Check Your Understanding: Return of the Quiz?! Kinda…

It’s been years since I’ve given a quiz. I know that seems crazy coming from a teacher, but there are just so many other ways to get evidence of learning, like The Monitor Assessment, that I haven’t had to bother with quizzes much at all. When I did give them, they were sneaky ways of reading and rereading. In other words, all my quizzes were input-based. This meant that the learning experience (i.e., of receiving input) took place during the assessment. In the literature, this is known as an UNOBTRUSIVE assessment, whereas an obtrusive one would be when there’s an abrupt stop to input and interaction so testing can occur. This is bad. It literally takes away time from learning, an no one wants (or needs) that. A couple examples of obtrusive assessments would be like pulling kids into the hall for some speaking test while who-knows-what is going in the classroom, or holding a “unit test day” that’s really just 20min of testing, then free time or busywork for those who finish. With unobtrusive input-based assessments, however, the learning (i.e., receiving of input) continues, and it’s not a complete waste of time.

I enjoy not wasting time. Don’t you?

So, here I am with what some might call “unquizzing” and “ungrading,” which has been working out real well. Still, I recently found myself wondering if there could be something useful to me and my students between the self-reported K-F-D sort (Know, Don’t know, Forget), and a typical full-out quiz. Since the What’s Your Focus? self-assessment of our class rules (Look, Listen, Ask) has turned out to be…meh…and pretty much unnecessary, something new could also add variety to the gradebook. Henceforth, Check Your Understandings (CYUs).

CYUs are basic Google Form quizzes containing some Latin and six questions. I’ve made two CYUs so far, taking sentences directly from our first two novellas Mārcus and Olianna, and changing the details a bit. We reminded students they couldn’t respond to the comprehension questions just by thinking of the stories from the novellas. CYUs are written as parallel texts, with names and details changed. For example, if Marcus wants to be invisible in the novella, a CYU Latin sentence could be something like “Cassandra esse invīsibilis nōn vult.” The changes don’t all have to be completely opposite like in that example, either. For the majority of parallel sentences, just enough is changed so that students need to process the Latin in order to answer correctly, not just remember the story details in their native language—an unfortunate result of spending too much time doing lots of activities with the same text, and/or having a big focus on translating stories all the time.

The CYU is a simple way for students to check their understanding of the Latin from the novellas, and pause to consider whether they’ve been meeting expectations. Higher scores likely mean “yes.” Lower scores point to “not quite.” Of course, I’m never surprised that students fully engaged in class discussions might understand three or four comprehension questions out of six. This could be a simple matter of forgetting specific words, or the fact that only some of what students are exposed to is actually acquired. It’s also not surprising that scores were higher on the CYU based on the Latin in our more recent book than the scores from the Latin found in our first one. This is all expected, and especially why I don’t grade these. I don’t recommend treating these checks of understanding as quiz scores at all. Anyone who does, and who also uses a 100-point scale must realize that getting a 3/6 (50%) does NOT feel good. It also doesn’t acknowledge all the understanding that IS taking place. After all, understanding just one more question with a score of 4/6 is now technically understanding “most” of the Latin. Understanding “most” of something isn’t best represented by 66% at all, right?! Skip the [graded] quiz.

Administering this is easy, too. The CYU is a Google Form so there’s nothing to do after the initial set up. Those six comprehension questions were designed on purpose, corresponding to my 6-point scale (100, 95, 85, 75, 65, 55), so when I go to the summary and see that a student got 4/6 correct, I type “85” into the gradebook (0% category) within seconds. It’s true that writing good comprehension questions is teacher skill that takes time to hone. I’ve already changed a couple questions after the first classes that took the CYUs. That takes time, but give it a try. Also, when writing yours, my recommendation is to keep both the questions and answers all in English. That way we truly check understanding of the Latin in the books, not whether the question was misinterpreted.

So, these are designed for students to check their understanding, serve as more varied evidence in the gradebook, and for us to quickly see what’s going on with a students whose scores seem misaligned with any other evidence of learning (which includes observations). Beyond those benefits, I consider CYUs more of an independent activity than anything close to a quiz. The input is scalable, too, although if we make them too long, I’m sure they will feel like work, and if we make them too hard, that invites the use of Google Translate. No need for that.

If you’ve read either novella, feel free to click the links (which makes a copy) with two ready-to-go CYUs:

Oh, and I’m planning to do this with each novella we read, so keep an eye out!

2 thoughts on “Check Your Understanding: Return of the Quiz?! Kinda…

  1. hi Lance, thanks for this idea. clicking the link didn’t force a copy, it asked for access. I’d love to get an idea if what you mean! –Michelle r.

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