Frequent Quizzes

Students are very good at looking as if they understand – it is their job. In order to keep everybody honest, I highly recommend giving them very frequent short assessments of five minutes or so at the end of each story and each reading class.

Without such daily assessments, you can emerge after a few weeks with a skewed idea of what some of the less communicative students actually know. The quality of classes with frequent assessment is better, as well, because the kids are being held accountable, which is our job.

Simple translation or true/false quizzes of around eight to twelve words are best. Use a rubric and simplify your life! And when the kids get high grades because they paid attention, they are happy, because nothing motivates like success!


One Response to “Frequent Quizzes”

  1. Ben Slavic Says:

    Phoebe –

    I have a list of rules in poster form for free writes you can download over on the resources page of this site. I just tell the kids on Friday at the beginning of class to write for ten minutes following these rules. Then if I am not doing a song or poetry or something else interesting to me, then I just read some of their stories. I praise and praise. We spin new stories, etc. I try to read as many of their stories as I can, yet still have time for a French pop song like I have been blogging about.

    You could ask the list for other details. Or you could search it on the list. as it has been discussed a lot over the years but it is hard to find stuff on the list, which is why I started this blog – WordPress offers those categories so I can find stuff easier. Some great stuff is buried in the thousands of posts on that list.

    The goal is they write. It is just practice in writing. We do not assess except to praise as I said. Since I have a four point rubric and they are done in the kids’ composition books, I just eyeball whatever writing they have done every few weeks (dictees, freewrites, etc.) and then I don’t have to assess each thing they do. It just goes in the computer as a “writing” grade.

    Writing cannot be authentic unless it has a foundation in listening, à la Sesame Street. So I like to personally wait until October before they even start writing. Then I start with five minute free writes and bump it up to ten in January. Exactly when they start doesn’t matter. They just need to feel competent and comfortable when they do it.

    What should they write about? Anything, as long as it is in the target language! Most like to try to rewrite stories, with twists, that they have heard in class. Carmen Andrews-Sánchez once said on the moretprs listserve:

    “I wouldn’t put any parameters on the writing other than it be in the target language and be in sentences, particularly at the beginning. You can either give them five minutes to write and work up to an end-of-year goal of one hundred words in five minutes.”

    Diane Grieman has this to say about writing at the middle school level.

    In beginning-level TPRS, we use writing more as an assessment tool to see how the students are doing. So I only have them write once or twice per month – that’s enough for me to see how much they’re picking up and where their problems may lie.”

    I agree with Diane. Writing is not something first year students should be doing a lot of. Using it as a way to assess overall learning, however, is an excellent strategy.

    A fun thing to do, if I have time, is to take a highlighter and indicate to the students how much of what they wrote I can understand by highlighting those just chunks of words. It is a very big confidence booster for them to see how much they can communicate ideas in another language in just their first year of instruction.


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