She was pretty and quite bright. He was handsome and charming but not so smart. Together, they were the golden couple of the freshman class. She was in my 2nd period; he was in 5th, right after lunch.
A few months into the year, I noticed something peculiar. She, let’s call her Sandy, did well on my vocab. quizzes but often missed one or two questions. He (“Danny” seems right) always bested Sandy’s score. It was weird. Sandy was focused, a model student. Danny? Not even.
For the next vocab. quiz, I wrote two different versions with the same word bank. Sure enough, Danny wrote the morning class’ answers in the exact order on his paper, earning a zero and my disdain. The kicker, though, is that Danny wasn’t the only one. Nearly a third of my 5th period used some combination of 2nd period’s answers, forcing me to realize I’d been terribly naive.
For awhile, I tried to stay ahead of the cheaters by writing separate quizzes for each of my five classes, but I quickly grew weary. I had better things to do with my Sunday afternoons. The next year, I tossed the above quiz format altogether and came up with an easy to prep, easy to grade, cheat-proof vocabulary quiz, one I’ve used now for about a decade.
Here’s how it works:
Once a month or so, I’ll give a vocab. quiz on a Friday before our SSR session. The quiz has just three questions.
1. I announce a vocab. word and have students write the word’s definition.
2. I give a different word and students write an accurate synonym.
3. I say a third word and students write an accurate antonym.
The definition, synonym, and antonym don’t have to be precisely the same words that we used in class to discuss our Words on Wednesday bell-ringer slides. They just need to be accurate.
You may have noticed that this year I’m trying to make more videos to share my ideas on YouTube. Here’s the latest one with me talking about this same idea:
This three-question method is no prep and pretty much impossible to cheat on because I choose different words for each of my classes on the spot as I’m giving the quiz. It’s also easy to grade. I mean, each quiz is only three questions long, so I’m almost always able to score and enter them in the grade book before students are done with their SSR session.
I don’t print anything. Instead, students use a half-sheet of binder or scrap paper to record their answers. For a student with an IEP that requires written rather than oral instructions, I’ll handwrite the three words on an index card before class and quietly slide the card to the kid when the quiz begins. I suppose you could write the three words on the board or project them as you give the quiz, but I haven’t needed to take those steps.
One last reason to love this method is that make-ups are also simple. If a student’s absent on a Friday, the make-up quiz takes about 90 seconds before school or at lunch. I give the kid three entirely different words than were given to her classmates and I don’t even have her write down the answers. She just tells me her answers and I immediately enter the score into the grade book. Easy. Peasy.
Want to save prep time and keep kids honest? Give the three-question vocab. quiz a try. Teach on, everyone!
Photo credit: Sarah C. Stanley, Flickr, CC-BY-2.0.
Photo used as illustration only. These kids are not my actual Sandy and Danny.