Shawn L. Bird

Original poetry, commentary, and fiction. All copyrights reserved.

poem-instructions January 25, 2017

Filed under: Poetry — Shawn L. Bird @ 10:41 am
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

So much difficulty

is avoided

when we read the instructions.

If you don’t know what is asked

why do you try

to answer?



I’m marking exams at the moment and astonished at how often answers in no way reflect the question asked.


12 Responses to “poem-instructions”

  1. Bibishan Says:

    Marking exams is one way to see how people are different and so is their level of understanding among others. I am curious about the questions and answers now. 🙂

    • 42 multiple choice basic reading comprehension, 40 marks for comparing specific features of a pair of civilizations and identifying which you’d prefer to live in and why (4X10 marks), finally 10 marks for a composition identifying 3 most important features of civilization to them and with those in mind, explaining which of the 8 we studied they’d prefer to live in and why. 80% of the test requires higher order thinking.

      • Bibishan Says:

        And if I may ask, can you also please share some answers (in brief) which didn’t reflect the question? (if that is possible). Thanks.

      • All right, the composition question was “In a well structured paragraph, identify 3 features of a civilization that you value, and with that criteria in mind, explain which civilization you would like to live in, and why. Rubric: Identify 3 features 3 marks, Connection to a civilization 3 marks, structure and organization of paragraph 2 marks, spelling, grammar, punctuation 2 marks.” (i.e. the students know EXACTLY how it will be assessed).

        FYI- The 8 features we looked at in a variety of civilizations: central government, organized religion, organized commerce, public works, knowledge transfer, arts and culture, social structure, and technological innovation.

        Problematic issues were of these types:
        1. Answering on different pages in short answer or point form instead of in one paragraph.
        2. Discussing generally 3 civilizations, instead of explaining how one civilization shows 3 features that the individual values.
        3. Identifying-defining 3 features, but not using examples from a civilization or identifying a civilization they’d live in.
        4. Raving about how great a civilization is without identifying any of the specific features of civilization being looked for.

      • Bibishan Says:

        “short attention span” I guess among students. In addition, length of the question might have confused them ( I am pretty sure there were other questions in the test as well). Very good question though. Do you teach history or Social science? 🙂

      • That’s Humanities- English and Social Studies for 12 year olds.

  2. colonialist Says:

    The other cardinal sin is not reading to the end of the question. This can be solved by an exercise in one of the trial exams, where after asking for an essay on X in some detail, it ends up saying that what has gone before is to be ignored, and an essay on Y is to be written. Or, for full marks for that segment, a blank page is to be left. THAT gets it across!

  3. […] via poem-instructions — Shawn L. Bird […]

  4. I love it! I remember hearing stories about teachers who would give a test with directions that said to only answer the first or last question and to leave the rest blank. How many kids do you think read those directions? Almost none! I would probably have done the same thing, but I’m a directions reader now and also a rule follower, so I guess there’s hope for kids who don’t read directions.

  5. I have learned this, very well, and not just with regard to technical items.

  6. erbiage Says:

    this happens at my job all the time….

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