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Assessing Student Reading- Do they have to take a test?

As a kid, I loved tests. I wouldn’t do much in class, but then I’d ace the test. Yep, I was that kid. I have a photographic memory, so objective tests were my friends. As long as I’d actually read the material, I was fine. I didn’t really have to think much about the concepts or skills that I was supposed to obtain from the lesson. I just had to pass the test. And essays? I’m pretty good at coming up with an answer that sounds like I’m SUPER intelligent even though I might not even know what I’m talking about. Please don’t judge me, it really is a gift, ask any English teacher.

As I’ve navigated through 20 years of teaching, we have been encouraged to move away from objective tests (except for those pesky state standardized tests, of course). Creativity is our friend. “Let the students express what they’ve learned in a creative way”. Yeah, okay. Easier said than done. Dioramas, posters, models…they don’t really make kids think as hard as I want them to. Finding a good assessment used to be kind of difficult, right? Now we have one pagers and art pieces and sociograms and mandalas. But which kind is best for me? My students? This novel? I’ve got some ideas, so I thought I’d share them with you.

The One Pager

It seems the one pager is all the rage. Go on Pinterest, and you’ll be inundated with lots of pictures of fabulous examples created by students from all over the globe. I’ve even added some myself. It’s a great way to combine critical thinking and creativity in a tidy little one-page package. I’ve used one pagers over books and one pagers dedicated to characters in the books.

Here are some examples of one pagers I got for A Separate Peace:

Here is a link to my Character One Pager on TPT. It mainly focuses on direct and indirect characterization.

Examples of the Character One Pager:

The Character Selfie

This is an assessment that I recently created from an idea I saw on Pinterest. The original idea was for students to create this selfie about themselves. I tweaked it and created a rubric for a selfie the students would create about a character using different types of quotes. They can use thoughts, feelings, characterization, hopes… really anything that gives a good picture of who the character is and what they believe. I also included a record sheet that they will write the quotes on so that I can read them more easily. I’m excited to use this with Merchant of Venice next year! I originally wanted to use it with Romeo and Juliet, but we are replacing that with Merchant for next year. The example below is a selfie of Juliet.

Example of a Character Selfie:

ELAmazon Literary Criticism Assessment

I used this with The Crucible. I needed an assessment for literary criticism that wasn’t an essay. Also, these were done by freshmen, so the whole concept of literary criticism was new to them. This has them write five reviews of the piece as if they were Amazon ratings. That way they are picking out positive and negative aspects of the piece. They also have to do a book cover and a synopsis. It was great in tandem with lessons on the difference between summary and criticism. You can find the ELAmazon Assessment on TPT.

Here are a couple of examples:

Thematic Art Project

For the memoir Night, I found a 3-D art project. I was nervous about it the first year I used it, but I was impressed with what my kids produced. It asks the kids to choose a theme, a quote that ties to the theme, and an art piece that is a visual representation of the theme. The art piece doesn’t have to be a literal representation of the theme or quote, in fact, the ones that aren’t are usually better! I had to beef it up and build a new rubric for this year, and I feel like the results were even better! So many of the students wrote on my evaluations that this project is something they will remember about their 8th grade year. It gives them almost complete free rein on what they can make, and some panic at first, but they usually rise to the occasion. You can find my version of the Thematic Art Project on TPT.

Here are some examples from the last two years:

All of these assessments, plus a Literary Postcard Assignment, can be found in my Novel Assessment Bundle on TPT.