I work in an independent study high school and I meet my students only 20 minutes a week. I teach English and Im wondering in regard to common core as well as depth of knowledge questions what the 3 most important questions would be to help me check for understanding in relation to literature and both non fiction and fiction selections that students read? What would you consider the top 3 questions to make sure students can demonstrate that they understand the material?
To be honest, I do not know how much you can do in twenty minutes a week. You are in a hard situation. That said, if you wanted to measure how much students know and comprehend in terms of literature, I would do the following.
First, I would question them on the plot of any story that they have read. This is an essential starting point, because you want to test basic comprehension. I would start with general questions. If they get these right, I would ask more detailed questions, to see their level of comprehension.
Second, I would ask about themes. For example, a simple question, such as what is the story about is a good way to start. If students can give you a few themes, then you know that they are reading in a deeper way. For instance, if students have read To Kill a Mockingbird, hopefully they brought up themes like racism, courage, and integrity.
Finally, I would ask them to formulate an argument. If they can sustain an argument, then you know that they are growing in an analytical way. I would also ask questions and play devil's advocate. If they can still sustain their argument, then you know they are well on their way.
I wish you all the luck.
"Demonstrating" one's comprehension is not the main objective of teaching -- it is to give the students the analytical tools necessary to appreciate the material at its fullest level. You should start by saying "The school, the district, and free enterprise system, and society in general want me to 'grade' you, 'rank' you, give you some sort of quantifiable comparison to your peers. I am not interested in that; I am not devoting my life-work to that petty task. Anyone who wants an 'A' need never come to class; however, if you would like to advance your skills and abilities in English literature and grammar and essay-writing, then come to class every day -- I promise to use all my training and energy to pass these skills along to you." Grading is like eating a hamburger and then comparing it to another hamburger -- the act of eating is to nourish the body, not to have a contest. When the student goes looking for a job, he/she simply says "I chose to take all classes Pass-Fail. If you would like me to 'demonstrate' my English skills, I will be happy to do so; but if you give weight to 'grades,' then I don't want to work here."
Why don't you use a software to send them the teaching material and check their progress from home?