Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Regular Formative Assessments Dramatically Improve Overall Performance

The regular use of informal assessments throughout a lesson is a must if students are to fully grasp the content of any lesson.  This type of checking goes far beyond the simple act of a teacher asking a general question of the class with the usual 2 or 3 answering.  For students to feel confident in their ability to complete homework tasks based on a lesson, the teacher must include regular and varied methods of assessing student understanding.  With the feedback from such activities, the teachers can identify and support those who are still struggling, provide the accelerated students with slightly more challenging work, and send those who have grasped the key points to other activities which provide deeper insight into the subject matter.

For English language learners, time spent here makes a world of difference in building their confidence to complete homework assignments.  Some formative assessments here can be ones completed as a group (structured cooperative learning groups where language support is built in so ELLs can learn the content as well as develop English language skills).  Peers have amazing communication skills when explaining concepts to each other.  Further, since this is an activity with peers, ELL anxiety levels are lowered.  Here there is no fear of embarrassment in front of the entire class.  Other formative assessments can be done on a individual basis.  One good one is the exit ticket.  I use 3 X 5 index cards for my students here.  I write 2 or 3 questions on the white board covering key ideas from the lesson.  If the student can answer them correctly, he has grasped the main idea of the lesson.  I also like the 3 X 5 card because the size is not intimidating and I have never encountered a student who couldn't write something in those 3 minutes.  If multiple classes are involved (ex. 5 English 10 classes), make the index cards different colors.  Formative assessments are also a must before major assessments are given.  In doing so, students are better prepared to take the summative assessment. 

FORMATIVE ASSESSMENTS  In this article, you will find more information on the importance of providing many informal assessments in class.  You will also find some additional forms of summative assessments.  Typically, these checks-for-understanding should be given every 3-7 minutes within a class period.  If students are lost based on poor results, teachers must go back and reteach.  If instruction is conducted this way, students will be fully prepared to tackle homework successfully.



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