Multiple Approaches to Monitoring Student Understanding
In research conducted on closing the achievement gap between racial and ethnic groups, studies found that almost half of African American and Latino students indicate that they understand the lesson about half the time, or less. The same is true for between one-quarter and one third of Asian American and white students. African American and Latino students also reported less understanding of the processes being taught and less comprehension of assigned reading materials.
How can teachers check for students’ understanding throughout every lesson? Teachers can actively engage students in monitoring strategies that require them to do something to illustrate their understanding. Teacher repertoires should include a wide spectrum of monitoring techniques that support students’ learning styles, culture, and background experiences.
Hand signals are used to rate or indicate students’ understanding of content. Students can show anywhere from five fingers to signal maximum understanding to one finger to signal minimal understanding. Thumbs up indicates, “I understand and can explain;” thumbs sideways means, “I am not completely sure;” and thumbs down signals, “I do not yet understand.” This strategy requires engagement by all students and allows the teacher to check for understanding within a large group.
Index cards, signs, whiteboards, magnetic boards, or other items are simultaneously held up by all students in class to indicate their response to a question or problem presented by the teacher. Using response devices, the teacher can easily note the responses of individual students while teaching the whole group. Additionally, response cards allow for participation by the whole class and not just a few students who raise their hands.
A quick and easy snapshot of student understanding, Four Corners provides an opportunity for student movement, while permitting the teacher to monitor and assess understanding. The teacher poses a question or makes a statement. Students then move to the appropriate corner of the classroom to indicate their response to the prompt. The corner choices might include "I strongly agree," to "I strongly disagree" to "in between."
Students take a few minutes to think about the question or prompt. Next, they pair with a designated partner to compare thoughts before sharing with the whole class.
Students mark text to identify a particular concept and chime in, reading the marked text aloud in unison with the teacher. This strategy helps students develop fluency; differentiate between the reading of statements and questions; and practice phrasing, pacing and reading dialogue. It helps students learn how a character’s emotions are captured through vocal stress and intonation.
One Question Quiz
One specific focused question with a specific goal that can be answered within a minute or two. Teachers can quickly scan the written responses to assess student understanding.
Students ask questions of one another about an essential question, topic, or selected text. The questions initiate a conversation that continues with a series of responses and additional questions. Students learn to formulate questions that address issues to facilitate their own discussion and arrive at a new understanding.
Students consider what they have learned by responding to the following prompt at the end of the lesson: 3: Things that they learned today; 2: Things they want to know more about; and 1: Questions they have. The prompt stimulates student reflection on the lesson and helps to process the learning.
Ticket Out the Door Students write in response to a specific prompt for a short period of time. Teachers collect their responses as a “ticket out the door” to check for students’ understanding of a concept taught. This exercise quickly generates multiple ideas that could be turned into longer pieces of writing at a later time.
Students write their reflections on a lesson, such as what they learned, what caused them difficulty, strategies they found helpful, or other lesson-related topics. Students can reflect on and process lessons. By reading student journals, teachers can identify class and individual misconceptions and successes.
Formative Pencil–Paper Assessment
Students respond individually to short, pencil–paper formative assessments of skills and knowledge taught in the lesson. Teachers may elect to have students self-correct. The teacher collects assessment results to monitor individual student progress and to inform future instruction. Both student and teacher can quickly assess whether the student acquired the intended knowledge and skills. This is a formative assessment, so a grade is not the intended purpose.
Last Updated: 3/31/2009