I have never like the prepackaged novel tests that attempt to gauge a student’s ability to remember details from a text that he or she has read. Many of my colleagues have told me that these tests are how they ensure that students have actually read the book. This may be a fair evaluation of students who are detail-oriented; however, I worried about the students who are inclined to focus on larger issues in a text—themes, patterns, the place of a text in literature itself. While reading, these types of students do not note details. Even though I understood that these types of tests unfairly evaluate the students who were working on a higher level, I used them. I was not sure what else to do.
Eventually, because of the low grades made by my better thinkers, I abandoned these tests. I still, however, needed a way to ascertain that my students were reading the novels that we were studying in class.
While rereading a novel that I was teaching, I noticed that I could find specific details in passages that I had read with relative ease because I knew the general place to find these details in the text. My mind had created a general progression of events, and I was able to refer to this progression to find logical specifics in this framework. With this in mind, I decided that I should try open book detail quizzes. If I left the time for students to finish the quizzes open-ended, I knew that I was doing nothing more than presenting them with a flawed study guide that they could complete even if they had not read the material beforehand. My solution to this problem was to make the quizzes timed—one minute per question.
These timed quizzes have been an excellent way to make sure that my students have actually read the material that they are assigned.
I have included a timer to use with a SmartBoard, the quizzes themselves, and keys for evaluation of the quizzes.
Virginia Standards of Learning
11.4 The student will read, comprehend, and analyze relationships among American literature, history, and culture.
k) Generate and respond logically to literal, inferential, evaluative, synthesizing, and critical thinking questions before, during, and after reading texts.
Common Core Standards
RL 1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.
Students must be able to locate information in a text to do this.
RL9 Demonstrate knowledge of eighteenth-, nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century foundational works of American literature, including how two or more texts from the same period treat similar themes or topics.
I pair The Great Gatsby with A Farewell to Arms.