We are currently one week into our Purple Hibiscus unit for our 10th grade Honors English classes. Purple Hibiscus is a novel written by a Nigerian author, Chimamanda Adichie. We began the unit by having students learn background information on the author through her Ted Talk: The Danger of a Single Story. In addition, students read two of her short stories; The Thing Around Your Neck and My Father’s Kidnapping. As a formative assessment, we had students annotate these short stories in order to gain insight regarding the author’s style and diction. Also, this allowed us to evaluate student’s annotation skills based on analysis depth and common misconceptions. Following these formative assessments, we modeled effective annotations and addressed some of the common mistakes noted in the students’ formative assessment. At this time, we felt comfortable beginning the book and allowing students to apply their annotation skills to Purple Hibiscus.
Furthermore, students are given a bookmark that outlines the reading assignments for each class and four prompts that they can choose from at the end of the unit to respond to in the form of an essay. For each reading assignment, students are required to select three quotations and/or excerpts and provide commentary for each. The commentary portion requires students to explain the importance of the quotation/excerpt and describe how it progresses a larger theme. We check annotations each day and give constructive feedback, if necessary, in order to improve future work. Over the course of the unit, students take three formative quizzes that concentrate on developing students’ evaluative and analytical skills. For the quizzes, we select significant quotations and require students to “Identify who is involved in these quotations, what was happening at that point in the plot, and what themes (big ideas) come up?” This focuses on the higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Rather than relying heavily on multiple-choice questions, we require students to develop vital skills through assessments in order to facilitate critical thinking.
Once students have read the entire novel, annotated each chapter, and completed three quizzes, we conclude the unit with a summative assessment. As aforementioned, students select one-of-four writing prompts presented to them at the beginning of the unit to respond to in essay format. Students are encouraged to use their annotations and quizzes to structure and develop their essays. This summative assessment utilizes the skills they have advanced through daily class discussions, fish bowl seminars and annotations. Students have an opportunity to display their evaluative and analytical skills, while furthering their fundamental writing. The questions we present to students requires them to access knowledge of the text while applying and connecting major themes that have been developed over time. This aligns with the Common Core standard CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.2, “Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.” In addition, students are required to support claims with textual evidence, which develops additional skills outlined in the Common Core standards. The construction of summative and formative assessments is deliberate in the facilitation of higher-level learning.