Going crazy trying to keep up with quizzing students over all these independent novels, I've found a way to quiz, ensuring students are reading, while avoiding the task of writing seven different quizzes each weak. It's the open-ended quiz. My neighbor Matt Taylor (Ridge Point HS) and my good friend Glenys McMennamy (Clements HS) helped me develop some questions that fit any situation.
Questions to Ask on Generic Quizzes
1. Which one of these poetry quotes connects most strongly to your book so far? Explain.
A. “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” (Elizabeth Barrett Browning)
B. “Water, water, every where,/And all the boards did shrink;/Water, water, every where,/Nor any drop to drink.” (“Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” Coleridge)
C. “When can their glory fade?/O the wild charge they made!/All the world wonder’d./Honour the charge they made!/Honour the Light Brigade,/Noble six hundred!” (“Charge of the Light Brigarde,” Tennyson)
D. “My little horse must think it queer/To stop without a farmhouse near/Between the woods and frozen lake/The darkest evening of the year.” (“Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening,” Robert Frost)
2. To your protagonist, what would be the worst outcome of the plot? Explain.
3. Motif (or motive) is defined in A Handbook to Literature as “recurrent images, words, objects, phrases or actions that tend to unify the work.” Motif is often associated with leitmotif which “tends to unify a work through its power to recall earlier occurrences.”
Select a reoccurring symbol or motif. Describe its use in the work and how it has affected meaning.
4. Which poem we read in class best resembles your book in content, tone, or theme? Explain.
5. Assume the role of your protagonist’s psychologist, what is your diagnosis and recommended therapy. Why?
6. According to A Handbook to Literature, a conflict is “the struggle that grows out of the interplay of two opposing forces.” One of these opposing forces “is usually a person.” What character seems to be generating the most conflict for your character at this point in the novel?
7. Which of the following quotes best describes your protagonist at this point in the story? Explain why.
A. “You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. I hope someday you'll join us. And the world will live as one.”
― John Lennon
B. “The fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.”
― Bertrand Russell
C. “Our doubts are traitors,
and make us lose the good we oft might win,
by fearing to attempt.”
― William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure
D. “If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.”
― Maya Angelou
8. If you were a character in this work, who would you be and why?
9. If your character were you today, what would they do differently?
10. Analyze your main character’s relationship with his family and friends.
11. Author Katherine Mansfied says, “How hard it is to escape from places. However carefully one goes they hold you — you leave little bits of yourself fluttering on the fences — like rags and shreds of your very life.” Explain how this quote affects the characters in your novel.
12. Who is the sanest person in this book? Explain why.
13. So far in the novel, how has the protagonist lied to himself and why?
14. How does the author use the protagonist as a device for social criticism?
15. Compare the conflict (or social criticism) of a poem we’ve read to the conflict (or social criticism) examined in the novel? Compare and contrast the different philosophical outlooks of the poet and the author.
16. If the protagonist of your novel was re-cast as an antagonist, who or what would the character be working against and why?
17. Authors frequently play with time and revealing details to add suspense through non-chronological storytelling and flashbacks. Choose one essential scene from your novel and discuss how moving its placement in the novel would substantially alter the work as a whole.
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I teach AP English Literature and dual-credit English at Ridge Point High School in Missouri City, Texas.