Below is a message I posted to LatinBestPractices and to LatinTeach about my approach to creating vocabulary quizzes at Quia.com. I hope that the comments might be useful to others and that I could get some good advice from other people making use of Quia. :-)
In conjunction with a book of Aesop's fables in Latin soon to be published by Bolchazy-Carducci, I'm preparing some Quia activities and quizzes to go with the book. Basically, I will have two types of Quia materials: vocabulary-focused materials for the most frequently used words in the book (I've finished with these quizzes now), and fable-by-fable materials focused on vocabulary and grammar and reading comprehension (I'm just now getting to work on these). You can find links to all the quizzes here:
Quia Quizzes for Aesop's Fables: Vocabulary
Here are some of the practices I've followed for the VOCABULARY quizzes. I'll post a separate set of notes for the grammar and reading comprehension quizzes as I get to work on those! Meanwhile, it would be great to learn more about how other folks in this list are making use of Quia for vocabulary learning.
FOCUS ON THE FREQUENT. Personally, I am not one to obsess about vocabulary quizzing, but these really are the most frequently used words in the book and/or most frequently used words according to Diederich's The Frequency of Latin Words and Their Endings (1939). In the printed book, the frequently used words are NOT included in the vocabulary word lists for each individual fable, so it will be important for people reading the book to feel confident about these words (plus, they will get good reinforcement from seeing the words actually used in the fables!). So, while I would not normally prepare such a range of quizzes for regular vocabulary, it is worth it, I think, for the words that are truly used frequently.
CONSISTENT LABELING. I'm trying to be very consistent in how I label each activity and quiz so students can see how it all fits together. I've also built a table
showing with rows and columns the different types of quizzes that are available (or will be) . I've linked to this table and also to my website for the book on the opening page of each quiz - I'm not sure how often people will accidentally find their way to my quizzes, but I want them to know what they have stumbled into!
Quiz Opening Page
USE OF HTML. One of the things I love (LOVE) about Quia is being able to prepare my material in text files, and to format it using HTML. To my mind, it makes a huge different to use bold and italics in formatting questions, and also to give students some good whitespace (inserting BR tags inbetween lines of the question and so on). For an example of that, look at the questions which prompt students to supply the infinitive for a verb:
QUIZ ONE THING AT A TIME. Rather than asking students to supply all the principal parts of a verb, or all the forms of an adjective, I focus on one thing at a time. This is both practical (I think students themselves can focus better this way) and also based on linguistic assumptions (I am a big believer in structural linguistics, where pairs of things rule supreme). So, as a matter of convention, I focus on the dictionary headword (nominative singular for nouns, masculine nominative singular for adjectives, first person singular present active indicative for verbs) and then drill from there - students supply the feminine or the neuter for the masculine, the genitive for the nominative, etc. - one thing at a time. You can see how that works out for the different parts of speech here:
REINFORCE LEARNING WHILE QUIZZING. At the same time that I am quizzing one thing (say, the genitive form of a noun), I am also trying to reinforce other learning, so I freely give the English definition on that same screen. Why not? Although I am a Latin purist when it comes to testing grammar and reading comprehension (more on that below), when it comes to vocabulary learning, I do not think it hurts to supply the English at the same time that you are testing forms:
Genitive Form Quiz
STUDENTS SUPPLY THE LATIN. Although the vocabulary is being taught through English definitions, I never have the students actually type English words as the answers! The students do their typing in Latin, not in English.
Frequently Used Nouns
FOCUS ON THE LATIN. On the matching quizzes (which I actually think are really easy AND really valuable - in part because they are very easy), I put the English words on the left, and the Latin words on the right. The result: the students read the Latin words over and over and over again as they search for the answers. It's a simple thing, but it makes a big difference - if instead you put the English words on the right, it means the students are spending their time gazing at the English, instead of repeatedly gazing at the Latin.
IMMEDIATE FEEDBACK. I choose the Quia options that give immediate feedback for each question as correct or incorrect... but without revealing the correct answer. Students can then have an opportunity to try again. The quiz is not meant to be used for assessment, but as a learning tool - the idea is to keep trying until you get it all right. I've got some notes about "quizzes for learning" here:
QUIZZES IN SEQUENCE. Each quiz accomplishes a specific goal, and the quizzes also come in a sequence - how much time a student might spend on a given quiz depends on their own needs, of course. For an explanation of the sequencing of the quizzes, see this description of the sequencing for the Frequently Used Nouns:
Sequence of Quizzes
PARTS OF SPEECH SEPARATE. I am really obsessed with having students study nouns with nouns, adjectives with adjectives, and so on. As a Latin student, I can still remember - over 20 years ago! - being completely annoyed by how you had to learn different "things" for nouns and verbs, but in the dictionary and on our vocabulary lists they were all jumbled together. It drove me crazy! So the quizzes are segregated by the different parts of speech and... with much pleading... I was also able to persuade my editor at Bolchazy-Carducci to organize the vocab lists for each fable by the same principle.
VOCABULARY HINTS. For the "final" quizzes in each sequence, there are two versions of each quiz where students are expected to supply the Latin word in response to the English prompt. The first version has hints, while the second version does not. The hints take all forms - sometimes they mention English derivatives, sometimes they mention Latin derivatives, sometimes they break down the components of the Latin word itself. Often, the hint completely gives the answer away - but that's okay, I think. It falls into the category of reinforcing while learning! Plus I love random bits of culture-through-language and I like the idea of including that idea of wild cultural randomness in the otherwise cut-and-dried world of quizzing.
Nouns - with Hints
Nouns - no Hints
THE LITTLE WORDS. The only thing that makes me really unhappy in vocabulary quizzes is when students learn formulaic translations for Latin words that do not have any real kind of English equivalent, such as enim, quidem, etc. Those are the words I love in Latin, and in the book I was given a lot of encouragement by my editor to share my love of postpositive particles with the world, ha ha. So, I actually created these quizzes for the "Other" words (adverbs and other particles) with considerable reluctance... and to keep students from obsessing about it too much, I added an additional "first letter" hint to the final version of the quiz, just to make it easier for them to figure that when they get the prompt "or" it could be Latin "vel" or it could be Latin "aut" - and the quiz makes that obvious by giving "v" or "a" as the first letter prompt. Still, I continue to feel a bit guilty for having done vocabulary quizzes for this set of vocabulary at all. That's something I hope to remedy by providing some really good supplementary materials at my website about postpositive particles, correlatives, etc. For now, I will just hope that these quizzes on the "little words" in Latin are not doing more harm than good! :-)
Other Words - with Hints
Other Words - first letter as hint
Thoughts...???? I am going to spending a LOT of time at Quia.com in the coming months, and it would be great to get some tips from other people who are Quia fans... or from people who are not Quia fans, so I can try to overcome what people see as Quia's failings! And yes, I'll admit Quia's not perfect... but gosh, it sure is good! :-)