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Pop Quizzes

I love giving pop quizzes. I know, you might be thinking to yourself, “You’re an A**hole!” But hear me out. 

First of all, when I give pop quizzes, I grade them on participation and personally track the official scores separately. There are a few reasons behind this. First, quizzing on a topic is good for your brain. It makes you think and gives a bit of stress, which in turn makes you remember more. Second, by informing the students that they are being graded on participation, they tend to do better and are less likely to cheat off a neighbor. This then gives me far more reliable data about how well the student retained the knowledge or skill we were working on. Third, even mentioning the idea of a quiz will make students more apt to pay attention to what they are doing. Especially with what I did today. 

Today’s pop quiz was a little different. Normally, I give a pop quiz after a day or so of doing something. Not today. Today, I introduce 8 new words and gave them each a word to memorize and use on a 4-square grid for a quiz-quiz-trade activity. Things were going great. The students were writing down their assigned words, drawing pictures, writing examples and definitions, until it was time to actually do the interactive part. When I realized that they were just not into talking, I was struck with an idea. Tell them we are going to quiz on each word and that they should match with as many partners as they can in 15 minutes. It worked. Minus the time they spent complaining, they started to interact. 

But the external motivation of being quizzed on a topic is not what I wanted to display here. The idea I had for the quiz itself is what I am most excited about. I used their cards from the activity as the means of questioning the students for the quiz itself. For example, I would use the definition that one student wrote on a card and asked students to write the word. The information that I gathered from looking at these scores is telling. The first thing I noticed is that many students were able to remember quite a bit of information, even if they couldn’t fully articulate what that information was (lots of invented spellings). The next thing I noticed is that there are some words that need much more reinforcement, obviously. This is all important information for me to use when coming up with strategies the students should use to help learn new vocabulary. It showed me that we have a lot of work to do as these were all higher frequency vocabulary words that the students should have had at least some exposure. 

So for tomorrow, I will need to recap explicit vocabulary study strategies. I’m not sure at this point in time how I want to do that, but I will probably just model reading the word, looking it up, and wrangling with the semantics of a new word in sentence examples and writing. Maybe I just need to sleep on it.  

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