Did you miss the MasterClass on writing final exams? Don’t worry! You can watch it here!
We talked about the importance of the four Cs: Choice, Content, Context, and Capacity as you begin to write your exams.
No matter what type of exam you plan to give, consider how you might give your students a choice in how they show what they know. For example if they’re writing, you could give them several topics to choose from. You could give them choices of writing styles: compare and contrast, expository, argumentative, etc. You could even give them a choice of product: blog post, article, letter, essay, children’s book, etc. If your students are doing a listening activity, you could give them the choice to “list 5 things you understood in the podcast” or “what are the 5 most important things you heard in the video”.
If you’re giving a multiple choice exam, choice may be as simple as adding a section called “The Skipper” that says something like “Would you like to skip one of the first four sections of the test? Write about XXXX instead.”
Next we talked about content. We often cover a lot of content in a semester. Some of our content is really deep and impactful and some is a little shallower. As you plan your final, remember that not all content is created equal and that it’s ok if some of it doesn’t make the final exam. For example, in Spanish 2, we did a one week story that was meant to work a certain grammatical structure. We also spent three weeks talking about sports and athletes. I know that they’ll feel more comfortable writing and speaking about baseball and track than they will about the shorter story so I feel fine leaving that story out of the exam choices.
Context has two different meanings to me. First, I think it is important to use their language structures in context. I like using the vocabulary and grammar we have learned in the context of different activities on the exam rather than having them do low level Bloom’s tasks like remember meaning and fill in the blank. Using activities like Which happened first in the reader? or At the Beginning or At the End (Did the event happen at the beginning or the end of the story) are great ways to keep the language in whole and still test students over the content they’ve studied.
Context is more than just the context of the sentences, though. It’s also our teaching context. We are part of departments and districts and our colleagues’ feelings and beliefs matter too. We have to be sure that the exams we plan are going to be a good fit for our own students but, if we have a common department final, that they also are comfortable for our team members.
Finally, don’t forget about capacity. We only have the capacity to do so much. You may think that a final that covers reading, writing, listening, and speaking sounds amazing… but if you have to give your last of 135 exams at 3pm and grades are due at 8am the next day, you do not have the capacity to grade that exam. You need to create an exam that shows what your students know, but doesn’t leave your tank empty!
Happy last week(s) of school. I hope this helps you get ready for finals!