As a teacher, I spend April Fools’ Day getting pokes and slaps on the back hard enough to send me into a fit, and I’m not supposed to notice. As I go about my business handing out paper and pencils for our weekly dictation, I hear little whispers, ignore muffled laughs, and notice conspiring eyes throughout the room. In keeping with the French tradition of poisson d’avril, students write notes on fish-shaped paper cut-outs and surreptitiously stick them on the backs of others, so I’m beginning to look like a human fish tree. One note read, “Made in China”.
After dictation, I hand out a second piece of paper and tell the kids to read all the questions before starting. These are francophone students in an English class, so I tell them that these are very simple instructions designed to evaluate their ability to understand simple English directions, and even if it’s super easy, they should still complete the test. You know where this is going, I know, but I couldn’t help myself.
It was the old classic:
#1: Read all the questions before beginning the test.
#2-6: Random instructions about drawing shapes in certain corners, underlining this or that. You know the kind.
#7: Now that you have finished reading the test, only do question #1.
In one of my high school classes, we just finished reading A Midsummer Night’s Dream, so I drew up a list of questions for an open-book pop quiz. No one caught on that I never, I repeat, never give pop quizzes, and I told them so at the beginning of the year.
Again, the first instruction was to read the whole test before beginning to write. The last question was, “Copy any verse from Act V, Scene 1, and do not complete any other question. Rather, work on your assignment that is due for next week.”
At first I wondered how long I should let this go considering we’re using precious in-class time. Then I thought to myself that the questions were good review of what we had learned, so it wasn’t a loss.
Every single student was busy answering review questions from the play.
And this was after I told them twice to read all the questions first, AND after I read the test instructions out loud to them, AND after I listed reasons why they should read it first (jogs your memory so that when you get to the question again, your brain has already been activated…easier to answer…blah blah blah). On second thought, maybe it was the monotonous blah-blah-blah that made them tune me out.
I’m not sure I’m anxious for next year’s poisson d’avril. I have the feeling I’ll get smoked. Yikes!