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Thread: Failing evaluations

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    At this point I am feeling a bit discouraged and could use some perspective on this subject as well as some advice on where to go from here.

    This is our first year using Evaluations, but our 2nd year using TOG. I am specifically speaking about my oldest daughter who is 15 and for the most part doing sophomore work. She is an average student in my opinion and seems quite content to remain so. Receiving an average grade does not spur her on to work harder, she is quite content with it. My feeling is (and always has been) that it is her future and we all reap what we sow.

    She has done rather poorly on the evaluations. I have been using the history quizzes and we just completed the unit history exam and the unit literature exam. She barely passed the history exam (and probably did so as a result of much grace in my grading of her answers) and she failed the literature exam, despite my grace.

    I should probably add that this is our first year using tests of any kind (other than math or science which she does very well with and has been since 7th grade). Also, grading has never been a big deal in our homeschool as I was happy with the her performance. Since she says she wants to go to college I felt it best to begin to use tests rather than have her enter college with no experience at all.

    So, I am left not knowing quite what to do about all this. Since this is our first year using redesign and lit. analysis is new for both of us, I am inclined to simply give her back her test, go over it with her and then move on hoping she will do better next time. As it is I allowed her to do the lit outline twice. The first time she completely missed the mark. She was so totally lost when she read the Tale she thought it was about someone getting murdered. When I told her that was the rooster's dream she seemed to move on and have a better grasp of the story. So I let her re-do the outline. She still failed it.

    I am not used to teaching to the test and frankly am not sure what more I could have done to help her do better on the outline. We have done all the lit assignments up to this point and have weekly done the analysis in SAP. She often missed quite a bit of it and needs me to fill in what she missed.

    Anyway, rather than make this a long sad story, I am seeking opinions and feedback on this matter, especially what to do differently in this next unit.

    Thanks so much!

    Lisa in AZ

  2. #2
    President, Lampstand Press
    Join Date
    Apr 2002
    Hey, Lisa!

    I'm blessed by your heart attidude and way of expressing yourself. As the director of the Tapestry project, the thing that I feel most uncertain about is our tests, since all homeschooling families, and all children within those families, are so different!

    Like you, I never made grading a big deal in my homeschool. Since I knew my kids' every move, I was more interested in fostering a love for learning than holding them accountable through written tests. I did, however, see the value in them learning to both review for and successfully take various kinds of tests that they would encounter in the future. So, I think that our Evals are good for that much at least.

    If this is your first year using tests of any kind, I think I'd start with asking if you've done the following:
    1. Explained the purpose for tests in general. Have you gotten her on board with the need for her to develop the ability of taking tests successfully.
    2. Put enough time into teaching her HOW to review content and succcessful approaches to questions for each portion of the test.

    In your description of your approach to the Lit. outlines, I think you did exactly right. You explained, saw her confusion, and allowed her to retake. It seems like it just may be her steep learning curve at issue, along with (possibly) a heart that is not exercising itself to do its best. There is also always the possibility that she doesn't test well, or is more of a math-science person. Having taught a variety of students in co-ops the exact same way, I've come to realize that the issue isn't always my teaching style at all. God simply wires all people a little differently; not everyone shines at humanities. (Since I like the ipod that the engineers at Apple Computers designed for me, I guess I'm glad about that! )

    No one can do me a greater kindness in this world than to pray for me.
    --Charles Spurgeon

  3. #3
    Hi Lisa! I sympathize with you in your discouragement. It's hard to feel that your student isn't doing well, and it can tempt you to feel like a failure too. However, the first thing I want to say is that, from my online interactions with you, I've been encouraged by God's evident work in your life and the gifts He has given you--I love your intelligence, conscientiousness, cheerfulness, graciousness, and eagerness for your children's growth. That's grace in your life, so please be encouraged!

    Here are a few practical thoughts that occurred to me as I read your post:

    1. A student who has never tested in writing-based (essay, analysis, short answer, etc.) exams like our literature and history tests really is at a disadvantage. If this is her first time doing all this stuff, then it is probably completely normal to be having trouble, and the fact is that it will probably take time for her to learn how to take this kind of test. So my first suggestion is, give her time and space to learn, even if it means a poor grade for the first few units.

    2. I can't speak much to the history end of things, but as for learning how to tackle literature I have a few suggestions that may help her to do better next time:
    A. For this next unit, instead of assigning her a complete literary analysis whenever her SAP's call for one, assign her instead just one part of the analysis. For example, in terms of understanding a story the two most important things are: 1) the characters' experiments in living, and 2) the author's themes. The two are connected (i.e. the experiments in living generally reveal the themes). If your daughter can focus on just finding those two things in her assignments for the next few weeks, then she might get that part of the analysis outline down, at which point you could start asking her to do that AND another section (such as plot, or diction/texture). In this way you might gradually build up to the point where she can do an entire analysis by the end of the next unit.
    B. Another suggestion is that you take extra time to review. When the review comes out for the Unit 2 literature exam (usually one to two weeks beforehand), feel free to go over it with your daughter in detail, making sure that she knows how to respond to each part. We don't usually throw punches in our literature exams: the actual material on the exam will be the same (but less by about 1/4) as what is listed on the review. If your student knows the review (you can even give her the exam late to allow extra time to prepare), then she knows the test and more!

    I hope that some of these thoughts will be helpful. God bless you as you keep on keeping on!


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Wow! God is so good!! Marcia and CJ, I can't thank you enough for your responses and kind words. The Lord has used you to touch my heart and spirit today and lift me up! Thank you so, so much and to Him be the glory!

    Marcia, it is encouraging to know we share share a similiar perspective on grading. Your response has reminded me to keep myself and my daughter focused on the true purpose of grading and the evaluations which is to prepare her for college and how things will done in an educational environment outside the home. I also appreciate your suggestions. I am going to take some time out to show her specifically how to review and prepare. I don't think I have done that enough.

    CJ...what can I say! You are the fruit of a family that has sown well and in obedience to our Lord. So wonderful to behold!

    I never thought about doing a portion of the SAP and that is a great idea. I think the combination of the material in general(even I found Chaucer and Beowulf daunting) and the newness of literary analysis has combined to overwhelm my daughter. She sometimes gets trapped into thinking that her feelings are facts and so if she feels she cannot do it, that translates in her mind into I just can't do it. We will work together to build her confidence a bit at a time. I think that will really make a difference.

    I hope to post a completely new message at the end of unit two. God bless you!

    Lisa in AZ

    ps: CJ...I checked out your blog and it is hilarious!

  5. #5
    I don't have any great advice, but I wanted to let you know you are not alone. My oldest child was able to do the Rhetoric level of Tapestry independently and successfully. However, when my second child got to that level it was a different story. He is more gifted in the math/science area, but he was also my child who learned to read at the youngest age, so he's a pretty good reader. But, he gets overwhelmed easily. I was getting discouraged with what was happening in the first unit this year and considered moving him to the Dialectic level (which would probably be more where he's comfortable), but I didn't feel that would prepare him for college. I want to push him, but not frustrate him and have him fail.(which is what was happening.) So, the solution we have come up with is just a lot more hand holding and daily accountability on my part for him. I've had to get the assignments out and have him read the assigned pages and help him sort through the facts to fill out the worksheets or answer the questions. I have also had to help him make review notes to prepare for exams. I am S L O W L Y able to hand more and more responsibility over to him completely. I am confident that by the end of the year he will be a much more independent reader and learner once he sees how all the pieces work together. But, we are learning together. A lot of the literary terms and analysis are new to me too. (I was an accounting major in college) So,doing it with him has helped me to help him to prepare for the exams also.
    Well, anyway, hope this gives you some hope. Rome wasn't built in a day. And some students (may I dare say many) require an amp up to the Rhetoric Level of Tapestry. But, I love it. I know all of this effort will reap huge rewards in my son's growth with the Lord, his growth in character, and his knowledge of the history and literature of the world.
    Many blessings-Lynn

  6. #6

    I'm so glad that some of those ideas helped you! And yes, just to reiterate, you can (in fact, you probably should!) take literary analysis in pieces and grow into it. That's one major reason why we don't suggest that you grade week-to-week work; we want you to be able to modify it. Sometimes I wish I could say "just forget the analysis!" but the fact is that anything worthy of the name "literary studies" has to STUDY the literature... has to talk about the plot, settings, characters, artistry, etc. Literary analysis outlines and commentaries are our tools, and are the simplest, clearest ways I could think of, to present these things.

    However, the filled-in literary analyses in the Teacher's Notes are MOSTLY your cheat sheet, your "spark notes" to tell you all the important literary stuff about a given piece of imaginative literature. Your daughter is supposed to work TOWARDS the kind of completeness and detail that you have in your notes, but I would never want you to think that she should have ALL the information that your cheat sheet does, especially in her first year! If she can consistently name and explain characters' experiments in living and themes, and grow into the rest of it, you're doing very well for your first round with literary analysis! I'd even go so far as to suggest that you tailor the exams to match your rate of study, and I fully agree that education is NOT all about passing tests. I'm so grateful that my mother didn't emphasize exams in my growing-up years (though she did make me take essay tests in high school, for which I will be FOREVER grateful because I needed that so much in college!). :-)

    Here's something I love to remember about rhetoric level literature... it never gets any harder than the first year, especially if that is Year 2! We never move on from literary analysis as a basic tool---we just get better at it and at enjoying what it reveals in each literary work. On top of that, the literature you will be reading only gets more "modern" and intelligible after Year 2. So what is new and difficult for you this year will be more familiar and roomy for you next year, and hopefully by your last year will be fitting just right. :-)

    I also want to encourage you to HAVE FUN with it. I don't know if you've read the "Using Tapestry's Rhetoric Level Literature" document on the Loom, but one of the things I suggest there is that you absolve your student of pre-doing any analysis outlines at all and just make a game of filling them out in class. The main thing in my mind is to give you all the pieces (a filled-in analysis) in your Teacher's Notes, and to give your student the opportunity to fill out the pieces in her Student Activity Pages; but she doesn't have to get it all at once, and I certainly don't want to kill any enjoyment she may have in literature by asking her to do so!

    I have three goals for literary studies: to UNDERSTAND what the author is doing and how he is doing it, to EVALUATE what he is doing and how he is doing it, and to ENJOY that what and how like all get out! (When appropriate; some things that some authors do should not be enjoyed by Christians.) All three are equally important in my view, so please feel free to scale back and (or) adjust until you feel that you are making forward progress--maybe slow, but that's okay!--in all three areas. :-)

    Oh boy... I meant to keep this short. Anyway, I hope you will be released and encouraged by these further thoughts. God bless your socks off, as we like to say around here. <:0)


  7. #7
    Hi Lisa, I'm sure you are experiencing much care and encouragement from these ladies. God is so kind to provide words of grace in due season to help us! I appreciate your humility and desire for input.
    If I might speak to the history quizzes you said your daughter is having trouble with. I would encourage you to always feel free to adjust the quizzes to your daughter's need to "grow" into them. I'm not sure if you are using the Rhetoric ones, but I remember reading on the Evaluations Introduction a suggestion that if you are new to the evals to feel free to focus just on the short answer part and hold off on the essay section until you think your child is ready. Or if you wanted, you could focus on using the essay portion. If you decide to use the essay section, you might consider giving her an essay question at the beginning of the week-plan and basically helping her to learn how to gather information, outline, and construct the essay from her studies/discussion time etc.
    Another option is to use the Dialectic evals for awhile. Their focus is heavy on making connections, but not on essay writing and yet a lot of "prewriting" is being accomplished as they quiz the student in a variety of ways and the student is learning prewriting skills like categorizing, listing details, compare/contrast etc.
    I hope these small tid-bits help!! God bless!!

  8. #8

    I know this is an old thread but it pretty much summarizes where I am coming from.

    This is my second year using TOG, but my first using it with my high school dd. We are doing History and trimmings, that is to say, we re not doing TOG literature .

    We tried about 5 weeks at the Rhetoric level, but my dd found the reading dry and uninspiring (Religious Wars, especially). Tears and frustration etc.The time period being covered, including American History focus is new to us, so that might be part of the problem. I had started the level with a wait and see attitude, so I knew I was pushing pretty hard before we started.

    We have other issues, in regards to attitude, poor work habits and so on. I am trying to be gentle but firm in helping to see where her attitude and actions need change. Any parent will tell you that is a very fine line! Just monitoring her wears me out!

    I have been pondering and praying and have come to think that she does need to write things down, as well as review them in order to make connections so on. The dialectic reading and questions are more appropriate for her. Perhaps we may never do the rhetoric level. I am okay with that. I think better to do the Dialectic well then flounder and get totally overwhelmed in Rhetoric level.

    I have not found a groove in using the TOG discussion outlines. I realize a lot of thought went into preparing them, but I find the accountability and thinking questions, the readings and the discussion do not flow well for us and feel a bit disjointed. I am not finding them easy to use, despite what I consider adequate preparation.

    Our discussions have not gone well. We do not get much beyond the facts. I use what is in the discussion outline but it does not seem to take us along the path of further discussion. We are definitley discussion-challenged!

    My thoughts are that I will require:
    a) daily narrations of the section read, and once that becomes well entrenched, a short summary of what was read.
    b) written answers to the Accountability and some selected Thinking questions. If I do not require this of her, the "notes" she makes are just chicken scratch at best.

    I am also willing to:
    c)read most if not all the assigned reading myself, as well as the teachers notes. This is a huge undertaking but I feel i cannot have an intelligent discussion with her otherwise.
    d) use Evaluations to determine the level of her understnading.
    e) be willing to slow the pace of the course if I cannot cover it well. My preference has always been to cover a topic well and in depth rather than move along too quickly, and not learning our lessons well. Dd seems to require "steeping" in many subject areas, and therefore sometimes benifits from a slower pace.

    Always striving,
    Rebecca in Abu Dhabi

  9. #9

    I have been in your shoes. our first year with TOG (3 years ago) I did everything including the evals and burnt my kids out to the point when I said I was ordering year two - they said do you have to do that. I did however drop the evals the first year. We tried them for several weeks but my kids would always fail despite my "teaching to the test" or thinking that I had done that.

    Then we moved on to working more diligently at the SAP's and our T and A questions. This too practice and time. And advice from the loose threads list.

    When I went into year 2 I still did not give evals. at least not many of them. I focused on other things.

    year 3 we are doing now. And if the weeks goes well (not to busy) then we give evals. If the week was filled with too many appts and not enough book time then I didn't stress over the evals. I do plan to use them as often as possible. But here is something I do - maybe good or bad, don't know. I look at the evals and I plan my kids reading and their A and T questions based on the test. When I do discussion with them R and D levels I tell them pay attention to this part. It shows up on the eval in one way or another.

    Then as far as the essay portion of R level. Someone on the loose threads list suggested to me that I let my daughter work from her notes for the essay portion only. That has been really helpful because she isn't great at connection the thoughts. She get alot of the main ideas down but the transitions weren't there. Or she would be all over the place with those key points. I do try to grade them and I try to be fair by giving partial credit for answers. When we go over the answers from the teacher's eval. I point out to her what the most important key points were and why she picked the easiest to remember. My 15 year old is also an average student and also doesn't want to be any better than average. I think that is the way she is. Learning doesn't come naturally to her. and like others have said everyone is made differently. One of my daughter's strong suits is her ability to connect her faith, scripture, and make connections to those vital points. I think she has a more philisophical and/or theological mind.

    We tried a number of weeks for literature. But got bogged down with the poetics and frameworks stuff. I think the general reading she could've handled but not all the other stuff. So because it was draining her on her love for literature we switched to progeny press study guides. I think it might turn out to be a little more work but less pressure because the questions and analysis is easier. I hope to revist TOG literature component when she is a junior. (2 years from now)

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    It seems to me that you have several things going on. One as you have perceived the Rhetoric level material is overwhelming your daughter; rather than working diligently on the material her sense of failure is making her want to quit. I think moving to dialectic is a wise choice and will allow her to develop some confidence.

    I agree with your conclusions. I require my children to have the answers to the questions assigned (and I never assign them all) written. We have not needed a narration and given the amount of reading in TOG that may prove burdensome. Perhaps a short narration of just the core history reading?

    One suggestion I would make is to be sure she reads the student threads on page six of each week plan. That will give her a place to focus her reading and show her what the goal is. Also make sure she reads over the assigned questions before doing the reading. My kids used to just dive into the reading and it made it harder to go back and find answers to the questions.

    Naturally this process is more difficult for thinking ques. and I do not require fully written out answers to these. But I try to get something out of them. As time has gone by and we have become more comfortable with how TOG works they have gotten more mature and better able to give me a good answer. Not always but I have seen improvement.

    I would not get so bogged down that you feel it is necessary to read the material yourself. I can appreciate your desire to cover the material well and in depth, however, I have to honestly say there is only so much room and time for this at the high school level. In reading over materials written by TOG staff/author's themselves tell you that TOG is really meant to be survey course, not necessarily in-depth study. Compared to what a student might study at a public high school it may go in depth because you are using living books and history books that offer more than the traditional textbook, however, I don't believe TOG was meant to be an in depth history course, if you follow it as it was written. I think you could make it an in depth course if you added to it, but the purpose for which it was written (as I understand it) is to give the student solid information and a Biblical worldview that will enable to know the history well enough to see the Lord's hand and to make a connection with our world today.

    You don't say how old your child is, but I have found with my children it doesn't matter how much time we take on a particular subject, they retain some things and not others. What is most helpful is going over the material several times which is why the classical four year rotation is so great because the student encounters the topic every four years and the layers of knowledge are deepened. It is the rare student that can develop a lot of layers in one year. I would take heart in remembering your student is likely to encounter this material again in her studies, whether in high school or in college. What is most critical is her ability to evaluate the material based on the word of God. I don't worry so much if my kids come away from discussion time forgetting details the next day, but I spend my time making sure they understand how the Lord might view the circumstance or people involved and especially how we as Christians should process history.

    As to the evaluations. I posted the original post on this thread. For us things have gotten better. I essentially teach to the test. It seems like a no brainer but frankly to me it was a rather foreign idea. I print out the test and make sure I cover that material during discussion time. I now use a white board and tell my kids, copy this in your notes and study it. I found the Rhetoric Teacher's Review Guide included in the evaluations very helpful in planning how to use evals in my homeschool and how to teach so my children were not constantly defeated. My original purpose of using evals has been accomplished....which was to get my high school student in particular more comfortavble with test in general. We had never used them. She is now (a year later) a better note taker, more relaxed and confident when taking a test, better able to sift through material and make decisions about what is important. On the other hand I make sure I point out to her what might be tested. I help her take notes and I specifically taught her summarizing skills.

    I am glad I did all this as she is now taking a community college class and these skills have been very helpful to her.

    Finally on the discussion outlines. Sometimes we have great discussion, sometimes we just have lectures. I find the outlines helpful for several things. One, they have the answers to the assigned questions for the Student Activity pages. Two, they do give me information with which to simply talk to my student about the information she read. Three, I wouldn't worry too much about getting beyond the facts. It takes time, this is our third year and my dd is still not that great about coming up with what I would consider thoughtful answers to most of the questions....but she has improved. I think a lot depends on the student. Sometimes my dd in 8th grade gives more thoughtful answers than her sister in 11th grade. That's ok. I just keep plugging along. The way I see the best purpose of the discussion outlines is gives your child some time once a week where someone is posing questions to him or her that make them think about what they read. I don't care if they come up with the answers or not. I am content with putting them in a position where they have to think about. The advantage we have with TOG is when we provide the answers for them they are answers based on a Biblical worldview. This is training and planting seeds.

    Anyway, from your post you seem well in tune with your student and open to trying different ways of adjusting your school. That is what makes the difference. Hope I said something helpful!

    Lisa in AZ

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