When I was a BTSA* mentor a few years ago, part of the assessment phase of the operation was the collection of what they call artifacts. These are pieces of evidence from the classroom for all the platitudes we spew on the forms. These would be things like quizzes and tests and project assignments, as well as student work in response to these things.

I offer, for your consideration tonight, the following artifact. (You like that nod to Rod Serling?) I will withhold my comments, including my reasons for withholding my comments. However, I REALLY want to see what you have to say. REALLY.

Just a bit of background: This was a test for an advanced 7th grade English class who had just finished Tom Sawyer. Seventh. Grade. They had one period in which to complete it. This is real.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Final Essay Exam

Respond to ONE of the following prompts with a complete essay:

1) Reread Twain’s “Author’s Preface” and his “Conclusion.” How do these short pieces help a reader read the novel well?  How do they serve as clues that might guide a reader toward a meaningful reading of the work, guide him or her away from a superficial reading? Support with evidence and explanation.

2) In Keith Neilson’s “Afterword,” which is included at the end of our edition, he asserts that “Tom Sawyer is, first and last and always, a fun book” (235). Argue against this claim. Support with evidence and explanation.

3) In the final paragraph of chapter 28, Huck seems ambivalent (unclear on his position) about his view of Uncle Jake, and apparently of blacks in general. Briefly summarize his opposing views. It should be clear to Huck that racist policies promoting hatred and discrimination are wrong because he has evidence /first hand experience showing that a whole race of people can’t be accurately labeled and judged–he knows good-hearted slaves. Why is it not clear to him, and what does his ambivalence show about the morals and ethics of the entire society? Support all statement/ideas with specific evidence and complete explanation (circle back to statement as you explain).

EXTRA! EXTRA! You may earn extra points if you include within your argument on one of the prompts above valid ideas on how Twain’s book, written in the American realist period, 1865-1910, highlights the tension between opposing philosophies of two previous eras: neoclassicism and romanticism.

Your thoughts?

*Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment – These days, all new teachers in California have to go through two years of someone like me observing them and hounding them to do useless paperwork and “supporting” them before they can clear their credential. I did three years “supporting” two different teachers. We all felt my strength was in the circumvention of most of the paperwork.