Thursday, April 7, 2016

Fourth Grade in Our Home :: Exams, Term 2

Verrrry late in getting these up (we just finished our end-of-year exams this week!), but I do want to have a record of them here, and I know some of you would like to see them.  So: Term 2 exams...

Below is a peek at my 4th graders exams from last term: first the questions, and then a sampling of answers follow.

I did something a bit different this term: I printed out a bunch of questions with space for written narrations and then one sheet of paper listing the drawn narrations and other independent activities, then clipped it all together and left it on the dining table for them to grab first thing that Monday morning.  (You can see the stack in that photo at the top.)  I let them work at whatever pace they wanted, in whatever order they wanted.  The oral narrations are pretty much all that weren't listed there--we did together during our usual naptime school block.  They had a lot of fun with this format and I did it for our Term 3 exams also.  (If my kids didn't enjoy writing, we certainly wouldn't be doing it this way!  But if your kids do like writing, it's something to consider. :))

If you're looking for questions to use for your own exams, check out the wonderful exam page over at AO!  They even include answers to make your life easier. :)  (And in case you're interested: you can find all our previous exams here.)

The Questions

Tell about two of these: James Oglethorpe, La Salle, King William's War, or Chief Pontiac.
Tell about the Boston Massacre and the Boston Tea Party.
Tell about the French and Indian War or the Seven Years War.
Choose one and tell what you know about him or her: Marie Antoinette or Voltaire.

Tell what you know about Lake Pepin.
Tell all you know about Russia or the Scandinavian Peninsula from Hillyer's A Child's Geography of the World.
What do you know about the Mound Builders?
Complete the following pages:

Natural History and General Science
Describe the links of the endless chain of change that transform a grain of soil.
Tell how steam can make machines move or tell all you know about clouds.

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

Complete the provided grammar worksheet:

Complete your next translation lesson in Getting Started with Latin.

Complete the following pages:

Memory Work
Recite one selection from this term in each of the following categories: hymn, folk song, poetry, Shakespeare, Bible.  (Note: we did this as a end-of-term performance for Daddy, which was fun!)

Nature Study
What does the county park look like in January? Are the trees bare, bearing fruit, in bloom?  Are there wildflowers?  Describe at least three January sights there. You may sketch if you like.

Write a haiku to tell a story from Age of Fable.  (Note: We happened to discuss haikus when they came up in George Washington's World.)
Illustrate one scene from Kidnapped and write a short description.
Who was your favorite character in A Midsummer Night's Dream?  Describe a favorite scene that he or she was in with as much detail as you can.

Describe how Philopoemen remained a good general until the end.

Choose a few lines from The Epistle of James to add to your Prose and Poetry notebook.

What are the Sacraments of death?  The sacraments of life?  Why are they called so?
Name two commandments of the Church.
Choose one rosary mystery and describe Mother Loyola's insights about it in Hail Full of Grace.
Answer any two questions about our saint studied this term, St. Junipero Serra:
 -- Describe a particular difficulty St. Serra endured on his journey and how he overcame it.
 -- Share something of the early life of Fra Serra.
 -- Describe the founding of one of Fr. Serra's missions.
 -- How was Father Serra welcomed by the native Californians?

Music Study and Picture Study
Tell about one Schubert piece from this term.
Can you name the following composition by Schubert?  What was his inspiration for the piece?
Sketch from memory your favorite Corot work from this term's studies.

Reading Skill
Select a passage from Calico Captive in your clearest voice.

Play your most recent piece for your grandparents.

What was your favorite poem by Dickinson other than the one you memorized?  Share an bit or image from it that struck you.

Complete the assigned math selection.

Choose a picture from My Nature Friend to draw.

Handicrafts and Life Skills
Show something you made for Christmas to Daddy.
Make a paper star from memory.

Some Answers

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.  They connected with different elements from our readings and expressed themselves in different ways, but both students' answers would be considered a job well done.  Exams responses are not going to all look alike--and that's a good thing!  (Click to see larger if you'd like.)

Some Thoughts

:: I guessed last time that once we hit the Revolutionary Era, the kids' enthusiasm for their history questions would increase.  It did!  They really enjoyed this term's history readings and that came through in their written responses.
:: I prioritized mapping habits in Term 2 and found their work to be much better than in Term 1...but still not as great as I expected.  (I will say, though, that Term 3 results are much improved so I will share more about that when Term 3 exams are ready to share.  I think we needed two terms of this habit under our belts to start to make connections.)  Map drills, on the other hand, have been very successful, as usual.  But I really do privilege mapwork accompanying our geography readings to the drill form, so I'd like to have the former catch up with the latter in terms of retention.
:: Italian answers were surprisingly good (better than Term 1), but spelling was definitely a problem.  I added in more Italian copywork in the CM style for Term 3 to help with some of that.  We did Italian completely aurally/orally for a couple years before this, so they can definitely say more than they can write--and that showed here.  I'm pleased they are taking risks and not just sticking with words they're completely sure of, though!  Those results also made me think I need to include more reading aloud in Italian to translate spelling to pronunciation.  I added that to my for Year 5 brainstorming.  
:: Their favorite part of the exams were the creative options.  I think adding a few of those to the tell-what-you-know variety makes the whole experience more fun!

Tomorrow: my Year 1 and kindergartener's exams!


  1. Wow thank you so much for sharing! Term after term, your exams are so creative, unique & rich! (I do enjoy seeing what others have for exams before i write my own)
    How much time do you spend on exams? A few hours, days...?
    Can't wait to see the Y1 & K kids' exams. God bless!

    1. I let them spread it over four days (Monday through Thursday of exam week) in whatever order they wanted. So they probably worked on it about two hours a day, including both written and oral work. They had no other assigned schoolwork, so the rest of their days were free except for chores and piano practice. :)

  2. I was just trying to get started posting our Y4, Term 1 exam and Y2, Term 1 exam we did 2-3 weeks ago. Fun to see things we will be covering in a few months :-) AND fun to see some new ways of presenting the exam! Great job. I really loved reading Gianna's poetic writing style (with "e'er") LOL. And the way she writes like people spoke aloud ("'cludin'" and "ye") That made it so fun to read! Y'all are doing wonderfully and I appreciate your sharing.

    1. Gianna is a riot. Sometimes I don't know what to do with her! She turns even the most banal questions into a "creative narration." ;)

      We just finished up our Term 3 exams today...the same day I finally get around to posting about Term 2. LOL I don't know why it takes me so long to post these! I even skipped the transcriptions this time (though I did do some for my Y1 student). Anyway, I'm determined to get up the Term 3 exams some time soon...or at least not let three months elapse. ;) Looking forward to seeing yours also, Kristyn!

  3. Can you talk a bit about written narrations? If I understand right this is your kids first year doing written narrations, yet they have done oral ones since Y1. Since they have done so many oral narrations and are probably pretty experienced with it, how did the jump in to/learning curve into written ones work out?

    1. Yes, first year doing oral, but they have been narrating every reading since Y1, so they're experienced. The jump to written narrations went much better than I expected. I thought it would take them some time to get used to the process but they jumped right in. That doesn't surprise me with my daughter--she is a born writer and writes stories in her free time, so I knew she would take to it. My son does not spend free time writing (although he doesn't dislike it), so I wasn't sure how he would do at first. He also has always had difficulty with spelling, although that improved quite a bit in Y3 with my helping him correct his copywork method. But his written narrations have come quite easily and he does a great job also. I was really surprised to see them produce full written pages of work that *made sense* without having ANY writing instruction prior to this. I was kind of amazed really! So the oral narrations DO pave the way for the written ones, for sure. I do set a time limit (10 or 15 minutes, depending on the day), and they just write what they can in that amount of time, then narrate to me the rest. Or sometimes I choose a particular bit I want them to write about, and they focus their written narration on that. So it's going smoothly so far!

    2. Sorry, I meant "first year doing written". That was a bit confusing! :)

    3. Yes, thank you, I was just curious how that jump worked out for you guys. I am eager to see year Y5, Y2 (!!) & Y1 (will you have a kindergartner??) plans for next year. God bless!

    4. My next child meets the state's kindergarten cut-off by three days, so I think we're going to wait to start her until the following fall.

  4. Hi Celeste, I'm rather new to the CM method and have yet to give an exam. I'm trying to write my first one now and think about the process we will go through to complete it. I have two kids in year 4 and two in year 1. I'm just wondering (and maybe this is a silly question for experienced people out there) are the children allowed to look back in their books/notebooks at all when they are completing the exams throughout the week? Or do you let them use whatever resources they want to answer the questions? Also, are they allowed to discuss and do their exams together or do you require that they do not interact when completing the exams? I think many of my CM questions will be answered when I'm finished reading the 6 volume series and I have a bit more experience with this method under my belt but I'm still reading through the series and learning about it. Learning a lot from your blog here too.
    Thanks for your sharing! -Leandra

    1. Hi Leandra! Not silly at all. :) Students are not allowed to look at notes or books for the exam, nor are they allowed to review/cram beforehand. The idea is that we are letting them say what they do remember from the term-long process of narrations. Their answers then become a great guide for us in discerning what areas of our methodology might need to be tweaked or more thoughtfully considered. Generally speaking, students were not allowed to work together on their exams. I have two in the same year, and I know how it can be challenging to separate them when they are so used to doing everything together. :) But the individual feedback you get on each student is so valuable. I have found many things come up in exams, when each student is responsible for his own work, that I haven't noticed during the term when they are narrating together. I hope that makes sense! :)

      If you are looking for more information about CM-style exams, I was on The Mason Jar talking about this very thing a while back:

      I also offered a webinar that gets into more specifics last year, and the recording is available for purchase:

      Hope that helps! Enjoy your exams! :)

  5. Thanks so much, Celeste, for your response. I also listened to the podcast, it was not only informative but encouraging for me. I finally got the exams done and we will do them next week! God bless you. - Leandra