Site icon Laura Randazzo – Solutions for the Secondary Classroom

Hold Their Feet to the Fire

You know the drill. You give your class a chapter for a novel to read for homework, or maybe you start reading a chapter together in class and then you want your students to finish the chapter as homework. The next day arrives and (maybe) a third of the class has actually done the reading. Most of the kids sit there, silently praying that a more studious kid will answer your questions. The non-readers like to do that fake-interested head nod thing, as if they agree completely with what the smart kid just said.

Enough of this.

The solution to make sure those “I’m just along for the ride” kids actually do the homework reading? The One-Question Quizzer.

In the past, I gave multiple-question reading quizzes on every chapter I had students read on their own. It ate up too much class time, though, and I didn’t have time after school to grade 175 short-answer quizzes every day. 35 kids X 5 classes a day = 175 students (woof!)

In this case, less is actually more. With One-Question Quizzers, students are held accountable for their nightly reading assignments, you’ll immediately know who did (or didn’t) do the reading, and it – literally – takes less than two minutes to grade a class set of quizzes.

The questions are specially designed to reward active readers and to reveal those who didn’t read or just relied on SparkNotes or CliffNotes to try to take a shortcut. Only students who actively read the chapter will be able to correctly answer the question.

Also, I’ve included three separate questions for each chapter because teenagers will cheat (What? Shocking, I know) and tell their friends in other classes what question you asked. They are seriously bummed when they realize I ask every class an entirely different question.

In time, One-Question Quizzers become almost like a game show in my class. The students are so happy they often cheer when I reveal the correct answer. Then, that answer becomes a springboard into a discussion of that scene, which then leads us into discussing the evening’s reading assignment. It works beautifully.

Super-Simple Grading: Each day’s question is worth just 5 points. If the student has the correct answer, great. He gets 5/5. If the student is wrong, then it’s 0/5 points. However, if a student writes, “I don’t know” or “I didn’t read” on his quiz paper, I’ll give him 1/5 points to reward him for his honesty. Now, 1/5 points is still a failing grade, but what this does is speed up my grading process so that I’m not wasting my time reading through phony-baloney answers. There is no partial credit – it’s either “5,” “1,” or “0.”

Also, once we’re a few chapters into a book, it’s clear to me which students are reading and which are not. If I see several “0” or “1” scores in the gradebook, I privately confer with the kid to find out what’s going on. Even in my large classes, there’s nowhere to hide when it comes to my assessment of their effort/work. This has also been helpful in rooting out students who need additional support, i.e. summary guides, audiobooks, etc.

Finally, the quizzers are just five points, so if a student misses one once in a while, it’s no big deal. Regularly blowing the quizzer, though, will have a snowball effect on the grade. Kids see this pretty quickly as we work through a novel.

Intrigued? Give it a try. You can save yourself a ton of work and still hold your students accountable for their own learning. It’s worked great in my classroom. Hope you find similar success.

Click on each title to use One-Question Quizzers with:
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
The Great Gatsby
Of Mice and Men
Romeo and Juliet
To Kill a Mockingbird

UPDATE – More questions about quizzers inspired this YouTube video:

Teach on, my friend.

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