During my office time on Tuesday, I heard this rattling, almost machine-gun-like rattling. It took me a couple of beats to recognize it as the Scantron grading machine. Apparently some students did not do well on the latest test. Insert their Scantron and listen to the rapid gun fire as the machine marks items wrong. Boy, do I remember those days as a student. Getting back that scarred piece of paper did absolutely nothing to help me know what I needed to learn for the next time, where I had gone wrong in my approach to studying for this test, nothing.
Don't get me wrong (pun unintended, but cool anyhow). I understand there is a time and place for tests that can be graded easily. I do not have classes that meet in the 250 seat auditorium downstairs. Sometimes, this is the best way to proceed. But not when it comes to assessing student understanding of reading. And by understanding I mean more than the literal comprehension of those words, words, words I wrote about earlier this week. I can ask what kind of a bush is growing outside of the prison when Hester Prynne is released bearing her Scarlett A. But why would I want that to be the thing kids take away from the reading? I could ask where the story is set, but I would get more depth of understanding if I ask WHY the story is set where it is.
What I take away from a book or a poem or a story is generally NOT a detail I could give or recall on a multiple choice test. What I take away is something that touched me (in MY PEN, the sketch of Walter Dean Myers) or something that intrigued me (the illustration of the con artist in TRICKY VICK is a thumbprint in a bowler hat; love that choice) or a connection to another book (for RODEO RED I had several including BUBBA AND BEAU). And I have learned that what I take away is not always the same as that taken by another reader. And therein lies the fun of talking about books we have read in common.
So, I will keep my door open. I will also keep my mind open when it comes to books and how I respond.