I am about to give a test tomorrow, only to realize that I haven't even given back the previous test students took 2 weeks ago. Why is that? Well there are lots of reasons, none good, to explain how I have managed to file these tests away in manila envelopes and not look at them for 2 weeks. One that comes to mind is that tests take hours to grade, the essays are usually depressing, and the whole handing back process takes class time that I haven't been cognizant to schedule. The bottom line is that I just suck at grading. It is like doing bills, like tallying up how much in debt you are. Granted, this year grading has revealed by far the best results of my teaching thus far, yet I still find it so difficult.
Having said that, I did a test review activity today that really worked well - at least for what I wanted. I broke up the unit - Renaissance and Reformation into 7 categories - written summaries that take up a page and have a picture or something. Then I distribute these to students in even numbers. Students read them for review, write a synopsis on a 1/4th sheet of paper, and then get 3 minutes to discuss their reviews with an "expert group." After that, they get mixed up, one from each topic, and they have to paste their summaries on a poster. Each group member is responsible for creating two meaningful connections between their topic and two others. For instance, the student with Humanism could say that the focus on the individual inspired the Reformation, another topic. They would draw an arrow and write a brief explanation next to that arrow. Each student is graded on their two connections, the group is graded on the quality and completion of their poster. In several classes we had 5 minutes at the end so I swapped posters and had groups identify the strongest and weakest link of the other group.
Overall, the results were better than expected. I saw students discussing and analyzing content in a way that I have rarely seen in my 3 years. Perhaps the most satisfying is to hear students say that they would rather just have a quiz because this activity is making them think too much. "Don't worry," I respond, "you get a test tomorrow."
So test Unit 3 tomorrow, Renaissance and Reformation. Grading the tests, Units 2 and 3 will be a bitch, but I'll get them back next week sometime and we can move on through world history. I will be done with the age of exploration, the scientific revolution and the enlightenment before the holiday break.