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Alternative Assessments Add Dimension to English Curriculum
alternative assessment

Many Bolles middle and upper school teachers planned alternative assessments for the 2020-21 mid-term in lieu of more traditional, cumulative exams. The trend has been ongoing in independent school circles for the past several years – particularly in the realms of English, History/Social Studies and language study – and students seem to respond well to the challenge. What are alternative assessments? Let’s look to the Bolles English Department for examples. Faculty planned many engaging, successful lessons before the holidays, and we are proud to share a sampling of them.

On the Bolles Upper School San Jose Campus, English Chair Pamela Clubb said faculty provided a variety of alternative assessments for students last semester. Teachers Mike Mulvey and  Steven Stam designed a project based on the documentary, “Social Dilemma.” Beth Curran and Laura Lane both challenged students with writing projects while Dawn Roland and Clubb pursued a project using digital technology. A Portable Life Museum was the focus of Anna Jacobson’s alternative assessment while Jeff Creter focused on presentations and public speaking. Marie Kervin and Janet Robinson based their projects on a presentation with a film and written component.

Middle school alternative assessments provide more insight into some of the concepts and challenges faculty designed for their students.

Deborah Carney, English Lead Teacher on the Bolles Middle School Bartram Campus, explained some of the finer points of students’ projects. Sixth graders, for example, read “The Giver” during the 3rd quarter. Their alternative assessment was to choose a symbol and theme from the book that represented a part of Jonas’s journey. Students wrote an essay as evidence and then created a visual representation of their chosen symbol.

In Grade 7, faculty focused on character analysis for the book, “The Outsiders.”  “To help them prepare for their essay, students worked together to create a body biography, which required them to dig a little deeper in their understanding of the character's personality and actions. Their final project was their visual interpretation of their character, including facts, quotes and connections.”

Eighth graders completed multi-tasked projects centering on the theme of “Who Am I?”  Each student conducted a personal interview with someone special, at least a generation older, to learn more about this person and their connections. Students presented a summary of their interviews in class or on Flipgrid. All students wrote essays with a choice of topics: words matter, a pivotal moment, or real world connections to the novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Most students completed a fine arts component: writing poetry, producing paintings incorporating relevant quotes or identity collages.