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October 2017


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So I'm in the process of revising how I do things. I used to test every other stage in CLC, but now I need to give what will be 6 weeks tests even though we are not on a 6 weeks system. I was concerned that this would mean not enough accountability for the students and more slippage as students try to do the least amount required. But maybe this actually will lead to better accountability and more responsibility.

My tests the last couple years have been structured as follows:

* translation of a small snippet (about 25 words) of Latin. Students get a choice from 4 passages, actually; 2 from each stage. I give a choice to allow for students who have been absent to be able to choose a passage we went over together in class.

* an unseen story (written or revised by yours truly) followed by multiple choice reading comp questions.

* grammar questions on the unseen story.

* targetted grammar/syntactic questions (previewed via test prep)

* culture questions (previewed via test prep)

I have about half the test as material that can be practised and learned via my sites. The day before the exam we are in the computer lab and I am able to go behind students as they work and give them one on one immediate feedback and personal attention if they need it, or students can work quietly on their own and read the feedback provided. The kinds of things found in these drills include aspects of subject/verb agreement, noun/adjective agreement, sentence completion, etc.

Students think my tests are fair, I believe, though some think them hard. The sections they hate the most are, of course, the translation, the unseen story, and the grammar questions on the story. Of course, this tells me the most about whether they are acquiring the grammar concepts that will be important should the student end up continuing with Latin through AP and beyond. (I do realize, however, that many will not.)

Anyway. If I am going to have 6 weeks tests (that is, less frequent testing), I need to revise what I'm doing (as I've said before recently). So, I'm currently working on designing the stage quizzes. I'm using what had originally been my recitation sheet for passages. My recitation sheet was designed so that I could require (haha--but when do I grade/review? This is why it gets dropped every year...) students to practice dividing and accenting words, plus reading aloud. It has about four lines of text from the first story in each stage for all of the stages to be covered for that level of Latin.

So, the stage quiz has the passage that's on the recitation sheet that students will have and will keep all year. Of course, the down side is that students could just memorize the passage, but as the Latin gets more difficult, there should be some revealing aspects in the translation. This is followed by 5 multiple choice grammar questions--the kind that they hate on the major tests. I'm thinking that perhaps if they have quizzes with "which word is in the accusative" or "what tense is this verb" that perhaps they'll take this information more seriously or retain it longer. (One can dream.) The extra credit will be dividing and accenting any word from the story that is 3 or more syllables long. (Vocab quizzes have derivatives as extra credit.) My motivation here is that they will continue to try--without penalty--to work on mastering dividing & accenting words so that when we get to poetry teaching meter will be a no brainer. Some will realize that the rules truly are very regular on this and that this will be an easy source for 5 points of extra credit.

(In my AP classes I have scansion of lines as an extra credit on my in-context vocab quizzes. By letting them choose 10 lines to scan instead of me picking them, I see all sorts of interesting errors that lead to good discussions in class. The end result is that they have no problem scanning by the end of the year and I haven't taken up much time in class teaching scansion or reviewing it. It also relieves the pressure of getting the concept for those who are taking level 4 Latin but not technically AP and who won't be taking the AP test. But I digress.)

I only have 6 of these stage quizzes done at the moment (and if I cover all my classes I need 40!). I've had to change up what's on the recitation sheet a bit to make sure I have a set of lines that includes the grammar I want to target. And I suppose I better make sure I have an easy way to grade them in mind. That is, on the tests the passages were never more than 20-25 words. (I think these passages are closer to 35.) So every 4-5 words was equivalent to an X, and each X was 2 pts each, thus the entire passage was only worth 10 points out of 100. Of course, weaker students liked to skip them (if I didn't catch it and force them to do it!) until it became critical that they try every portion of the test. By that time, it was often too late to build the skills needed. Translation, though, is a critical part of the AP exam and the way traditional Latin classes are taught in college, thus I think important to keep.

The problem is that on these quizzes the translation is now 50% instead of 10%. This is both good and bad. And I'm hoping the bad aspect will be balanced by the fact that students will know exactly what passage is on the quiz and can study for it properly.

I guess my issue right now is that I'm trying to foresee the PROBLEMS that might occur later in the year in Latin 1 and perhaps at the beginning of Latin 2 and 3. I want to identify the problems now and fix them. I know once the year is underway that I probably won't have the time or energy to fix them or will be too sleep deprived to think clearly about how to fix them.

And perhaps I'm obsessing over very little. But I don't want to do things just because my Latin teacher did them or I was told to do them. I want to quiz and test what *I* think is important--and not just important for that chapter, but important in the long run. Plus I want what I do to be fair to the students as well as doable. Achievement in language acquisition is a gradual thing and must continue to be so or students will suddenly give up on you. That's something I don't allow in general!
So, I noticed a query on Latin Best Practices, and felt inspired to answer it earlier this afternoon instead of going to the pep rally.  Then I thought I'd include it here.

(original query)
>>I'd be interested to know what the majority out there are doing...I always quiz on charts, declining nouns, conjugating in various tenses/voices, but when it comes to the test, I want to see if they can USE that knowledge, so I ask that type of grammar question in the context of a sentence or reading passage. My colleagues, on the other hand, insist that the knowledge of the charts is so important that it always must be on the test. What do others think? Am I totally off base? I'm also teaching middle school, using Cambridge, if that matters.


OK, so I'm late on this thread, but since I don't feel like going to the pep rally, I thought I'd talk about what I do.

First and foremost, I would not be surprised if each of us is a little self-conscious  of the skills we are developing in our students and why, and what would happen to one of our students if they moved or if we moved and a new teacher was brought in.  Would my students seem like the know what they SHOULD know, and what should they know?

My focus is on teaching true reading skills, getting students to read in word order, etc.  I do a fair amount of oral work, but not nearly what Bob does (though perhaps one day when I feel a bit saner I might shift that way).

I never ask for conjugating or declining or principal parts on TESTS.  Tests are for showing me you get the big picture and the details in context.  However, I do spot test conjugating and declining on quizzes and principal parts of verbs (but NOT genitives of nouns or genders). 

For instance, right now in Latin 1 we're at the end of stage 5 and about to have our "B" quiz.  (I split the list into words that appear early in the chapter and those that appear late.)  Vocabulary is tested in context, so if SPECTANT is in all caps in the sentence, the student must put THEY WATCH.  If PUELLAE is in all caps, the student must put THE GIRLS--if it isn't plural it's half wrong.  That is, from the very beginning I'm trying to teach them that they cannot learn vocabulary in isolation from context.

While warm-ups (praeparatiOnEs) may consist of conjugation practice, more often it's teaching them various strategies to *see* the details.  I might list verbs like these and ask them to circle the endings and then translate:

1) coquO
2) spectAs
3) quaerit

So, they would circle the -O and translate "I cook," the -s and translate "you watch," the -t and translate "he looks at."  Many students, particularly younger students have difficulties in making what we think are obvious connections. They think that answers just POP into one's head, not that answer can be arrived at with thought and reason.  And this same circling can earn them a point of extra credit on quizzes.  One point isn't worth much, but if it slows them down enough to actually THINK about the details, then I'm helping them making a higher grade over all.

AFTER the words in context comes the target grammar--conjugating a verb.  This next quiz will be a 3rd conjugation verb, a "fish hook" verb (because the vowels--o i i i i u--when lined up vertically look like a fish hook!).  And we did conjugate a 3rd conjugation verb today for the warm-up.

But I don't demand that absolute perfection of being able to conjugate or decline everything in Latin 1.  Most of them are still learning how to think about a language.  My focus is on developing sharper recognition skills, not composition skills.

In Latin 2, I'm starting to be a bit more demanding.  The first 3 declensions must be down cold by this time of year.  Of course, I'm dreaming with a lot of my Latin 2's, but while we work on the participles, they are also fine-tuning their understanding of declensions and cases.  But once again, my warm-ups do not focus on declining.  I have quia exercises for that which they use the day before vocab quizzes (we're in the computer lab once a week prepping for what becomes my more complex vocab quizzes).  Often for warm-ups I'll pull out target grammar from the passage we'll be reading.  Today it was Vilbia in Stage 22, the new grammar being perfect active participles.  So students had these to copy and translate:

1) puellae, pocula sordida lavantes, ...
2) vir, culinam tabernae ingressus,...
3) pater, haec verba locutus,...

I'm working on getting them to see PHRASES when they read and not isolated words.  (This also means that the idea of translations being graded via "chunking" on AP exams does not bother them at all because they have been studying chunking of sorts all along).  Yesterday's warm-up had been similar with perfect passive participle and ablative of agents, followed by a discussion of these PASSIVE participles showing up with ablative of agents.  With today's warm-up, we discussed the nature of present ACTIVE and perfect ACTIVE participles, how the action carries over to direct objects/accusatives, etc.  And with that knowledge, we were able to realize that OF COURSE pocula wasn't 1st declension because we absolutely could not have a nominative there!  It must be a neuter acc plural!  Same with haec verba.  I also have students circle the endings like the -ae of puellae and draw an arch to the -es of lavantes.  We talk a lot about this nesting or arching of phrases in Latin.

And while we're working on stretching our minds to doing more sophisticated analysis and synthesis stet by step on warm-ups, we're doing simpler declining on the quizzes.

My Latin 3 class is pre-AP for the first time, and I'm actually giving them homework Mon, Tues, & Weds, plus Thurs for quiz or test on Fridays.  They have all been in Latin long enough that I feel it's time to fine tune their skills.  So, yes, conjugating, declining, and right now I'm teaching them about synopses.  Quick checks are done via PowerPoints so I can move through them quickly and they can mark their mistakes to LEARN from them, and then on most days they will still have a warm-up, similar to the sorts of things that I demonstrated above for Latin 2--focus on seeing word groups, understanding how to disambiguate endings that could be multiple cases, and anything else I can think of to help them be solid readers of Latin.  But if I'm asking them to conjugate or decline or write a synopsis of anything in particular on the quiz, there will be quia exercise to drill it home that has immediate feedback and correction. (I hate the possibility of studying the wrong thing and then having to unlearn something!)

My TESTS are structured in this manner for all levels (except AP, which look more like an AP test):

1) Sight Passage with reading comprehension questions in both Latin and English requiring short answers. 
2) Translation of about 20-25 words from seen passage(s).  I give them four choices and let them choose, which works out well actually and has that feeling of "fairness" to strugglers because there's never that chance of it being the one passage you didn't study.
3) grammar questions (mult choice) on the sight passage--asking case, tense, voice, mood, etc. 
4) multiple choice sections targetting specific new grammar/structures (quia review available)
5) culture questions (objective) (quia review available).

But no conjugating, no declining, no synopses, no straight vocab, etc.  Everything's in context. 

My tests, admittedly, are a pain to grade.  I can't just run everything through the scantron machine, only part.  I can tell how their sight reading skills are coming along by how they answer the questions, and the spot translations make them responsible for rereading stories we read in class.  And in the end, I feel like I'm developing skills that would make them successful in a variety of environments in the future.  For instance, if I didn't demand at least a little translating on my tests, won't it come as a slap in the face to suddenly have to provide literally accurate Latin translations for AP?  (I might add, that I do NOT ever require my Latin students to write out translations in prepping lines for class for AP.  I want them to read and hopefully REREAD lines to internalize the Latin, not waste time writing out strained English translations.)

A student of mine in a college class with nothing but "go home and read the next 80 lines for class" should be successful and undaunted by the number of lines because of the reading skills I believe I'm imparting.  For the class where the professor asks for a complete synposis of a particular verb in a passage, my students (post Latin 3) should be able to succeed.  And if I were to be hit by a car tomorrow or suddenly have to move to San Antonio and a new grammar-first teacher came in, at least my lower level kids should be familiar enough with conjugating and declining to be able to comply without total embarrassment.

And, should a student of mine ever be lucky enough to study with Nancy Llewellyn at Wyoming Catholic College or Terrence Tunberg in Kentucky, the amount of reading aloud and simple oral questions on stories should put them in a position of at least willingness if not eagerness to go to an all-Latin environment.

(This was probably far more than you wanted, right?!)

But you asked what we do, and this is what I do.


Sep. 24th, 2009 06:21 pm
ginlindzey: At ACL (Default)
I'm on Facebook these days (Magistra Ginny Lindzey) and if nothing else, students, parents, friends and colleagues are seeing how hard I work. Ok, admittedly that's a bit narcissistic to say (as if  I need some sort of recognition or approval), but I guess there are times that teachers are trash-talked so much I *do* want recognition for how hard I work.  Because I know I work too hard... it's obsessive, in a way, and I cannot help myself. <sigh>

So let's talk about some of my obsessiveness.

The first thing I do that I know a lot of other teachers don't do is have written portions on my tests.  Most teachers just make total multiple choice tests these days.  And I don't blame them. I spent two nights working on Latin 1 tests, and that was the first "easy" test, though clearly I have a lot of strugglers this year.  I'll just have to work with them somehow.  But here's how my tests are structured, and I'm sure I've talked about this in previous years.  (I guess I'm just trying to justify what I do an convince myself that it's worth all the grading--and I'm personally sure it is, but I'm tired too!!!)

My tests are broken up this way:

I. Reading Comprehension questions of an unseen story.  (Many written or adapted by myself.  I love writing funny stories about the characters in CLC.)  The questions are both in Latin and English, and I demand specific answers. That is, for UBI it must be the complete prepositional phrase (in triclinio, for example).  And I'm training them to not give any extra information so I can see that they truly understand the question and are not just guessing at what sentence it comes from.

II. General grammar questions (multiple choice) on items from the story.

III.  Spot translation from stories we've read in the book.  These are snippets of 3 or 4 stories and I let them choose which one.  For instance, on the stage 1-2 test, I had a snippet from Cerberus, one from Mercator, and one from In Triclinio.  About 20 words for each of them.  I count this to be the equivalent of 5 questions.  What's interesting about this is that students often think they are picking the easier story when they aren't. 

IV. Targetted grammar drills on whatever is the new grammar in the chapter.  Multiple choice.  (I have drills to preview the information and help reinforce the details I'm after.)

V. Culture. (Multiple choice)  I keep this section small, but I think it is important to include culture on the tests.  On this test, for instance, there was a map of the house and information about Caecilius's typical day. This information is also previewed in, targeting information I think is important.

So, what's good about the way I test?  I can tell you what's bad--takes a long time to grade!!

But what's good is this:

I. Reading Comprehension: I can see if they are tracking a new story accurately, and if they understand how the questions can guide them through a story, etc.  It is application of learned information, but not relying on a cold translation.  Just comprehension.

II. General Grammar: I can see if they are keeping up with their comprehension of grammar--for instance, in later tests there will be tense and case questions, etc, as we keep adding information.  It also shows me if they take the time to check the word in question in the context of the sentence or allows me to teach them the importance of checking the word in the context of a sentence (that words do not just exist in isolation, so to speak).

III. Translation of known passages: part of this is to see whether they can translate fluently and accurately.  I'm also trying to teach them and reinforce the importance of rereading stories.  Plus a lot of students can recognize the correct answer in multiple choice; at some point I need to see what they can do totally on their own.

IV. Targetted grammar with support:  although questions are generally previewed via, this can still be a tricky section for students. And often it is when students are doing the quia that I am able to walk up behind, figure out where the student is going wrong and give them one-on-one feedback besides the feedback from the computer.  Sometimes this is exactly when the information clicks for students too.

V. Culture.  Well, there are probably better ways to emphasize culture. I just don't want a test without culture because it is so important in understanding how the Romans thought. 


I also think that if I don't start getting them to do questions and write out translations on tests now, how can I possibly prepare them for the likes of the AP exam?  I mean, if everything is multiple choice up until that time, how is a student prepared for that??


Mainly vocab, always in context, but also includes a little target declining and conjugating.  Total quia preparation to see/understand what I'm targetting and why.  My good students really understand why I do things the way I do, and do internalize the details.  And as the level of Latin increases, so do the amount of words for each blank. That is, I require whole phrases to be defined--chunking.  Yeah, it ends up being like chunking so that when I explain that the Vergil translations are graded via chunking, they have no problem with it.  It's how the vocab quizzes have been all along.

And this year I'm adding back....


This is so simple and so worthwhile.  I just have a couple of sentences or so pretyped from the first story of each stage.  We practice saying it in class together and then I go around and just have them read it to me.  I grade it on a rubric, and it makes them work a tiny bit harder on pronunciation.  I heard a lot of good Latin today... I was really pleased.

Anyway, this all takes so much time and work to do right.  But I want to make sure that each successive group of students I graduate is better prepared than the last.  I have to teach them better, somehow, and make them more able to be successful in future Latin courses.

Ok, part of me just doesn't want them to seem ill-prepared for future Latin courses.  I don't think my first group of graduates from Dripping were as well equipped as I would have liked.  So each year I try to figure out how to produce a better prepared student.  This year I'm using the fact that my Latin 3 class is pre-AP to torture them with drill and kill conjugating and declining, and in some ways I'm glad I waited to pile on this stuff until they were juniors and seniors--so much more mature, and so much more appreciative of WHY I'm making them do it.

Right.  I need to get back to grading.  I guess I just needed to justify what I do.  Remind myself that I am not just being obsessive. 

One thing I feel I am doing right is trying at all times to take into consideration what will happen to the student AFTER he/she leaves my classroom, whether he/she goes on to another teacher or on to college.  I'm not just preparing them to pass AP; I'm trying to prepare them to be SOLID READERS (*not* decoders!) of Latin so that they can succeed in any Latin class that comes in front of them. 



Apr. 24th, 2009 05:30 pm
ginlindzey: At ACL (Default)
I am bad at assessment.

Ok, that's not entirely true.  I'm boring at assessment.

We've been studying these curriculum outlines that the core subjects put together at school. We're supposed to be...well, I dunno, analyzing them, looking for areas where we overlap, anything.  We were looking at Math this morning and realizing, among other things, that we in foreign language/LOTE were glad we didn't have ours posted yet.  First of all, when we all started putting our stuff together, there was no idea that everyone else would be looking at them nor what for.  We're supposed to, for instance, look for technology being used.  Sometimes there's nothing written down, but it doesn't mean it isn't being used.

Anyway, someone made a comment today about how repetetive and unimaginative quizzes and tests were for assessment.  Yup.  I totally agree.  And yet....and yet for the most part that's all I'm doing.

And I know that's bad.  I know that's wrong.  I just feel strapped.  Trapped.  Cornered.  By time constraints, by conventions, by the needs of the many outweighing the needs of the few or the one.

Ok, with that said, my quizzes and tests aren't ...hmmm...fluff.  And I'm not trying to dis multiple choice quizzes and tests.  You can make tough quizzes that way, but sometimes it's just not enough.  I mean, if I wanted to make my life EASIER and didn't care--really care (perhaps too much?) about students learning, I'd make everything I do multiple choice scantron.  Easy to grade, no mess.  But I don't.

For instance, my current tests now follow this format:

1) unseen passage with short answer reading comp questions in Latin and English (hand written short answers)
2) grammar questions over the passage (multiple choice)
3) written translation of a small selection from stories we've read in the stages/chapters covered on the test.  (about 25 words)
4) grammar questions in context (multiple choice)
5) culture questions (multiple choice or true false).

Numbers 1 and 3 take time to grade.  HOW EASY my life would be if I did only scantron tests!  But here's why I don't:

1) I need to see what they can do with an unseen passage where recognizing the right answer isn't an option
2) I need to train students to a) be able to write a good translation when needed (for AP!) and b) to reread stories.

I guess part of it isn't assessment; part of it is training the student to be a better student. <sigh> (but is it working?)   

I wish I had time for more.  I do.  I would have essays or special translation assignments.  More creative things.  I would love to do something like once a grading period (or twice?) pick a story from the text and do something with it. In fact, at one point I did write up more or less and outline of what I'd like the project to be like, but I never had time to work up a rubric or anything and frankly  I'm terrified to assign projects because I saw what happened with such beasts when I taught English.  They became very little about learning what you were TRYING to get the student to learn and more about those who finish projects and those who don't.  But, if memory serves, I had this idea that one 9 week students would do an oral performance--memorizing and reciting a story, another 9 weeks it would be an illustration of a story, another 9 weeks it would be a PowerPoint of a story, and another 9 weeks it would be writing a new ending to a story.

But those things take time, and guidance in class, etc.

But I digress.

You cannot tell on my tests what all I assess nor what I'm doing with them.  But they are a major assessment grade.  And vocab quizzes.  And very little else.

I don't look like a good teacher on paper at all.  Just average. 

I have more rambling thoughts on this but I'm needed elsewhere. Maybe later.
I'm behind in grading. Ok, I've said that before.  It's been that kind of year. But I'm monitoring my son doing math and decided I deserved a break to ponder.

It takes me long time to grade tests in the current format--but to sell out and do it all scantron won't do what I need.  What do I need?  Hell, I need more sleep.  Maybe it *is* what I need.

Let me rephrase.  WHAT SKILLS must my students master to do well in a college Latin course?  In AP Latin?  I won't debate whether these are GOOD skills or skills that slow down truly learning how to read fluently.  That's neither here nor there.  Or rather, it isn't the reality regarding how Latin is currently taught at the uiversity level.

AP needs students who can:

1)  translate Latin accurately, esp a passage that has been seen before.
2) be able to answer questions on  a sight passage
3) be able to write detailed, intelligent, well-thought out essays.

Ok, my tests don't currently have #3.

I have it currently about half of 50 questions "seen" materials--drills and review material they have practiced on my pages, where I find that often the most learning takes place.  It is the one place where they really discover whether they understand something or not because OMIGOSH THE TEST IS TOMORROW!

Most tests have 10 reading comp questions in Latin and English on the sight passage, 10 more grammar questions on items in the sight passage, and the equivalent of 5 questions of translating a very small amount (20-25 words) of  Latin from a passage they have read in the chapters covered.

My son, who takes Latin at a local high school, thinks I work too hard (not that I think he really cares, I think he is just stunned that I do this).  He says his tests are all multiple choice.  And I'm not criticizing people who use those tests.  There are times when I think I'm absolutely STUPID for not doing an all multiple choice test. My semester exams are... but they are also hard! Lots of reading in Latin.  (sigh... maybe I should revise them again... maybe they are too hard)

ANYWAY.  My point is that as teachers we can't just think about what is convenient now; we have to think about what students need in the future.  If we want larger Latin classes at the upper end, we have to teach all the skills we want students to have, not just hope that students are naturally weeded out.  I'll work with any student WHO IS REALLY TRYING.   I could care less about the actual grade.

I've got one student, in fact, who is the type that probably wants to drop out of school. You can tell it in how he fails class--grandly, with a flagrant demonstration that he doesn't pay attention.  I'm getting to him, slowly but surely.  His grade was higher on this last test--almost passing but not quite.  BUT I COULD SEE THE DIFFERENCE.  If I can keep getting him to try by increments, who knows where he will be?!

I have another student  who took Latin 1 as an 8th grader and did ok, but he really was just squeaking by at the end of the year.  So he's auditing this year.  OMIGOSH but it is TOTALLY clicking for him.  He aced the last test; what a difference in this young man!  Part of it is maturity, but part--most assuredly--is having a supportive mother that thought auditing might be a good idea.

So, I'm designing my tests for him and all the other kids who need training in the skills that come easy to our gifted A students. 

Anyway. That's what I'm telling myself as I go off to revise a Latin 2 test, finish grading some late-taken Latin 1 tests, not to mention the vocab quizzes.  It's why I do what I do.

Maybe others have found a better way that works for them, works with their personal philosophy.  Mine doesn't work for my sanity, at least not this year, but it is an incredible feeling to see a kid rise up and tackle my test--esp one that couldn't do that before. 
This was from a discussion on the Best Practices list. It began because you can purchase the Cambridge Latin Course tests at bookstores and online. People were wondering what should be done, how you can get publishers to restrict who gets the books, etc. 

The first part is from BP.

(my email is doing weird things with line wraps, so I'm sorry if this looks odd)

> The presumption in all of these scenarios is that teachers cannot be
trusted to assess their students. Some cannot. Some doctors are
incompetent, too. But, how did the College Board, or the colleclted
tests of multiple teachers by Cambridge Latin Course, or any particular
school district become suddenly competetent to take over an essential role of the teacher?
> We seem to presume that if the College Board, or CLC publishes it,
then it must be right,and we must conform to it.
> This is a seriosly dangerous course for us to take, in my opinion.
How much of whaat you do as a teacher is important in the relationship
you have with your students? How much of that are you willing to give away?
To whom? Why? On what credentials?

I think you raise very important points, but let us point out that items contained on these
tests can be good, can have valid questions well worth using. And I'm sure you'd agree--
I just want to make sure everyone else agrees.

When I look at a test that is developed and comes with material, I look for items that
tie into my style of teaching. Frankly, I'm looking for stuff I like and that I can use because
I do have limited time and can't rewrite everything. I'm looking at it and thinking, "this
is good, this is ok, but what can I do to make it better?"

I'm also asking myself about what I'm doing in class and what I think is important to test.
I sometimes include conjugating a verb on a vocab quiz, but I don't include things like that
on a test. The test is for showing that you can put it all together. Now, if a student
conjugates a verb or puts endings and stuff in a margin to help him/her answer whatever
question is on the test, I give them extra credit for showing their work.

That's something else I promote a lot that I know others won't or don't: showing work in the margins
or writing on the test--circling endings and tense indicators, etc etc. This is the type of stuff
our A students do naturally, without thinking. These are skills I promote with everyone because
sometimes the B and C students just have no idea how to go about making better grades.
It's also a good way for me to see where a student's thinking went "wrong" and why. I can see is
it because they don't know their endings well OR they don't know how to apply that knowledge.

That is a big help to me. Assessment isn't just about student grades, it's about understanding
how to help students learn and succeed.

Even with AP, there are things about AP tests that I like. I just wish there were more questions
in Latin and perhaps writing in Latn, but that's not a skill we teach in general. That's
not a skill taught in college, except in composition courses. Except by a few.

So I have a lot of things to keep in mind when I'm testing: what truly assesses the student,
what prepares him/her for the next teacher he/she might have (or professor), and what prepares
him/her for the style of testing on the AP. It's a compromise. And I think I can learn
as much from traditional testing styles as I can by developing my own testing styles. I don't
require students to compose in Latin on tests *yet* but I'm thinking about it.

Right now I give them a choice of 4 passages to translate (translate 1). It would be neat
if on some future test I had something like translate one into English, explain another
in Latin in simpler terms.

So I guess there's one more thing to add here when we talk about tests: not just what's
on our tests now, but things we think in an ideal world we might like to see in the future.

Oh, and I don't think tests should be released to parents, but with such a large market in
homeschooling, publishers are having problems. Also, with so much purchasing being
done via the internet, it is hard to control.

And like I said before, they can cheat now but they will CHOKE in a college Latin course
later on. It all comes out in the end. You reap what you sow.

<end note>

I was emailed offlist by a person who was going to post to the list but never did.  His point was that when we talk about testing in this fashion and are critical of premade tests, etc, we sound like we are implying that teachers who use those tests are inferior teachers.    Anyway, here's what I wrote to him:

<from a private note> 

I think, though, that the initial discussion (or maybe I missed it) was about why parents/students should be able to access materials that were designed for teachers.  And I think there was this idea that we should all be outraged.
Yeah, I am.  But I have so much to be outraged about in my life, that takes back seat.  I lost a job close to home because I fought for the safety of students and staff after I broke up a gang fight in a girls bathroom.  I watched that video of the Baltimore art teacher being beaten by students and I find myself back in that bathroom with the bruiser pinned to the wall behind me near the sinks, wondering whether she would slip out on the right and slam my head into the sink and leaving my children without a mom.  Watching that video and I remembered all the girls lining that bathroom that I screamed and screamed at, begging them to go get help, knowing they wouldn't leave. 
And I get 4-5 hours of sleep most nights, because I have so many preps.  And I feel like a fraud half the time because I can't do all the things I'd like to or think would be incredibly good to do.
And I'm outraged, yes, that the stage tests can be bought which creates more work for teachers who may not have the time.
With that said,  I think they are a good place to start but I don't think they are end-all tests.  I don't think they are ideal.  And I think if your tests stay the same year after year without any changes at all, that maybe (maybe) you aren't involved in improving your own teaching each year.  Because frankly, until I get 100% from all students, then I'm going to keep thinking that there's something more I can do.
But even with that said, I would still not say (or would I? I dunno) the teacher using a pre-made test was a bad teacher--because if their homelife is like mine, they may just be in survival mode. 
But post it.  Post it.  It's always good for people to hear how others are hearing them. It's all about communication, and we can't be too intimidated to communicate.
It's ok to disagree with people.  We just all need to remember how to be respectful in the process.  This is how we learn.

<end note>

But, as I said, he never posted the note.  I know someone who uses CLC tests, though I think she now uses the test maker.  She told me the other day how many of her 8th graders placed on the National Latin Exam--way higher than my overall scores.  So I'm not knocking whatever she's doing because it's working.  

But me...I want my students to be able to do more than what's on the test.  One day I want students to be writing in Latin.  Why not??  Why not strive for more than what we were asked to do in school?  Why not strive for more than what's in the book?

Anyway.  I'm just rambling now.   But testing is always a good topic.  

This discussion on the Classics list continued:


> > Grades aren't everything.


But with that said, I just finished posting my grades for progress reports.

They aren't everything, but the world spins around them.



> So how does one assign a grade to his second (or third, etc.) effort?

> Is it the average of his first and subsequent efforts? That would, I

> think, be only fair and appropriate since, otherwise, in addition to

> dissing the efforts of the students who *did* do well on Test the

> First, there'd be no motivation for folks to do well the first time,

> right?


Actually, you'd be surprised.


First, keep in mind that I am dealing with students younger than yours who are in a split level class and admittedly don't always get the kind of feedback on written work that I'd like to give.


But, no, I don't average them.  I could, but so few students bother to retake the tests that it's never been an issue. The only people who ever bother with retakes are those who not only bomb the test but who expected to pass by a fair margin.  And, surprisingly, other students don't begrudge the student to try again.


*IF* this were college, I'm not sure I'd do that.  I'd have office hours, for one, so students would be able to come in for more one-on-one IF THEY WANT IT.  It's not that easy to get that on a high school schedule.



> And while grades might not be everything, there must be some incentive

> to do well as the class proceeds as whole, no?


The incentive is the embarrassment of not doing as well as their peers the first time around, I guess.


Of course, it doesn't work this way at all with the kids who just don't care.  Nor will I do more than suggest they come during our "tutorials"

right before school or right after school.  It's THEIR responsibility to want to pass, to want to learn the material, to want to do well enough that they can pass next year as well.


> Also, do you go over Test the First in class when handing it back?

> That, I find, is often the point at teaching best intersects with

> assessment. If you do go over a test, then do you make up another one

> for the re-taker? If not, what's to prevent the re-taker from simply

> learning the exact material needed for (more) success the second time?

> And if you do not go over the handed back test, how do folks come to

> understand what was/is expected of them?


I do go over some of it briefly, but more likely than not I hand back the tests and then ask for the tests back after they've read my "love notes"

inside the tests.  That is, they can't memorize multiple choice stuff and they really only have a long enough time to read my comments and see the grade.


If they actually bother to come in the mornings, we might get out their test and go over it point by point. I think I've done this twice all year.  When they've made notes in the margins (shown their work), I can show them where their thinking went wrong.  Their marginalia can be scribbling out declensions and morphology, or it might be circling tense indicators, or even writing out bits of translation needed to answer whatever question is in front of them.  I'm also teaching test-taking skills and stretching them to take their memorized morphology and APPLY it.  I don't have declining and such on tests because I don't want anyone to feel that they don't have to learn how to read. I don't want students resting on the low level Blooms Taxonomy stuff.  YES, for extra credit in some cases to encourage the lazier students to actually write down what they need instead of racing through tests and guessing at stuff.


What I see in students, esp in the first year or so of Latin, is that if they see an F on a test they get so discouraged that they convince themselves that they can't "do" Latin or can't do more than the easier stuff (forms and such).  I spend a lot of time trying to teach students how to take theroot meanings, morphology, etc, and to apply it to what's seen.

This is why I spend so much time metaphrasing a sentence or two at the beginning of class.  I feel that there's an assumption among many teachers, unfortunately, who feel that students can either put it all together or they can't, with not much middle ground.  In fact, I was once told that my problem was that I didn't have my counselors trained to weed out the students they didn't have A's already in English!  I tried to explain that I wasn't complaining about the level of my students, but was just trying to find better ways of reaching a larger number of them.  What I try to do is push as many from the "can't" into middle ground and then on to the "can"--one step at a time often.  So many of these students just don't have that automatic "aha!" mentality and need to be taken through all the little steps we do, maybe without even realizing it.  (But I'm rambling...

Sorry...blame exhaustion...)



> > Assessment needs to reflect what we really want our students to be

> > able to do.  Anytime I think about it in those terms I

> realize where

> > I'm drifting from my goals.  For instance, if I want

> students to stay

> > in the Latin more, then I need to do more questioning in

> Latin, more

> > work in Latin. If I want them to be better readers of Latin, then I

> > need to explicitly teach them those skills which would

> allow them to read Latin from left to right.


> I would argue that an assessment instrument (oh geez, did I

> actually write

> that?) needs to be comprehensive and to allow for a variety

> of learners to do well  in a variety of ways. I do give

> straight paradigms, principle parts and vocab as a percentage

> of my tests. That often ensures that a student who has

> limited abilities in other sections that emphasize, reading,

> transformations, paraphrasing, translating, etc. can be

> assured that s/he will not simply bomb the test outright. It

> also gives a certain kind of student some control over the

> material. And, let's face it, there are such students (in

> sciences, e.g.) ... and they may actually like the language

> for that reason.


I understand, but I guess I have a knee-jerk reaction to all those people

who took Latin and all they can do is decline a noun or conjugate a verb.  I

am constantly asking myself what I really think I should be emphasizing.  I

get frustrated with teachers who keep so much of their learning at the rote

memory level--main focus on vocab.  But yet this evening when I was helping

my son with his Latin derivative sheet I realized that his teacher is

focusing on what she sells her program on: improved SAT scores.  So perhaps

I shouldn't criticize.


> And in the college-level classroom -- and with its limited

> number of class meetings (as opposed to the HS schedule,

> which was, I recall from my years there, *very* good for a

> looser, less pressured, and even more comprehensive approach

> to learning Latin) --  one needs to recognize that there is

> individual student responsibility to absorb the material the

> first time out.


I understand.  One reason why I have review drills/quizzes/etc at

is so that students can see the kind of thing I'm after/the skills that I

expect them to master.  They have feedback and so are like a one-on-one

session.  My Latin 3's have really benefited from my quia stuff, so they

tell me.  My biggest problem currently is that it's spring and I'm having to

fight other teachers to get computer lab time.  Not ever student has a

computer at home (eegads...I won't say how many are in our geeky household)

and since they are in a small town, there's no easy access to computers in

libraries after school hours.  So I can't just automatically say "do the web

reviews at home"--I have to physically sit them down in the computer lab.

But even with that said, because all the pre-quiz stuff I design requires

sign-ins, I can track who does them at home--mainly my juniors and

especially seniors.  Maturity.



> I am available to students at the drop of an email. I have

> several experienced tutors available seven days and evenings

> a week. We have a class Blackboard website with discussion

> fora for each Wheelock chapter. The optional exercises at the

> back of W are there. I see every word that my students write

> in their (always) handed-in hwks. And, I might add, I hate

> grades ... but given the information that I get from them

> about where students are at any given point -- and the fact

> that they are required, I use them.


I use them too.


My biggest regret this year is that I feel like I have to deal with my

English classes first, and therefore my Latin students are not getting the

kind of feedback from me on a regular basis that they need.  I'm working

hard this year so that next year will be all Latin. We shall see if it's

worth this suffering (and sleep deprivation).



> Ducking the slings and arrows sure to be flying toward CNY from Texas,


Aw now, no slings and arrows or buckshot or anything.  Although I might brag

that we're already wearing t-shirts and shorts.  Are you still running in

the snow, John???




I think back to the original assessment questions and comments that Claude

made as well, and I have to ask what truly is the goal of assessment.

Should there be a way to track whether students are truly getting that

well-balanced education that is comprehensive?  I can tell you that I didn't

even read the authors I should have in classics at UT--and you guys all know

why: you can only offer so many courses per semester, and the authors need

to change up a bit.  I had a ton of poetry, which was a comfort zone for me,

and didn't learn to read prose well <snort> (still working on it) until

recent years.  I read no Caesar, no Cicero, no Plautus, no later authors.

How do you thoughtfully sequence and integrate courses, Claude, esp at a

small university?


Let's face it, this is part of the problem with preparing future teachers.


I have suggested in the past that we need to track those declared student

teachers better. And if the courses they SHOULD have just aren't available,

then covering those authors can and should fall back on the student's

shoulders.  All future teachers should possess early on in their major a set

of AP author texts.  If the only poetry on offer is Propertius, then the

student's advisor should suggest what OUTSIDE READING should be done by the

student.  The student should work with the professor in picking topics for

papers that combine, say, Catullus and Propertius.


And how do we *assess* what this future teacher is doing each year?  Why not

some sort of portfolio?  We need to get students thinking about what they

are reading and why ON THEIR OWN.  I'm so impressed, as I said, with the

portfolios they do in my current school. The seniors are so impressive with

their presentations...(sudden panic--do I have a senior panel to sit in on

tomorrow?  Eek! Must check....) and they are also so focused--FAR MORE

focused than I ever was as a senior.


A general portfolio, though, for your average student would reflect somehow

all of their coursework and how they see the courses fitting together and

making the big picture.  After all, if you are just earning a handful of

pieces for a jigsaw puzzle each year but you put them in a box, you don't

know what you've got.  But if you take those pieces when you get them and

start putting the puzzle together, then you begin to see what you're



Right. I am so rambling.  G'night, all--





Mar. 20th, 2007 06:30 am
ginlindzey: At ACL (Default)

This was my reply to a post by JOD on the classics list about assessment.  I have, unfortunately, lost too much sleep in the last couple of days so I know this was rambling.  But... assessment is important.

For instance, in order to go to CAMWS, I had to fill out a form at school justifying my going, what I would learn, how my students would benefit, AND how I would ASSESS this improvement.

It's everywhere.  You can't escape assessment.  You might as well face it and make it work for you.

I was surprised that no one had replied to this yet. (And I will apologize in advance for this rambling note; exhaustion has overtaken me just one day after spring break....) (Additional apologies for any typos I missed.)

> Assessment is a bloodless and bureaucratic word for making sure we

> know how well we're doing what we do.

Yes, and I might add that I've learned that for one to assess well and really consider whether you are teaching what you want and getting the

results you want is VERY time consuming. This is the type of assessment

that perhaps is hard to document on paper and show to those at the top.

Grades aren't everything.

I encourage my students to "show their work" when taking tests. Admittedly I give extra credit for this, but partly to encourage the students to slow down long enough to think about what I want and to consider truly what's in front of them. Most of the time the students who make notes in the margins, circle morphology, or write on/mark-up passages are the ones that do the best on tests. Occasionally, though, I'll have a student who bombs a test BUT I can tell has really tried by the kinds of notes he made.

One such young man came in this morning because I said he could retake the last test. We looked over the original test together and I showed him where his thinking went wrong, what he had misunderstood about tense and voice, etc. My goal with retakes is mastery of the material. If I were to just say, "too bad, sorry you failed" there would be no motivation to keep up.

And the end result would not just be a decline in his grade for my course, but little motivation to sign up for Latin 3 next year. He's not a sterling student, but he makes the effort.

Assessment needs to reflect what we really want our students to be able to do. Anytime I think about it in those terms I realize where I'm drifting from my goals. For instance, if I want students to stay in the Latin more, then I need to do more questioning in Latin, more work in Latin. If I want them to be better readers of Latin, then I need to explicitly teach them those skills which would allow them to read Latin from left to right.

What, for instance, am I truly testing if students can decline a noun or conjugate a verb? (Knowledge level skills; memorization at best.) You won't find those on my tests; perhaps on a quiz if we need to master forms, but on the tests I want to assess reading skills and an understanding of morphology in the context of the reading.

Who cares if they can decline servus accurately if they can't recognize a dative in this sentence: necesse est servo pecuniam tradere. In fact, all of my vocabulary quizzes are in context because you don't meet Latin words in isolation, which means, yes, there's a bit of built in grammar in my vocab quizzes. So what? It does absolutely no good for a student to be able to define audio and provide principal parts if he fails to recognize it used in an ablative absolute (sheesh, no pun was intended here), such as here:

Cornelia, clamoribus auditis, in atrium ingressa rogavit quid facerent.

(from Ecce)


> There is much pressure from various stakeholders, many of them very

> thoughtful people inside the academy, to think how we can do a better

> job of reckoning up what we do

That's the trick, though, isn't it? Do I have grade inflation because of awarding extra credit for showing work, etc? Probably. Do I have a larger percentage of students who read Latin decently and with confidence? Probably as well. And with luck, perhaps I'm creating a few true lifelong learners.

And keep in mind that just because I don't require declining doesn't mean I'm not exacting about grammar and translations. My students know they can't get away with bluffing their way through a translation or set of reading comp questions. They know the morphology matters and you can't read without it.

I have a colleague who has probably not thought critically about what she requires. As near as I can tell, the majority of her grades are all massive vocabulary quizzes over every glossed word in Cambridge (not just the master list). All the words, all at once; matching. Nothing in context. Very little in the way of major tests. I'd like to ask her what she's really assessing myself, but it's not my place. However, if her goal for her Latin course is vocabulary prep for SAT, well then, I suppose the more vocabulary learned, the better. But the way she goes about doing it assures more kids will be using short term memory and not long term memory. And they can't read Latin.

But I digress.

*and* of

> being able in consequence to tell a convincing story to prospective

> students, parents, donors, and the wider public.

Anecdotal stories are the best thing we have currently, yes? That and the SAT scores that Bolchazy-Carducci has posted at their website. Outside of that, it's hard to pin down, isn't it? Universities (and high schools) would have to start agressively tracking their students--and who has money for that? After all, some things take time to show up. The "diet" has to be a steady one, not just the equivalent of a week or two on weight watchers. You can't see long term results by looking at our assessment of student performances in the limited arena of the classroom for one semester, can you?

Certainly high schools are turning to alternative assessments beyond testing and homework. My new school does impressive work with portfolios. Each student has to pick X number of pieces a year and write a reflection on why that piece was worth including (most important, most satisfying, least satisfying [usually a failing grade on something that they knew they could have done better on if they studied!], awards, etc. Seniors have to present to a panel of 3 people (a teacher, a parent from the community, and a professional in the field of interest of that student). It's extremely impressive and helps students to focus on their interests early on. This often leads to internships, jobs, scholarships, etc. One of my seniors is an extraordinarily talented artist; her portfolio is amazing. Our students can't cross the stage without doing one of these presentations. It is a BIG DEAL!!

I suppose my point is, at some point should we put the burden of assessment back on the student? Of course, at a university it would be more difficult to keep/do the portfolios. The English teachers keep them here and make sure students get them put together.

But imagine if each year your declared majors had to put together a portfolio for his/her undergrad advisor? Perhaps it would include, like ours, a most important piece, most satisfying, least satisfying, etc, (all with "reflections") plus PRI's--private reading inventory, as we call them--a summary of books read of educational significance (English snooty for works of literature assigned in your English class). Add to that perhaps conferences attended and X many outside articles read that pertain to the declared major. Plus extra curricular stuff, etc etc.

What would be the result? Perhaps a more focused student, getting them to examine their directions, their interests, etc, and pushing them more in that direction as they make it clear to us. Will that help them get better jobs? Be more prepared for jobs, such as teaching? Maybe, because the portfolio could be the means of getting students to read those pedagogy articles sooner or attend those conferences sooner. It may also help undergraduates figure out which unversity would really suit them for graduate studies.


> So a question and request -- What can we learn from that in classics?

> What would it take to make similar cultural changes in classics

> programs? Who's doing good stuff in that direction?

> I have a purpose in asking beyond desiring to know -- hence the

> request -- because my old teacher Bob Connor, now president of the

> Teagle Foundation

> (

> conversations, and has asked some of us (not getting grant money to do

> this!) to push the conversation further and seek feedback.

> Comments back to this note, accordingly, will be added to a small

> packet of stuff I give Bob to put on the liberal arts blog on his

> site. I'll double-ask anybody who writes in before I give Bob the

> stuff, just to make sure it's ok to repost there.


Send my thoughts along, prefaced with only 4 hours of sleep last night, and a fear that I won't have grades for interims done by tomorrow night but knowing I better crash now.... Otherwise this run-on sentence will go on and on and on.... is spending money cannily to push just such


Sep. 17th, 2006 07:52 am
ginlindzey: At ACL (Default)
I just have to throw this out here. I just read this on the Best Practices list and it was written by BP:

I divide all assessments into formative and summative. Formative can
> > be anything from orally asking questions in Latin, to small group
> > work, to short contextual quizzes about a story (on paper). Summative
> > assessments ALWAYS center around a complete story and always have four
> > parts: comprehension (completely in Latin), grammar, culture and
> > derivatives. All questions hail back to the story. I give four
> > separate grades on such a test so that I can track performance in
> > those four areas over time.

All I can say is WOW.

I have not gotten gutsy enough to switch everything over to testing/answering all in Latin. Up until this year I've had students who just could NOT stretch themselves to going so far into the language. A couple could/would.

This year in my small Latin 1 class of 14 kids, the "worst" (which are still good students, it seems) are some of the freshman who fail to do the small bits of homework I assign. But this last week I did several things that usually throw my students. 1st was the micrologue/dictation. The micrologue is telling a story via 4 pictures or so (stick pictures) with simple sentences. You teach the story to one student by saying it repeatedly and dramatically while everyone else does dictation/writes it down. (Side note: this is a great way to check your own pronunciation, because if everyone writes down the same mistake, you are probably pronouncing the word wrong!) The one kid ultimately tells you the whole story back. This is a Rassias thing which I learned from Nancy Llewellyn who does the Rusticatio in the summer (which I need to go to).

I follow this with an oral substitution drill (I make the rows compete--makes it more fun for them.)

Then for homework they have to read the story on their own on which the micrologue was based and write a summary (not a translation) and I give them a quiz the next day. I was stunned--I only had one F; the majority of the grades were an A. I've never had such good grades.

ANYWAY, I was trying to get around to the Latin part mentioned in BP's assessment. I gave as an option to write up the summary in Latin. One senior did it and it was fine.

We ourselves have problems with these concepts because WE DID NOT DO THEM. This is where we go wrong with our own teaching--if WE have never done whatever someone is suggesting we do, then we are nervous about them or find reasons not to do them.

I gave a set of reading comp questions to the the bIniOnEs/trIniOnes the other day, giving the bIniOnEs questions in English, and the trIniOnEs questions in Latin. They didn't balk. I haven't graded them yet because I'm so behind on my English stuff--oh yeah, and I *left* what I need for English out at my school, some 30 miles away, so I need to go there today after my soccer game.

So why not, is all I'm trying to say?

Why not get the kids writing and thinking in Latin early on? I'm thinking about assigning for homework for the 1's that involve going back two chapters to easier stories to write summaries in Latin. I am so hesitant to assign homework because I have so much to grade already, but WHY THE HECK NOT??????

So what if I don't grade it all??? They could trade and read them and comment on them. WHY NOT?

And so, assessment according to BP has
*comprehension, all in Latin
*grammar, centered around the story
*culture, centered around the story
*derivatives, centered around the story

Yeah, why not?

I mean, my tests have, to a certain degree, met this. I have used comprehension questions in English, and have said that it was worth doing this in English because, hey, that's what AP tests and such would be like. A cop out; I know it, you know it.

I have had grammar questions based on the story to follow; but also some that focused on just concepts.

Culture always seemed separate, based on what was in the book, not applying it to the story.

And derivatives...well, in the past I've been a bit weak on this. I'm trying to be more formal about it this year, having a day where the kids bring in flashcards and we put derivs on them, etc. So I'm at least covering it more formally than before. I'm still not satisfied with it, admittedly.

And on tests/quizzes, I've always allowed for ANY derivative of ANY word on the quiz, not just the new vocabulary. Am I being a wimp? Maybe. I just don't want my course to become a word power course; I want to reward the student for making connections at ANY level. That's a cognitive level sort of thing, and some kids will be at a higher order of thinking just because of physical maturity and brain development with age. And if my class is mixed freshman through seniors, I can't in good conscience assign something that is easy for one group....oh listen to me, that's another cop out.

Well, I just want to keep the course about LATIN, not about word power. My emphasis is on READING the Latin.

The creativity of my Latin students, as I've said, overwhelms me and I'm getting very excited about doing some of my projects with them. The successes from this week make me think that my Aeneid project will be a big hit. I cannot wait!

Must grade something.