• Amber Chandler

We had a paper test . . .

Today in class, I handed out a paper test. That may seem like a pretty ordinary thing, but we have a paperless classroom in 255. I've grown accustomed to never having piles of paper, and to be honest, the sight of an ungraded pile of papers was pretty daunting. The test was 29 multiple choice and a short answer question. I'm used to using Google Forms to create self-grading multiple choice questions, so grading was also a bit of a chore.

Was I trying to prove a point or gather some other information that I wouldn't be able to from a digital experience? Nope. The only reason I ended up with a paper copy was an unexpected field trip that threw me off covering exactly what I'd planned. I looked online, found a pretty generic test, and I decided to use it. If students missed this test today, I have another generic one for tomorrow.

However, I have a few observations from this forray back into the world of paper. Here's what I noticed:

1) Handwriting is a horrible indication of intelligence, but it sure does make an impression. As I was reading the brief paragraphs today, it occurred to me that if I didn't know the students, I'd likely make judgements based on their handwriting that are not accurate. For example, I have a student who wrote in all capital letters. This student knows how to use capitalization, punctuation, and grammar, but that would not be evident from the sample I had from today.

2) Spelling is such an issue. I'm an English teacher, and I'm an excellent natural speller. So are both of my kids. We didn't do anything to get this way. None of us have ever had to think about it. On the other hand, spelling is an absolutely crippling problem for some of my students. I've been teaching them solely on devices, so one of the first things I've taught them is to always run spellcheck and make sure to run their final copy through Grammar.ly. The quality of work I have seen all year is significantly better than what I saw today. The only comparison I can make is that I need a calculator to do math, while others don't. I can't imagine being judged on my "natural" math ability instead of my ability to logically and critically think through a math problem and use my resources.

3) As an almost entirely project based learning class, I hate multiple choice. The whole reason that I use multiple choice in the first place is to prepare students for the inevitable Regents exams. I wouldn't use multiple choice because it is ridiculously limiting in student thinking. I always prefer letting students "show what they know" over "tell me what I told you." Of course, this is completely at odds with the way most standardized tests attempt to measure. But, that is a different post, for a different time!

My final "takeaway" is that perhaps today's test was a "necessary evil," in preparing students for a narrow part of their future (test taking). I'm looking forward to the next part of our unit on The Outsiders. Students are going to write argumentative essays examining why they think S.E. Hinton called this book The Outsiders when she never uses the word at all. Then, they will work in groups I've designed with social and emotional needs in mind, to create presentations viewing the novel through the lens of history (Civil Rights, Women's Rights, Pop Culture, Music, etc).