My remedial reading students at the community college had their mid-term exam last week. I’ve been moaning and groaning since last Wednesday trying to get the exams graded. I’ve mentioned that the department changed the course; not so much the curriculum, but the method we are using to bring these students up to college-level reading skills. We’ve tweaked things some since the fall semester and made the mid-term more difficult. So far I’ve seen mostly low C’s, a few F’s, and one B. Not promising.
The course I’m teaching is the second in the series, yet these students are not reliably able to find the main idea of a paragraph or to make inferences about what they’ve read. Those very basic skills used to be covered in the first course and in the past I spent most of my time working on higher-level college reading skills and study strategies. It seems now that students are coming to me without those basic abilities which makes me wonder what in the world they’re doing for the first semester of the course.
Anyway, Lynne recently shared some funny student responses to math test questions. Most of them were very creative and showed that the student had a bright mind, but maybe just forgot to study for the test. It occurred to me that you might like a look at the work my students are doing. I’d like to think their answers are funny and show creative thinking, but I’m afraid not.
The mid-term was based on a short article about nutrition and students were expected to read the article and use particular strategies that they’d been taught to help them understand what they’d read. There were also questions to guide their reading that required them to find the main idea of certain paragraphs and to make inferences about the meaning of particular passages. Every single student got this question wrong:
The text reads: “Recent research shows that our food choices rival transportation as a human activity with the greatest impact on the environment. By 2020, people in developing countries will consume more than 39 kg of meat per person each year – twice as much as they did in the 1980’s. The people in industrial countries such as the United States will still consume the most meat – 100 kg a year – the equivalent of a side of beef, 50 chickens, and one pig each.”
Students were asked to explain in their own words what the italized sentence means. Some responses:
- “Our food choices make us how we act and how much energy we have.”
- “People who are competing for the same thing can have an impact on the environment.”
- “It means that we ask for so much food that we will need more deliveries of it in bigger quantities.”
- “We eat food that we can get to that is close to us.”
- “It means that consuming more food in the future is going to be a result of people being more active than before.”
- “People eat while on the go and don’t take time to eat a good nutrient meal. It is also easy to transport food.”
- “Since foods are easier to transport people are eating more meats than ever before.”
- “Food is competing with us, it lowers us in.”
- “We can’t walk long enough because we are to fat. So now in stores they have electronic carts to help these people get around. Not a good thing.”
Can you hear me moaning and groaning? And screaming?!? I shouldn’t make fun, but they are clueless.
I don’t think this question, or the article as a whole, was very difficult. What do you think? Can you find any correct responses? Am I just being too tough?