HS English - Final Exams(non AP and non 9th grade state test) Teachers: What kind of final exams do you give?  Objective, essay, portfolio assessment, project?  Comprehensive?  And how do you...

HS English - Final Exams

(non AP and non 9th grade state test) Teachers:

What kind of final exams do you give?  Objective, essay, portfolio assessment, project?  Comprehensive?  And how do you decide?

Struggle with this decision every year.

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burbina's profile pic

burbina | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

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The final exam always depends on where we are at the end of the semester, and how my students have more consistently been successful in showing their skills throughout the semester.  If they've proven to be good writers, we use their writing skills in an essay.  If their knowledge has been more consistenly shown through projects, we'll lean towards that route.  We never just give multiple choice, however.  We may mix a multiple choice section in with any other form of assessment, but it's never the soul form of assessment.

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ktmagalia | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

Posted on

I'm not a huge fan the almighty final exam, at least not in a multiple-choice format.  I prefer to differentiate assessment in the form of a multi-genre project or some creative culminating assignment.  Students learn from the reflective component of a final, and let's face facts, most students will not study much for an exam.  They will, however, spend hours on a video, or a scrapbook, or a presentation bringing many aspects of their learning to one final point.  That, along with something that can be graded on the spot, is key to that "end of the year" requirement.

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smflannery | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Assistant Educator

Posted on

HS English - Final Exams

(non AP and non 9th grade state test) Teachers:

What kind of final exams do you give?  Objective, essay, portfolio assessment, project?  Comprehensive?  And how do you decide?

Struggle with this decision every year.

  I know this is horrible, but because of the limited time to grade final exams and the volume of students I teach a year, I give a comprehensive exam on a bubble sheet.  I would love to have an essay or even a short answer section, but there is simply not enough time in the day.  We are given one day to grade the exam and on aveage I have 120 exams to grade.

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sboeman | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

Posted on

Seems like there's quite a bit of variation in the responses: we have the teachers that are able to create their own tests, and then there are the "common assessment" teachers who have little-to-no flexibility in what they flop down in front of their students on exam day.

I am, of course, in the latter group with my ninth and eleventh grade English classes-all of the teachers of that particular grade get together and hash out a common test that focuses both on a particular piece of literature and the literary skills they have obtained throughout the course of the term.  Since we often cover more than one novel, the final exam score is comprised of two grades: a mid-term "final" and a final "final", if that makes sense.

Seems to work out fairly well, but we keep revising the tests every year, and our state's standards change as fast as the weather.  I agree with the other postings about keeping checking time to a minimum!

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kapokkid | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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I liked post #2 if you have to give an exam.  My personal preference is to not give an exam, not unless it can be tied to something real.  I do like giving an exam of sorts that is mostly an attempt to either elicit honest feedback from students so that I can do a better job next year, or one that targets particular skills that both of us have agreed are important and that gives them the chance to do so in a relatively pressure-free environment.

But pressure free is nearly impossible when final exams usually count for so much of a grade.  So that can be difficult.

I almost always lean towards writing essays over answering questions and again, the more choice I can give a student in terms of form and or content, the better I think it will be.  Students should choose to demonstrate the skills they think they have honed most during the year, but if the teacher needs to know if they have managed to cover certain things well, those parts of the exam shouldn't be graded as they are for the teacher's benefit, not for them to rank students.

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wildcattmg | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

Posted on

I would love to be able to use any/all of these concepts. However, in my district, we have a district-wide exam that must be given to all students in a course, regardless of teacher. The most frustrating thing is that there is not a single reference to any literature covered during the school year. The objective exam covers vocabulary, grammar, and reading comprehension. It is modeled on the SATs. We also give a written exam which is a portfolio reflection on their writing for the year.

My biggest concern is that they don't see any validation for reading or tying together literature as the year progresses since there is no reference to any of it on the final.

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slchanmo1885 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted on

I like to do a final creative project that really challenges students to "think outside the box." For each of the novels read, they have taken quizzes and written an essay. By the end of the year, I let them choose one book we've read and create a final project on that book. The students have a submit a proposal a few weeks before the project is due, then as the project progresses they check in with me and let me know how it's going. I've had students come up with some really fun and in-depth projects. For example, one student wrote a movie script based on a novel we read and then filmed a scene with friends. Another student wrote songs with lyrics about a novel and then recorded a few of the songs. It's a really fun way to end the year and make them think in-depth about the books they read. I think that students will remember these fun projects (and thus, remember the books) better than if they just took a multiple choice test. 

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copelmat | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

Posted on

Usually in our high school, the year ended with the reading of a novel, so there were both multiple questions and essay questions on this novel on the final exam.  In our state, the tenth-graders have to write a persuasive essay on the standardized test, so they practiced on this type essay throughout the year.  Then, the final exam involved their writing a persuasive essay* on why they thought they should receive the grade that they felt they deserved.  In this essay they were to demonstrate not only persuasive essay techniques, but also exhibit some mastery of well constructed sentences.  For example, if they had studied participles, participial phrases, gerunds and gerund phrases, appositive phrases, infinitive phrases, complex sentences and transitional words; they were expected to employ these structures in their writing.

They were graded on this essay* by how convincing their argument was and their sentence construction "maturity" compared to how they had written at the beginning of the year.  In this way, a student who showed improvement but was still not too accomplished could make a good grade if he/she showed marked improvement.

And, surprisingly, most of the students were realistic about the grade that they felt they deserved.

*Because grades were due so soon after exams, the paragraph/essay format was used as taught in The Practical Writer by Edward P. Bailey and Philip A. Powell. This is a "mini-essay" composed of a topic sentence with two opinions in it.  Next, comes the subtopic #1 and its reasons and support, then subtopic #2 and its reasons and support, followed by the concluding sentence/reworded topic sentence.  (about 10-12 developed sentences.)

This "mini-essay" is so handy!  It is a great tool to teach students to write "tight" essays.

This is an interesting concept! You state that students are realistic in the grades they would give themselves. For the most part are they also pretty accurate--or at least "in the ballpark"--with the grades they would give themselves or not? Are you ever tempted just to give them the grade they argue for even if it is different from the one you have calculated for them?

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clairewait | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Usually in our high school, the year ended with the reading of a novel, so there were both multiple questions and essay questions on this novel on the final exam.  In our state, the tenth-graders have to write a persuasive essay on the standardized test, so they practiced on this type essay throughout the year.  Then, the final exam involved their writing a persuasive essay* on why they thought they should receive the grade that they felt they deserved.  In this essay they were to demonstrate not only persuasive essay techniques, but also exhibit some mastery of well constructed sentences.  For example, if they had studied participles, participial phrases, gerunds and gerund phrases, appositive phrases, infinitive phrases, complex sentences and transitional words; they were expected to employ these structures in their writing.

They were graded on this essay* by how convincing their argument was and their sentence construction "maturity" compared to how they had written at the beginning of the year.  In this way, a student who showed improvement but was still not too accomplished could make a good grade if he/she showed marked improvement.

And, surprisingly, most of the students were realistic about the grade that they felt they deserved.

*Because grades were due so soon after exams, the paragraph/essay format was used as taught in The Practical Writer by Edward P. Bailey and Philip A. Powell. This is a "mini-essay" composed of a topic sentence with two opinions in it.  Next, comes the subtopic #1 and its reasons and support, then subtopic #2 and its reasons and support, followed by the concluding sentence/reworded topic sentence.  (about 10-12 developed sentences.)

This "mini-essay" is so handy!  It is a great tool to teach students to write "tight" essays.

I love this idea.  I love that it incorporates a little of everything and like you said, allows those students who have improved in their writing to still make a pretty good grade.  I'm always looking to reward effort and struggle so much with doing it fairly.

Thank you.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Usually in our high school, the year ended with the reading of a novel, so there were both multiple questions and essay questions on this novel on the final exam.  In our state, the tenth-graders have to write a persuasive essay on the standardized test, so they practiced on this type essay throughout the year.  Then, the final exam involved their writing a persuasive essay* on why they thought they should receive the grade that they felt they deserved.  In this essay they were to demonstrate not only persuasive essay techniques, but also exhibit some mastery of well constructed sentences.  For example, if they had studied participles, participial phrases, gerunds and gerund phrases, appositive phrases, infinitive phrases, complex sentences and transitional words; they were expected to employ these structures in their writing.

They were graded on this essay* by how convincing their argument was and their sentence construction "maturity" compared to how they had written at the beginning of the year.  In this way, a student who showed improvement but was still not too accomplished could make a good grade if he/she showed marked improvement.

And, surprisingly, most of the students were realistic about the grade that they felt they deserved.

*Because grades were due so soon after exams, the paragraph/essay format was used as taught in The Practical Writer by Edward P. Bailey and Philip A. Powell. This is a "mini-essay" composed of a topic sentence with two opinions in it.  Next, comes the subtopic #1 and its reasons and support, then subtopic #2 and its reasons and support, followed by the concluding sentence/reworded topic sentence.  (about 10-12 developed sentences.)

This "mini-essay" is so handy!  It is a great tool to teach students to write "tight" essays.

scarletpimpernel's profile pic

scarletpimpernel | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

We have to give cumulative exams at my school; so I create one which includes a variety of multiple choice, multi-answer matching, and short answer.  The last portion of the exam always includes analysis.  For ninth graders, I give them a short story with which they are not familiar, and they analyze it for devices, themes, stylistic techniques, etc.  This forces them to put into practice what they have learned.  For tenth graders, I usually use an article which they must analyze for bias and other writing strategies.  I'm not sure what your exam setup is, but we have such a short turnaround time between when students take their exams and when exams are due, that I do not have time to grade essays for each student; so I have to settle for briefer sentence answers.

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copelmat | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

Posted on

I use a cumulative portfolio that includes a final reflective essay that asks students to tie together various themes from the works we've read and comment upon their own growth as a reader and writer. I've found it's very effective to help student and teacher alike to see exactly what was learned and it provides me a wealth of insight into what modifications and changes I might want to make to the class the next year.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I, like epollock, vary in my approach to exams, however, for me I really like a mixture of half multiple choice and then the other half essay questions based on passages that students have already answered multiple choice questions on. This I find really helps students get to grips with the passages in perhaps a more superficial way and then challenges them to analyse them more deeply.

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susan3smith | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

Posted on

My favorite exam at the end of the year is an essay in which students select three to five pieces of literarature that we have studied throughout the year to be nominated for an on-level textbook.  They have to justify their selections using several criteria:  (1) content/ themes that interest and engage young people, (2) content that provides insight into a particular time period and culture, but also has universal appeal, (3) artistry in craft and technique.  Included in their discussion they must consider  what stronger students might be able to gain from such a a work of literature and what problems weaker students might face. 

I ask that students choose from a variety of genres and literary periods.  I grade on a rubric.  This type of assessment results in high level thinking skills--evaluation.  It gives students choices, and it allows me to determine what units have been particularly successful during the year. 

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joaniejob | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted on

I like to do a final creative project that really challenges students to "think outside the box." For each of the novels read, they have taken quizzes and written an essay. By the end of the year, I let them choose one book we've read and create a final project on that book. The students have a submit a proposal a few weeks before the project is due, then as the project progresses they check in with me and let me know how it's going. I've had students come up with some really fun and in-depth projects. For example, one student wrote a movie script based on a novel we read and then filmed a scene with friends. Another student wrote songs with lyrics about a novel and then recorded a few of the songs. It's a really fun way to end the year and make them think in-depth about the books they read. I think that students will remember these fun projects (and thus, remember the books) better than if they just took a multiple choice test. 

    Oh, how fun!!!  How do you sell this project to get such positive response?  Are you located in a rural or metropolitan area?  Are your classes advanced students or otherwise!  Kudos to you, my friend.

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