Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Return of the Wiki--Part 1

I have to say, I love wikis. The love of a to-do list that is organized with its details, chronological agenda, focused with its goals, and aesthetically pleasing, flowers scroll along its top. Every year I return to the wiki, for my own writing, adding in new pieces from my summer journeys and also to find ways for students to share their writing with each other...and others beyond the classroom walls.

This year I have decided to use the wiki as a place to practice their writing as always, but to do so as a group. Group writing offers a less stressful way to practice craft, but with help from other students. I will do this is varying forms, but the first way I did this was to create separate pages on my creative writing class wiki. Today students worked on descriptive writing with objectivity vs. subjectivity. I gave students various objects and they wrote a thorough description of each object. The paragraphs were very diverse and are excellent examples of the 2 types of description.

Click here to get a free wiki for teachers.

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Retake a Quiz? No problem!

I don't know why, but I changed the way I test for understanding with quizzes this year. In doing so, I found an easy way to get seniors to reread. I know, seniors, going back to the text and actually reading it again?!

We're reading Beowulf right now outside of class. Students annotate while they read and then I give them a pretty specific quiz the following class period. I tell them what to look for, give them focus questions, and share my notes that I took when I read it. Kids get frustrated every year with their low scores. They read the text, but because it's an epic poem, the students often miss much of the meaning...and certainly many of the details.

As every year, I put the reading quizzes in my Reading Applications and Analysis section, but have decided that they can retake a quiz anytime however many times they need to. It's amazing how interested they are because they know they can very quickly affect their grade. But, what I love is that they go back through the text, reread their annotations, and recount plot details as well as theme, symbols, etc. How cool!

Instead of the reading check being an 'I gotcha!' quiz, it becomes a tool for observing details and an exercise in close reading. So, when asked: May I retake the quiz again? I respond: No problem!