Do They Get It?
A few months ago, I shared an article on checking for understanding in a 1:1 classroom. Because there are many classrooms that do not have aa assessment device for every student, I wanted to share some other ideas for how to check whole groups of students to see if they are understanding the content and confident in their learning.
We know the usefulness of guiding our instruction through this feedback from students, and because of this, it is critical to have many “tools in the tool belt” for how to do it. Here are some assessment tools that can be used without a device in each student’s hand—if you don’t already have these tools, you should explore utilizing them in your classroom:
- Tweet It: for a concise review, recap, or evaluation for students, have them create a tweet about the topic. If possible, students could actually tweet with a school or classroom hashtag. Because it is so short, it’s a quick way to see if students understood the concept.
- Two-Five Word Definition: This is like the tweet, but even shorter. Students have to define the word or concept using only two to five words. This helps with vocabulary building and being concise in their writing.
- Snowball Fight: After the tweet or the definition, students can take their writing, wad it up into a ball, and throw it—making an in-room “snowball fight.” After a few throws, the students can each pick up a snowball and read it. This allows both the student and the teacher to assess for understanding. The students can ask themselves “Is this answer like mine? Does it make sense?”
- The Gallery Walk/Streaming Gallery: Students can demonstrate learning through a paragraph, drawing, or even a short answer to a question. The teacher can then post these responses around the room and allow the students to circulate through the room like an art gallery. This can also work in reverse if the teacher has access to a Mimio Document Camera. The teacher can collect all the work and display it a few seconds at a time on the IWB at the front of the room. This is like a streaming picture gallery, so all students can see all the others answers.
- Four Corners: This is another easy activity that not only checks for understanding, but also allows students to be up and moving around the classroom. The teacher can place any kind of indicator in each corner of the room—for example, the letters A, B, C, D for multiple choice questions, or different characters’ names to define different character traits. As the teacher asks for the response, students move to the corner of the room that they agree with as a correct response. Teachers can use simple, lower level answers or higher level questions like “Which character would be most likely to take a risk? Fall in love? Change their mind?”
- Fist to Five: This is a simple visual to check for all students' understanding and how they are learning. Students hold up their hand with a number held up: a fist for “I don’t understand,” five fingers for “I totally understand,” and any number in between for various levels of understanding. Students could also give a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” if it is a simple yes/no check.
- Sticky Notes: This is another quick one because students cannot write much on a sticky note. Students can share answers or even ask probing questions through the notes. Like the gallery walk, students can visually see the responses from the other students. This can also be used to create graphs and charts in the classroom—students can “post” their level of comfort or understanding about some content, then chart it all on the wall from 1–5 in a column chart (use the “fist to five” check for understanding or just have them write it on the note). The teacher and students can see at a glance how ready the group is to move on. Teachers with Mimio technology can physically post the notes on their Touch Board to categorize and visually represent even deeper learning.
- Stand Up If You Know It: Another very simple check is to have students display visually if they know an answer. This can be as simple as standing up (or sitting down) if they know the answer. Again, this is a very quick visual for how many in the class feel like they know an answer to a question or prompt. The teacher can call on individuals to check to see if they are accurate in their thinking.
This list is just the start to how teachers can assess for student understanding. By monitoring understanding and learning, teachers can adapt instruction to help meet the needs of the whole group of learners.