Digilit Sunday is hosted by Margaret Simon @Reflections on the Teche as an invitation for educators to share ideas for digital literacy and learning.
Today, Margaret Simon invites us to think about balance – in our classrooms, and in our lives. I thought immediately, of course, of my classroom – specifically of Thursday in my classroom: the day of our Social Studies test.
We have just concluded a unit on the presidencies of George Washington and John Adams, and we have been exploring our unit’s Essential Question: How did the new nation begin to live out the ideas and ideals in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution? We covered many ideas, learned about such things as the construction of the nations’s capital and the Alien and Sedition Acts. We had many, many discussions tying the events of those years with events of today, and then it was time for the unit test.
How to find a balance between my responsibilities (in addition to teaching my kiddos history, I need grades for my gradebook), and my “true north” as a history teacher – how does learning about history inform and inspire us as citizens?
I don’t do multiple choice, fill in the blank, true or false, tests. I don’t want my kids to look at history in a narrow, paint by numbers way. And yet, I must assess. I would say that 75% of my assessment is through projects, even so…there are the tests. Much as I hate them, I need to prepare my students to take these hated tests, because that is what they will encounter in the years ahead: various types of history tests.
We created our own box and bullets of the big ideas and important details in the unit (minus the construction of the nation’s capital city, which we’d already addressed through a project).
We used the above to craft essay questions, and I typed them up on GoogleDocs and printed them for each student out right there in class.
Voila – the study guide and the test! On Thursday, my kids came in and took their tests. They were a bit nervous, but they were confident, too. They wrote…a lot. In fact, it took them two periods to finish their tests. Why so long? I wondered. Well, said one, I learned a lot and I have a lot to say!
Today, halfway through grading these tests, I see that they did indeed have a LOT of interesting, relevant, and accurate things to say. They know the stuff of our unit.
We found balance: I have grades for my grade book, they really learned about our history.