I recently mentioned process groups and the emphasis on “the process” in contemporary thinking. As I write my final exams for h.s. Spanish I and Latin II, I thought I might share the process. I recently wrote a post on this showing the concentric circles approach. But I need to start before that.
Most of the time, I will mention in class that something we are working on will be on the final or not on the final. They keep notebooks or binders and will use those on the final exam. Here I won’t get into that crazy dialog we’ve seen recently on listservs about the supposed absurdity of allowing kids to take notes into an exam. Why else would h.s. kids take notes unless just for the credit which I gave first semester but not second.
So we reach the week before finals and I announce we are going to design our final exam. After one year with me, me turning into a werewolf would not surprise them but this does. After all, isn’t the teacher the Right Hand of God and why would a lowly, scurvy, perhaps even slimy student have ANYTHING to say about what’s on the exam. The exam questions come down from the Mount.
But not with me. So I show them the concentric circles, ask them to fill them in according to their sense of what is essential, etc. They turn them in and then I tell them those papers will be graded on how well they drew the circles a few kids are taken aback for a second and then tumble to it. Comments like that keep it light .(I know I’m supposed to induce a state of terror in them so they will study harder oh, I also tell them there’s nothing to study for for this exam; they either can read Sp/Lt by now or they can’t. If they want to review, just go back and reread the things we’ve read plus go over their notebooks so when they see a section pertaining to a particular topic, they’ll know where to find those notes).
So I stuff the various piles of papers I’ve sorted to go over with them in class, reminding them of things that will be on the final. Then I take all that home and do some other things. Then when the mood strikes me, I sit down and go through all those papers, sorting the ones I want to use to write the final into one pile. I read through the notebook of one student whose notebook I’ve copied one who takes real good notes plus the things I’ve presented, incl. videos, etc. As I do that, an idea forms of the various sections the final will consist of.
Finally, I’ll sit down today (soon, I hope) and write the actual final exam on paper which I will copy tomorrow at school and have ready for Tuesday morning (this is Sunday morning). Part of this process is going on in my head all the time as I recall things we’ve said and done in class over the year. Serendipity enters, too; this morning I was going through my own personal language learning material and found some miniature books made from a piece of paper. I thought, “Hey, given the nature of my classes this year, I’ll bet the kids would love to write out and illustrate a story in Sp/Lt.” I know it’s output but it’s enjoyable output and, again, shows I am interested in what THEY can do, not how much they conform to my notion of what they should have learned.
I’ll enjoy writing the exams. I may make a portion multiple choice simply b/c I have to compare my grades with another teacher’s and she’s leaving for Spain right after the finals and of course her finals are all scantron….. etc. Those can be hard to write b/c I have to think of plausible distractors. Oh well.
I realize my view of what a summative assessment should be conflicts mightily with others’ views, but that is one reason I am retiring.