As I watched my sons play a new video game the other day, it occurred to me that maybe the problem isn't that we are assessing students too much, it's that we are assessing them too little. Look at gaming environments. Players are constantly being assessed, challenged, and tested. They adjust and maneuver or crash and/or die. Then they get back up and begin the process all over again. It's demanding but the gamers are resilient.
I have often wondered how this type of learning could be transfered to the literature classroom. An obvious possibility would be to create time periods or even particular settings so that students could experience them first hand. Imagine going into the house from Poe's "The Black Cat" and interacting with the characters. I am not sure what the "game" would be - stop the murder, find the body, or even attempt to throw a dead cat through the window? What fun! My parent/teacher conferences would be standing room only. While this may be taking it a bit too far, there are many possibilities here. Grammar, though, is another story altogether.
Or is it?
What was happening on the screen of my son's game was extremely far from any way I would think to teach grammar. It seemed ludicrous to envision a similar method to use. After all, the thought of a "Grammar Land" is far more horrifying to me than any Poe story. But what if we borrowed the continuous assessment aspect of the gaming model, not the graphics? Take the workbook model (more horror!) and make it interactive, level based, and have it provide immediate feedback.
For example, give the students one thought or topic (a type of noun for instance) and then begin the assessment with many examples and immediate feedback. Continue until they have mastered the "level" and move on. Let them learn by making mistakes in an environment that allows them to happen with little consequence and give them a chance to perfect it. It seems as if something similar could be set up in other areas of literature (vocabulary, etc.) and in most subjects.
Can this be a creative and engaging way to learn or is it just an electronic version of the workbook? I'll have to experiment with it over the summer. In the meantime, I need to go help my kids finish their homework - a couple of pages in their workbooks.