I did not score this section in the traditional sense. I made up a rubric that I will share in the next post.

Section III:¬† Reading Comprehension – 15 multiple choice/fill-in Spanish, covering the main points of the chapter – from Mira’s Treasure Chest

Section IV:¬† Personalized Reading – I made three charts on big chart paper, one for each main character: Raquel, Henry Morgan, and Antonio Medina. I wrote¬† six “I” statements on each chart (in bold marker) from each character’s point of view:

Raquel:                                                                                                                 Yo:

  1. Soy rebelde. (I am a rebel/rebellious.)
  2. Mi familia me importa. (My family is important to me.)
  3. Tengo un novio. (I have a boyfriend.)
  4. A mi me gustan las aventuras y la acción. (I like adventure and action.)
  5. Quiero ir a Espa√Īa. (I want to go to Spain.)
  6. Mi pap√° no me permite ir a Espa√Īa. (My father won’t let me go to Spain.)

Henry Morgan:                                                                                                   Yo:

  1. Soy talentoso/a. (I am talented.)
  2. La gente me tiene terror. (People are terrified of me.)
  3. Soy agresivo/a. (I am agressive.)
  4. Quiero m√°s dinero. (I want more money.)
  5. Soy inglés. (I am English.)
  6. A mi me gusta el mar. (I like the sea. To me the sea is pleasing.)

Antonio Medina                                                                                                Yo:

  1. Soy arrogante. (I am arrogant.)
  2. Pienso que soy m√°s inteligente que otras personas. (I think I am smarter than other people.)
  3. Soy espa√Īol. (I am Spanish.)
  4. Tengo mucha experiencia en la navegación. (I have lots of navigation experience.)
  5. A mi me importa mucho el dinero. (Money is very important to me.)
  6. Tengo una novia. (I have a girlfriend.)

I pinned the charts to the bulletin board outside my door.¬† As the students finished Section III and turned it in, the went outside in the hall where they read each item and decided whether or not they shared that characteristic with the character. Then, they wrote their initials next to the statements with which they agreed. They really liked this activity. There was much chatter and laughter during the task. It provided a good physical break during the test. I didn’t tell them, but, of course, this section was not graded. I walked out several times to watch them. It was a kick to see them so personally engaged with the text. I suppose you could say that there was a lot of “negotiation of meaning” among the kids in English. Yes, they read the items in Spanish. Then, there was much discussion about their personal experiences or points of view. During the discussions, much meaning was clarified—but not all.

On the items “Soy espa√Īol” and “Soy ingl√©s.” we ended up talking the next day about what those really mean (not that you speak the language). Interesting.

Section V:¬† When they came in from the hallway, they chose a picture of one of the main characters (copied 3×4 approx) and a 9×12 piece of white construction paper. Their job was to make an artistic interpretation with symbols and words/phrases in Spanish to show their knowledge of the character. They took them home to finish, but got started in class. They could use their notes for ideas (reading, once again!)

I will take some pictures of these and post them later. Pretty cool.

I will discuss how I believe this quiz differentiated assessment in some ways. Want to post this, so I will now–even though I’m really not finished.