Friday, November 6, 2015

Fourth Grade in Our Home :: Exams, Term 1

Here's a peek at my 4th graders exams from last term: first the questions, and then a sampling of answers follow.  Please keep in mind, I have two students answering, so they're sometimes doing just half of each category.  (And if you're looking for questions to use for your own exams, check out the wonderful exam page over at AO!)

The Questions


What do you know about King Philip's War?
"In spite of Franklin's popularity in Paris, the war news from America was making the French foreign minister wary of an American treaty."  Tell the whole story.
Tell about the witches of Salem, or how New Amsterdam became New York.
What do you know about Lord Baltimore or William Penn?


"The river is a museum." Explain.
Tell about the "Est Est West" or the Amazon river in South America from Hillyer's A Child's Geography of the World.
Label this map of Europe/Asia.
Tell me about one character from California history we have encountered so far in The Cruise of the Arctic Star.  Where in California does his or her story take place?

Natural History and General Science

What are earthquakes? What causes them?
Talk about how silk is made and harvested and about Epeira's bridge.


Write 2-4 lines of a poem you memorized this term in print and in cursive.


Complete this grammar worksheet (taken almost exactly from the AO Exams page).


Translate sentences from Getting Started with Latin.


Listen to the story of Il Cappucetto Rosso and narrate back in Italian.
Narrate this picture in Italian using complete sentences.  (Write at least three sentences.)
Change these sentences to accommodate a new subject.  Consider verbs and adjectives.
Conjugate irregular verbs.  Write sentences with them.

Memory Work

Hymn - Sing "Veni Creator Spiritus" or "Dona Nobis Pacem."
Folk Song - Sing "Scarborough Fair" or "The Ballad of Davy Crockett."
Poetry - Recite one of your Tennyson poems for this term.
Shakespeare - Recite a passage from Much Ado About Nothing.

Nature Study

Tell me as much as you can about one of the trees we are studying this term.  Be sure to include its name, where it grows, what its leaves and bark look like, what seeds or blossoms it has, and any other details you'd like to share.  Illustrate with sketches.


Tell the story of one of the following: Apollo and Daphne, Pyramus and Thisbe, Cephalus and Procris.
Draw a map of Robinson Crusoe's island or a picture of the outfit he makes himself.
What attitude toward his shipwreck does Robinson have when he arrives on the island, and how does his perspective change?  What causes the change?
Who was your favorite character in Much Ado about Nothing?  Describe a favorite scene that he or she was in with as much detail as you can.


Describe the various ways in which Marcus Cato spent his old age.


How did the fact that Paul was a Roman citizen change his story?
Tell about the early disagreements between the Jews and the new Christians.  What were some of the issues they struggled over?
Tell about Peter's escape from prison.


What are the marks of the Church?
Explain the two kinds of grace.
Tell two events from St. Isaac's life that demonstrate his sanctity.

Music Study and Picture Study
Tell about your favorite Brahms' piece from this term.
Can you name the following composition by Brahms?  What was his inspiration for the piece?
Describe your favorite Velazquez work from this term's studies.  You may sketch it if you would like.

Reading Skill

Read this passage from Bambi aloud in your clearest voice.


Go through your piano flashcards.
Play your recital pieces for our family.

Free Reading

Describe Bambi's encounters with the Old Stag.  What role does he play in the story, and how is he important to Bambi?
How is "He" portrayed in Bambi?  In what ways are the animals right about him and in what ways are they wrong?


What was your favorite poem by Tennyson other than the one you read?  Explain what you liked about it.


Complete your math unit quiz.


Show one of your recent drawings to Daddy.

Handicrafts and Life Skills

Make a batch of oatmeal bars for the family.  Be sure to clean up after yourself and ask for Mommy's help in getting them in and out of the oven.

Some Answers

"The River is a Museum" from Holling's Minn of the Mississippi, by Gianna
In Minn’s time, the river was a museum.  There were all sorts of things there: sea chests, and gold, and things from before the Great Fire.  The Great Fire had been when men came, and one of them accidentally set fire to the woods and the woods burned up.  Then it was all farmland, and then, people went to college and found out that they could make it a wood again, and so they did.  And since they made it a wood, that was what Minn saw: a wood.  Before it, there was a wasteful way of floating logs downstream, and whenever it was not done properly, the logs fell to the bottom, and so there were many of those too.  The sea chests were from the old days of pirates and adventurous sea voyages.  Sometimes they had been drowned by the St. Anthony Falls, which Minn was going over, and at other times, they had been shipwrecked.   

Marcus Cato's later life, by Gianna
Marcus Cato’s old age was very different from the old age system of rulers, and he praised himself about it.  He said that people who retired when they were old were not good, and since he didn’t retire, he was good.  Instead of retiring, he went off to a place in the countryside where he said that he was taking a little vacation.  And he also went on his last great journey: he went to see a king who paid tribute to the Romans.  Cato was a Roman and a censor of Rome.  He went and saw them and he saw that they were not acting properly and he decided to make war against them, so he went into the senate and declared war.  A young man went against him and he said that Cato was wrong and that the unruly country would be a bridle to the Romans because they were getting too proud and too haughty.  Marcus Cato, however, despised him for this, and in the end, there was a war.  And Marcus Cato prophesied that the young man that went against him would be the great hero of the war, and he was right.  Also, when he was old, he used to write books.  He wrote one about farming, one about health, and he said that his wife and children never got sick, but that was not true, for his wife died early.

Peter's Escape from Prison in Acts, by Vincent
One day Herod wanted to please the Jews so he had James the Greater’s head cut off. This delighted the Jews, and Herod decided to take Peter and put him in prison.  The guards put him in prison and one guard was changed to his left wrist and another to his right, and there were two guards outside the door.  The guards took turns in groups of four.  Now in houses around, many people were prayingfor Peter.  In the middle of the night, Peter’s chains fell off and although the guards were still awake outside the door, they did not see him leave.  Peter went to a house and knocked on the door, saying it was Peter.  One of the girls opened the door and seeing Peter, she told everyone that he had come since they were praying for him.  Then they thought it was better if Peter stayed out of the way of the High Priests.


Some Thoughts

:: I like to put some of the kids' responses side by side just to show how different two students' details and styles can be.  This is one of the reasons I really like CM-style exams: they give the opportunity for the student to share what he remembers best rather than trying to ferret out what he doesn't.:: I usually like to write my own history questions, but the ones that AmblesideOnline offered for this term were so good that I didn't bother!  The kids remembered Salem very well and William Penn not so well--that was no surprise, because isn't that about your experience with early American history? ;)  Really, though, the founding of the colonies has made an impression and the kids are excited to see how these issues erupt into the situation described in Poor Richard, BUT I think the particular governors are starting to run together a bit at this point.  The narrations are good right after reading, but the details are a bit fuzzy a few weeks later.  My main goal for them to take away from this section of TCOO is that the founding of each colony had its own "personality."  We'll be moving on to the Revolutionary period shortly!
:: I didn't include a geography question about Minn because we haven't done weekly mapping with that book yet--I need to get better about doing that!  They do still enjoy the book as a natural history read, so it works on a lot of levels and is still a rich text.  But the geography is very rich too and I am doing a better job prioritizing that in Term 2.  (I actually had them draw and label maps to the point we're at in the book just last week, so we're all "caught up" now and it's up to me to just keep it going.)
:: Gianna actually came up with the question about Robinson Crusoe's outfit and I loved their responses!  They (and especially Gianna) love creative narration options, and I think exams are a great opportunity to try those out.  
:: I also did way more written exam questions that I was planning to, but they asked to do more, so I decided to let them try that.  I think the amount was actually just fine and I may just plan it that way next time around too.
:: I was planning to record recitations on video to share here, but since we were all sick for exams, it didn't happen.  Next time maybe?
:: I haven't yet had them do any cursive practice from a print model--I have always had them write from a cursive model for copywork.  But I thought it would be a good opportunity to try something new for exams. I am going to do this more often now that I know they're capable!
:: So my Shakespeare question (for them to just choose a scene to describe rather than retelling the whole play) was roundly rejected in favor of a full and complete narration.  This has happened before so I wasn't surprised.  There is something about Shakespeare that gets them really fired up about narrations!  Suffice it to say that our trip to the theater a few months ago really captured their imaginations: they love Shakespeare more than ever now and particularly love reenacting favorite bits.  So if you have a chance to enjoy a live performance near you, take advantage!  It's paying dividends here, for sure.

In the next few days, I'll share a quick peek at my first grader's very first formal exam.


  1. Impressive!!! Baby yet? Praying for you guys!

    1. Not yet--good thing I have this backlog of posts I've been meaning to write to keep me from going crazy! LOL Thank you so much for the prayers!

  2. I have been following your exam questions for quite some time now and they always totally impress me. They are becoming excellent writers! Pat yourself on the back for a job well done.

    1. Thank you, Phyllis! I feel like I can't take credit because they are naturally interested writers, thank goodness! But it indeed is nice to see the progress. :)

  3. Thank you for sharing this! I've been floundering a bit with exams, but this gives me a great place to start from wrt the type of questions to ask. We've only tried them twice so far, but everyone actually enjoys them so we're definitely going to continue. :)

    1. I'm glad, Lisa! My kids think they're really fun, partly because of the novelty of being different from our other schoolwork, partly because they like seeing how much they learned and grew over the term, and partly because of our celebration treat at the end! ;)

  4. Thanks for this! We are about to do our very first exams in a couple weeks, and it's so helpful to see some examples!

  5. Wonderful stuff! I am wondering though, if you blogged about how you put these exams together or any other information to help others do their own? This is really amazing and I have no idea where to start.

    1. Hi there! The first place to look is the exams page over at AO:

      Even if you're not using AO specifically but you are using some of the same books (or just want to get a feel for what CM-style exam questions look like!), that page is a great resource.

      I also have our previous exams posted:

      In those write-ups, I often did a bit of chat over the thought behind that term's questions and how we structure exam-taking. There's a bit more information here particularly:

      Usually, I write about 3/4 my own basically because I enjoy it and feel like it's a useful recap for ME to write them. But this past term, I'd say half of my questions were straight off the AO page.

      I hope that helps! Let me know if you have other questions. :)

    2. Oh, thank you so much. How very helpful!

  6. Hi! I just happened upon your blog, and love it! Haven't searched everything yet but had a question about you keep them throughout the term at all or only term exams? This is our first year homeschooling and with CM. As a former public/private school teacher I am really having to let go of the formal grading I am so used to doing. Would love any advice/insight. I know CM did not advocate grading so just want to make sure I'm on the right track. Thanks!

    1. I don't grade any work, neither term exams nor assignments during the year. I do keep the exams for our records, and I look through them carefully for tips for myself of how I can teach better, things we need to focus on in the next term/year, etc. So there is lots of thoughtful assessment going on, but assigning letters/scores/etc is fairly arbitrary and not all that useful to me as a teacher.

      Now, when they get to high school, where I will be creating transcripts for them, I will have to assign some kind of grade for each subject. But in the early years, I can't think of any benefits.

      By the way, if you are interested in this topic, I did an interview about Charlotte Mason-style exams and assessment on The Mason Jar podcast:

      Hope that helps! And thanks for stopping by! I am a former teacher too and understand how different that mindset is from this one. :)