Launching Your Teaching Career - Part 5 - Wise Assessment
Sep 15, 2009 Lesson Planning 2859 Views
Teaching that meets the learning needs of each student requires enormous amounts of reflection and being attuned to students. These lead to adjustments in lessons, modifications in strategies, a group approach with one student or one-on-one interaction with others. While outsiders may think that teachers just chug along with teach, test, grade, teach new stuff, test new stuff, grade new stuff, and on and on, true teachers who care about the achievement of each child take a different track.
Excellent teachers determine the concept(s) of the lesson, design learning goals and objectives to meet proficiency with each concept, then teach a little, monitor and adjust based on student reaction to instruction, check for understanding, then adjust again. This check and recheck takes place throughout the lesson so that no child is left behind (what an interesting idea!) How does all of this monitoring and checking take place? These happen with a teacher who is deeply cued to the strengths of her students, the areas that may be tough for some to grasp, and engagement techniques that draw every little brain into the lesson.
To unite this style with your teaching you will need some techniques for checking for understanding that provide quick, accurate feedback on what students know and can do and where they need additional support. One format is the 5-2-1. Teach/lecture for five minutes (chalkboard or kitchen timers are essential for this). Then allow a two minute debrief - questions, problems, responses on dry erase boards, quick writes in a notebook or on a note card. During these two minutes, you are checking for understanding, reading responses, and quickly responding to questions. The last minute is whole class or small group discussion based on the questions: What did we just learn? How does this fit into past instruction? What items were confusing? Reflective questions on what was just taught and learned guide your time here. You now have a clear idea as to where the lesson moves next: whole class review/re-teach; small group review/re-teach; independent practice; forge ahead.
Dry erase boards provide space for students to quickly write answers and then show them to you so that you can determine who "gets it" and who does not. Students of all ages enjoy dry erase boards though you rarely see them in use at the secondary level. Students can also respond to questions on notepaper or a note card so that you can check understanding and make necessary adjustments.
Moving around the room is another assessment technique. It is most interesting how your proximity to a student influences participation and quality of response. It is important that students know you care about them as you supervise their learning. They learn more because of your concern for them.
Exit passes or quick writes are a convenient way to check understanding. Ask a question, have students respond on a note card or have the students write questions they have about the learning. Scanning these reveals much about what students know and where they may be struggling. You can also use an entry ticket technique by handing each student a note card as they enter the room on which they respond to a question that is already written on the board. The board response question is designed to activate the learning from yesterday and prepare the brain for the instruction of today.
Of course there are many more formal assessment methods: multiple choice or true false tests, fill-in-the-blank tests, short responses, and essays or performances and products. Most often these are used at the end of instruction for a grade. The positive: you have a letter or percentage to record in the grade book. The drawback: if students are confused and receive poor marks, they have not learned what you need them to know. While an F or 20% is a grade, unfortunately an essential has been forgotten - student learning. When you have checked for understanding throughout instruction, re-taught or reviewed as needed, students possess the skills necessary for success when it comes to grade/assessment time.
Keep samples of student work to inform your lessons coming up and to remind you of successes and pitfalls in the future. Excellent papers reflect good learning; struggling disasters give you clues for adjusting future instruction to help every learner. Wise assessment that is used for designing the next teaching steps means every child has a chance to achieve, a positive motivator for future learning.