A professor in one of my college French classes was on loan from the Sorbonne. He was great, but caused so much fear during testing, I didn’t do as well as I could. I remembered him when I began teaching. I knew I didn’t want to recreate the testing experience I had endured. There’s a mountain of vocabulary words and grammar to learn and test in a foreign language class. But nowhere is it written it has to be done in one sitting.
Several times each week, I gave my students a little quiz. They were little physically, (we used old printer paper ripped into four pieces) and short (only five questions, with a bonus at times). Since they were small, frequent and only worth five points (a chapter test was 100 points), they were low stress. Students prepared for them daily because they knew they were coming.
If they blew a quiz, it wasn’t devastating to their grade because it wasn’t weighted heavily. Again, this lowered stress. If a student was absent the day before, I required him to take the quiz anyway. This way, when someone was out, he looked online or called a classmate and found out the homework. Students were usually prepared for the quiz despite being absent.
By giving these vocabulary and grammar quizzes frequently, students studied throughout the chapter, instead of waiting until the day before a test. This meant they were better prepared and only needed to review the night before in order to do well. Stress was reduced, and they were better able to perform during a test.
It’s easier for a teacher to record lots of little quizzes than it is to remediate when students do poorly on big tests.