The English Classroom

A HELPFUL GUIDE FOR PRESERVICE AND GRADUATE TEACHERS

The Situation

You are unsure whether students understand important vocabulary.

The Solution

Every once in awhile, it’s nice to surprise your students with a little quiz.

Quick! What do you know?! Catching them off-guard allows you to see what they have learnt so far – perhaps over the last few lessons. It’s a quick have you been paying attention after you have unloaded information.

Your pop quiz might encompass some lower-order questions such as multiple choice and definitions. This isn’t the time for analysis – that is your summative assessment. Pop quizzes are purely formative to see if they are on the right track with their learning. A pop quiz of 3-5 questions is to check that:

  • Students understand essential vocabulary
  • Your teaching is allowing students to access the content
  • Whether you need to recap terminology or just need to

Sometimes it is necessary that you revisit fundamental terminology that will frame student learning for the remainder of the term. Consider persuasive writing: students need to learn the purpose of a text (Inform, sell, comment, educate, entertain, persuade), persuasive techniques (personal pronouns, emotive language, rhetorical questions, stats and facts, use of authority, alliteration/anecdotes, descriptive language, exaggeration and the rule of thirds) and the Greek term pathos, logos, ethos and kairos.

With all this terminology, reviewing is essential.

Before writing the pop quiz, consider what you want to learn from students. They cold label a diagram or fill in a multiple choice. They should complete a table or connect a term with a definition. These a quick little ways to see whether they have that fundamental knowledge you’re seeking. Check out the example below about persuasive language terminology:

I have included a multiple choice question. In doing so, students are given the chance to simply identify the term; recording the definition won’t really prove anything at this point. Dwelling too much on writing out a detailed definitions too soon might confuse students and it is not synonymous with them not understanding the content.

Secondly, students need to understand that Greek terminology are umbrella terms for the persuasive techniques. Students here are encouraged to connect their prior knowledge persuasive terms with the umbrella Greek terms.

Lastly, I have include the persuasive techniques using the acronym PERSUADER. Note, I placed the terms out of order to throw students off the scent. This allows me to see whether they actually learnt the terms or simply memorised the order of them in the acronym. You will notice that I haven’t simply written a question that students need to answer. Furthermore, I have provided students with prompts in the last question allowing them a way in with their learning. Polite prompts such as these allow all students to access the learning. Taking away this scaffolding too soon might dishearten students early in your unit.

When approach a unit of study, remember that words have individual meanings and need time to properly sink in. Allow students the time to take in the terms and to view examples. Pop quizzes are a great way to see if they have been paying attention and are ready to move onto the next part of their learning.

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