Monday, September 19, 2011

Students Creating Content in Shakespeare


This past week and a half, my Shakespeare students were busy joining Shakespeare Workshop on Ning and creating questions based on several readings for their final exam. Yep. That's right: one part of the exam (the take-home part) is written by them.

Goals and Bloom's
(For writing the goals, I used RadioJames Objectives Builder).
  • To identify key ideas in several passages about Shakespeare's world, Shakespeare's personal life, the Elizabethan stage, and "Shakespearean" language. (Comprehension Level).
  • To create four questions that would test others' understanding of the same passages. These questions could be in form of Multiple Choice, Fill in the Blanks with a  list of possible answers, and/or True or False. (Synthesis/Creation Level).
  • To rewrite the questions, if necessary, to guarantee complete comprehension and accuracy. (Evaluation Level; Synthesis/Creation Level). 
  • To submit new questions, if a topic had already been covered by another classmate. (Synthesis/Creation Level).

How Did It Go?
It went fine, but not outstandingly well, at least at first. It always surprises me that at least half the students in a class do not (Will not? Cannot? It's a mystery) follow instructions, even though we read the instructions out loud in class and I have answered questions about them. (!!) So, there was some back and forth between them and me as about half of them submitted open-ended questions, or did not submit the list of answers for the fill-in-the-blanks, or replicated work done by others (which may imply they did not read the other entries before submitting theirs), or phrased their questions so strangely that I could not understand what they were asking. After the back and forth, however, all was well for most of them (some did not fix their questions and therefore did not get credit or full credit) and everyone was satisfied with assignment (students always tell me they like that they get to ask their own questions about the material).

This exercise, of course, is about many things besides the stated goals. It helps me drive home the importance of following written instructions. It allows me to identify what they consider important material to be included in the final exam. It allows the students to have some say and control over the material and their own evaluations. And so on... Of course, the dark side of the assignment is to see how my students' lives have been determined by standardized tests that ask them to regurgitate the least possible useful facts of any topic. For example, there has not been one semester that someone in the class does not ask the exact date of Shakespeare's birth (!) when there are so many other pieces of compelling information to consider: life expectation under thirty, the legal status of women, public executions and bear-baiting as forms of "amusement," women characters being played by young boys...

BTW, Jason will be posting on our common endeavor in Basic Writing while I will be posting on Shakespeare, so you will get less posts from me... ;-)


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I'm loving the blog lay-out you have! Pretty cool!