Introducing The Formative Assessment Deep Dive: Take It And Try It!

Formative Assessment Deep Dive Blog BannerFinding teaching resources online can often feel like a scavenger hunt. Even when searching one particular area of teaching, there are videos here, blogs there, and various conversations floating around social media. With such a variety of resources, it can take a great deal of time to learn in a progression that makes sense.

Teaching Channel just made this searching and learning so much easier with their new Deep Dives! On one page, dedicated to one idea, you can read background information, watch related videos, read blog posts, and ask and answer questions. It’s a one-stop shop for learning individually or as a team, as well as planning professional development for your school or district.

I’m excited to be leading the Deep Dive on Formative Assessment. Learning where students are in their thinking is something I’m really passionate about, and an area in which I want to engage with others in conversation. For that reason, in addition to having all of your formative assessment needs in one place, we’re adding a Take it & Try it section.

As part of Take It & Try It, I’ll be posting a formative assessment idea each month for all of us to try and report back on. I’ll be in the Q&A section, too — responding to those who’ve tried the activity or who have questions before they get started. I’ll also be available on Twitter for follow-up conversations.

So here’s my very first Take it and Try it activity for the beginning of your school year:

Formative Assessment: Talking Points

There’s no time like the beginning of the school year to get to know our students!
Take It & Try It
One activity I’ve found extremely valuable for understanding how my students feel about themselves as learners at the beginning of the year, is Talking Points. I was first introduced to Talking Points through Elizabeth’s blog and absolutely fell in love with the activity in my classroom.

During the first week of school, try Talking Points with your students to learn how they view themselves as learners and begin building a community in your classroom from the very start.

Here are the basic steps to get you started:

  1. Arrange students in groups of 3-4.
  2. Give each group a paper with these statements:
    • When I make a mistake, it means I am bad at something.
    • We learn better together.
    • Some people are born smart and others are not.
    • If I can do my work fast, it means I’m good at it.
  3. In their groups, students take turns explaining whether they Agree, Disagree, or are Unsure about the statement. They do this in three rounds:
    • 1st Round: Each student takes a turn saying Agree, Disagree, or Unsure with their explanation.
    • 2nd Round: Each student goes around again, but this time they can change their mind.
    • 3rd Round: Students tally the number of people in their group who Agree, Disagree or are Unsure.
  4. When someone in the group is answering, everyone else is listening. No one comments on another’s reasoning.
  5. Take the opportunity to walk around and listen to how your students view learning.
  6. Debrief as a class to establish a culture of learning together.

For a more detailed example of how this looked in my math class, you can visit these posts. If you don’t teach math, no worries, I can definitely see this activity adapted across all content areas. Here are some examples for various content areas:

  • In ELA, as you’re reading a novel, design talking points around character traits, predictions about what will happen next in the story, text structures, or the author’s writing decisions.
  • In Science, design talking points that involve students’ hypotheses, common misunderstandings you see students typically having, or statements that are only sometimes scientifically true.
  • In Social Studies, design talking points that ask students to relate past events to current ones, decide if past decisions were good or bad through their eyes, or interesting points about influential historical figures.
  • In any content area, think about misunderstandings students typically have around an upcoming unit of study and create a set of talking points around those ideas. It’s a great way to find out where students are before beginning a unit. Bringing those same points back at the end of the unit is fun to do, too.

After you’ve tried them out, head to our Formative Assessment Q&A section to ask questions, talk about what you learned, or discuss how we can use this activity within our content areas. You can always reach me on Twitter as well. I look forward to chatting with you about your experience with Talking Points.

Kristin Gray is a National Board Certified fifth grade math teacher at Richard A. Shields Elementary School in the Cape Henlopen School District in Lewes, Delaware and a Teaching Channel Laureate. During her 19 years in education, she has taught 5th–8th grade math, and spent two years as a K-5 Math Specialist. She feels fortunate to be involved with Illustrative Mathematics and Teaching Channel on projects developing math tasks, facilitating professional development, and blogging about these experiences. She is always excited to share her love of teaching at conferences such as NCTM, NCSM, ISTE, as well as on her blog. Follow Kristen on Twitter: @MathMinds.

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