Alternative Assessments: Othello Foldables

I recently had a lively discussion about alternative assessments with a group of middle and high school teachers. It is always a touchy topic because in education so often assessment is such a dirty word because of standardized testing, penalties for not meeting AYP, and all sorts of other initiatives aimed at monitoring student progress. It was a common sentiment in the group that they felt they spent more time testing than teaching. That's definitely understandable as testing season is in full swing. 

I shared some ways that I used alternative assessments in my own classroom. At first this was met with some skepticism, "The test isn't differentiated, it's not in an alternative format, how will that prepare them?" I've been asked this many times, the problem is, you see, the test was never my goal post. I decided I would teach my students to read and think critically, I didn't ignore the test, but it was not the end result.

Before you ask, yes, I taught a tested area. In fact it was their English test required for graduation. No joking matter, but also a low goal. I knew what objectives my students needed to master, the power objectives if you will, the ones that showed up over and over again. They were always on my mind. But I never felt like traditional assessments showed my English learners knowledge, or language growth. 

I grabbed a file folder, large manila envelope, some glue and some construction paper and I walked them through an assessment I could use with the unit I was sharing with them. I had taught this unit, or elements of it for years, and these are based on some of the things I had my students do in their interactive notebooks. We talked about all the skills the students would work on when creating their project, and the study tool they were creating, and how adaptable this was to different content.

The cover can be decorated to yours or their liking. Mine just includes the title and some important themes from the play. They could have drawn important symbols/themes/you name the skill you want to highlight. I did this pretty quickly, don't be too harsh on my art skills.

When you open it up, you can see it is very organized. The left hand side include places to summarize information from pre-reading lessons to build background for my students. The top one concerned Shakespeare's life, a brief history of the time period, and the theater. The bottom left is concerned with the history in the play. It has a map that shows Venice and Cyprus, but also the Ottoman Empire and Mauritania. It unfolds to leave room for students to summarize important information about these places.

Gluing the manila envelope down on only 3 sides creates a pocket in the middle. In there is housed a worksheet my students completed after a matching and sorting activity of basic drama terms. 

In the middle, on the front of the manila envelope is a place for students to summarize each act of the play to keep the events straight. You may have noticed we are hitting retelling and summarizing quite hard so far in this, and that is because it is a challenging and yet important skill to master. Being able to pick out important information and put it into your own words is challenging for ELLs. It is also something that can be scaffolded to support students no matter what level of language proficiency they are at. 

On the left hand side is a table for students to record all of the names other characters call Othello, and then make inferences about what they mean, and how they feel about Othello. They also have to decide the significance of it.

When you open the manila envelope, there is a place to record information about characters. There is also room for students to create a character web that tracks how characters are related to each other and how they interact with each other. 

When you open the manila envelope again, there is a place for students to record examples of the 4 primary themes that we follow throughout the play. There is also room for an analysis of the themes, what the message is about each one and why it is important. I did a writing assignment with my students that prompted them through answering these questions.

Then finally inside the half of the manila envelope that is not cut to make the book is a pocket for students to store important quotes from the play. I chose several from each Act and students had to record information about. Here students had to look at literary devices and determine things like purpose and tone.

I hope you enjoyed it!

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