As I wrote about in my first post Reflections on How We Teach Gemara, I believe strongly that the primary assessment in a Gemara class should be reading assessments. Personally, I prefer giving the reading quizzes while sitting one on one with each student. I believe this forces each student to be more accountable for the material, prevents students from embarrassment in front of the entire class, and helps to build the individual relationship with each student. However, this poses tremendous challenges: how can a class function while the teacher is sitting one on one with individual students? Isn’t it very time-consuming to sit with each student?
Through a system of trial and error over the past four years, I have developed an effective system for using the time productively. Every time I give a reading quiz (approximately every other week), I assign a project on the same material. Each project covers the Gemara that appears on the reading quiz and all outside material that would typically appear on a test.
The project generally requires significant time to produce and is due at the end of the period. In our school we have double Gemara periods (40 minutes each), so they typically have an hour and twenty minutes to work on the project. [In larger classes it often takes 3-4 periods to finish the reading quizzes, in which case they have even more time to work on the project.] If the project takes longer than the class-time provided to produce (e.g. a video project), students still must submit a rough draft at the end of the period. They receive a progress grade on the rough draft submission.
Since students are obligated to submit their work at the end of class they are motivated to work the entire period. For this reason, it is generally easy to stay focused on the reading quizzes and not have to manage the room.
This year in my junior class, I required the students to create a website and each submission is posted onto the website. Here are three websites created by students in my class: