Thursday, April 13, 2017

Mini-Quizzes: Why I Will Rarely Ever Give A "Full Size" Quiz Again!

Most teachers, myself included, give quizzes about 2 times a unit.  Sometimes, I would give three if a unit was particularly long.  And I HATED it!  They always felt like mini-tests because they would cover three sections, took the majority of a class period and were historically not that good  Quizzes are supposed to be indicators of mastery of knowledge and performance of the future end of unit test.  When a quiz, however, spanned multiple topics, I was not getting that feedback.  Different students would struggle on different areas and I could not see consistent areas that needed re-teaching.   

Triangles and Congruency Quizzes
 I knew that something needed to change but I wasn't really sure how to go about it.  Until I happened to look at one of the exit tickets I was giving at the end of an hour.  I was using those as an indicator of mastery of what I had taught that hour and realized that it was the perfect length and structure for a quiz!  And so, mini-quizzes were born! 

In designing them I gave myself a few rules that have really served myself and my students well.  These rules are also my rationale as to why they are so successful! 

Proof and Logic Quizzes
1)  A mini-quiz cannot be on more than one topic.    Since one of my problems with full-sized quizzes was that I struggled to understand whether they got the topic or not, I wanted to make sure that my mini-quizzes only covered one topic.  This has been so beneficial in that I get immediate feedback on mastery of a topic before I move on to the next topic or whether I need to re-teach something.   Which leads to rule number  two.

Quadrilaterals Quizzes
2)  A mini-quiz should be given within a couple of days of a topic being taught.    Given that my purpose of the mini-quizzes is determine mastery or the need to re-teach I wanted to make sure that they were given in a timely fashion.  Most of the sections that I teach last two days.  The first day is notes and homework, with the second day being small group practice or an activity.  Usually at the end of the second day, I will take the last 15 minutes to give my mini-quiz.  This serves the dual purpose of giving it while the information is fresh and giving me time to check it and determine whether we need another day with enough time to copy whatever I will need.    It was this need for expediency
Circles Quizzes
and to save paper, that my third rule came about. 

3)  A mini-quiz cannot be more than half of a page.  I only want to assess one topic at a time and two to three questions will usually give me all of the assessment that I need.  For example, when I did my quadrilateral unit, each mini-quiz featured three topics - angles, sides and diagonals - with one question apiece.  This was more than enough for me to see if understood the properties without overloading the students.  Also, since my goal was to have these done in less than 15 minutes, I didn't want to make them so long that they could not be finished in that amount of time.  Additionally, with each quiz being half of a page, I could get to quizzes per sheet of paper and cut my copies in half!    This length restraint lead naturally to my last rule!

Right Triangle Quizzes
4)  A mini-quiz cannot be more than ten points.  The majority of the mini-quizzes I give at six to eight points, with a random few being nine or ten.  I never go over ten points.  On most mini-quizzes that happens naturally  with one point for each correct answer and one to two points for the work depending on how in-depth they had to go.  I did not want these mini-quizzes to destroy a student's grade but I also did not want them to be throwaway grades either.   My students definitely appreciate this and have a better attitude about them!

Now the big question was, would this work?  Would switching to four to six mini-quizzes per unit instead of one to two full size quizzes have an impact on grades?  The short answer - YES!!!  My class average on tests has improved by multiple percentage points!
Beginning Concepts Quizzes
  Student retention of topics from one unit to the next has improved.  Additionally, I get far less moaning when I say clear your desks because they know why I am doing it and that even if they have a bad day, it would hurt that much!  Unless someone forces me to, I will never go back to doing full length quizzes!

1 comment:

  1. Love this argument for mini-quizzes! Thanks for sharing your experience. :)


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