Checking for Understanding

As we teach it is imperative that we check-in with our students both to gain understanding of their progress in learning but also to inform our future lessons. There are a number of ways in which we can check for understanding. We do this through developing effective classroom discussions, questions, and learning tasks that elicit evidence of learning. Effective questions either: a) cause students to think OR b) provide teachers with information about what to do next.

Initiation-Response-Evaluation (IRE) questions Teacher asks the question, student responds, and the teachers evaluates the student response

Pose-Pause-Pounce-Bounce Teacher asks the question, waits, chooses a student, and without evaluating moves on to ask another student for their answer.

“I’ll get back to you” Teacher asks a question, waits, chooses a student who then says she doesn’t know, asks another student who responds but does not evaluate the response, asks a third student and a fourth and then returns to the first student and gets them to choose the best answer and tell why.

Getting back to them. Teacher asks a question, waits, chooses a student who then says she doesn’t know, asks another student who responds and then evaluates the response. Then returns to the first student and re-asks the question. Continues to go back and forth until the first student can respond fully. Humorously praises the second student each time.

“Phone a friend” Teacher asks, student doesn’t know. Teacher provides opportunity to get help from another student.

“Ask the audience” Teacher asks, student doesn’t know. Teacher provides opportunity to get help from the class.

“Go fifty-fifty” Teacher asks, student doesn’t know. Teacher removes all but two answers and re-asks the question.

“Think-Pair-Share” Teacher makes a statement and gives time for each student to think of an answer, then has student to share their answer with a classmate and then has each pair share their ‘best’ answer with the class.

“Question shells” (Is? Why?). Teachers move from questions that require ‘yes’ or ‘no’ responses to questions that require higher level thinking.

“Hot seat & Summary” Teacher asks a student a question and then follows up with series of additional questions. Then the teacher asks another student to summarize what the first student said.

“Thinking thumbs” all students respond to a question by thumbs up (yes), thumbs down (no), or thumb sideways (not sure).

“Fist to five” all students respond to a question by holding up a fist (zero), one finger (1) …….. five fingers (5) to indicate their response.

“ABCD cards” All students respond by holding up cards that show the correct answer(s). We have class sets in the Learning Hub!

“Letter corners” When students use ABCD cards and each letter is chosen by at least three students, the students are sent to the four corners of the room to come up with ways to convince the rest of the class that their answer is correct.

“Mini-white boards” Students have a surface upon which they write their answer and when signaled, all student raise their answers. This can be done on laminated pieces of white paper or iPads.

“Exit slips” Each student is required to write an answer on a card and put their name on the back. Teacher uses responses to plan instruction for next class and to rearrange seating to maximize learning. Find some examples here!

“Entrance slips” Teacher begins the class with a question posted on the board. Upon entering the room students are expected to sit quietly, take a sheet of paper, and respond to the question. Responses can diagnose class-wide or individual difficulties and, if the class is carefully planned, the slips can be reviewed during class and lead to instructional changes.

Tools to help:

  • Socrative– Online tool (web and app) that allows you to create, store and deliver quizzes
  • Google Forms
  • Plickers– Plickers lets you poll your class for free, without the need for student devices. Just give each student a card (a “paper clicker”), and use your iPhone to scan them to do instant checks-for-understanding, exit tickets, and impromptu polls. Best of all, your data is automatically saved, student-by-student, at plickers.com.
  • Jeopardy-jeopardy_template1Jeopardy Template2

Here is another great resource for ways to check for student understanding.

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