In my first year of teaching I taught the way I was told to teach. Deliver content to my students, assess at the end, remediate if necessary. With that cycle, I always had kids who were behind, who never seemed like they could catch up.
I was talking with a teacher friend the summer after my first year and she suggested something simple. Put a large piece of paper next to the door. Give every student a pack of sticky notes. On the way out the door they could put their thoughts about what they didn't quite get or what they were still having trouble with. They could leave their name or not. Either way it gave valuable insight to how the students were learning but also could help shape the lesson for the next day.
What a difference that made.
The following school years that board became an important place for myself and my students. It provided them a way to tell me what they needed and a place for me to reflect on my teaching and give my students what they needed.
Now, as 1:1 and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) are taking over our schools, its becoming even easier to formatively assess what our students know and for our students to leave feedback as to what they need.
Here are a few sites and apps to help with formative assessments...
Online Sticky Notes-Just like my physical space in my classroom there are lots of virtual sticky note sites out there. Two of my favorites are Wallwisher and Lino. These provide a virtual corkboard for students to leave notes of questions or comments on their learning. They are easy to set up and free. Best part, kids don't have to have an account to leave a note and they can do it any time, anywhere. All they need is the address. (So you don't even have to be a 1:1 classroom or BYOD. The kids could do them from home.)
Backchannels-Hugely popular at conferences and other educational gathering the backchannel provides a way for participants to share in conversation while participating in learning. In the classroom they can be a way for kids to collaborate without shouting across the room. In terms of formative assessments, questions at various points through the lesson could be posted there and kids could respond. My favorite backchannel service is TodaysMeet. Again, simple to set up (all you need is a room name and to decide how long you want the room to be open). Free as well, its available any time, anywhere.
Understood It-A new-to-me service, this one is elegantly simple. The teacher creates an account (for free, 5 questions per month) and gives the students a unique address. Then during the lesson the kids can hit a button to show they understand it or they are confused. The teacher can see the results in real time. The more kids who are confused, the higher the graph. Instant feedback that the teacher can use to change the scope of the lesson.
Poll Everywhere- Another one of my favorites, simply because of the variety of uses and methods of submitting responses. Similar to the others, the teacher can create a simple feedback poll or leave the question open ended. The students can respond via text message, website or even Twitter. Again, the point here is we can capture the feedback from the students using a variety of methods, almost instantly. Another great feature of Poll Everywhere is the data analysis you get. You can export results to create more ways of analyzing data. (Like if the questions are open ended, you could export the results to put them into a Wordle to see what terms are showing up the most.)
Socrative- This one is quickly become a go-to app for formative assessments for me. The teacher creates an account and a room (for, you guessed it, free). Then the students go to the site (either through the app or through a browser), enter the room number and they see a question or a open response question to answer. I like this one a lot because of the variety of choices for questions to answer. One is even called Exit Ticket where kids can quickly summarize what they learned and tell you what they need for tomorrow.
Quick and easy, five tools you can use tomorrow in your classroom to help improve formative assessment.
These certainly aren't all. What are some of your favorite sites or apps to help with formative assessment in your classroom? Do you have a suggestion about formative assessments? Leave some feedback below.