Five Ways To Close A Lesson

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Most of us realize the importance of a warm-up to get our bodies and minds ready, whether we’re talking about exercising, singing, or learning. But what about the cool down? How you close a lesson is just as important as how you open it. Yet all too often, we run out of time. Or, we look at the clock, see our students are still working hard, and think to ourselves, why interrupt their flow? But there are proven benefits to taking even just one minute to wrap up a lesson.

In those last moments, you and your students have a chance to check for understanding, reflect on what you’ve learned, tie up loose ends, or make sure everyone is ready for the next part of the day. You could even just take a moment to breathe! If you’re looking for new ideas on how to wrap up your next lesson, here are five things you can try.

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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.

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Dial Up Your Formative Assessment Technique


In my role as assessment coach and consultant, I have had many conversations about the differences between formative assessment as a form of testing, and formative assessment strategies that become part of instructional pedagogy. A common misconception among educators is the use of formative assessment as a noun, when in fact the research frames formative assessment as a verb. Capturing the strategies that move learning forward can be tricky, but Teaching Channel has some great examples of practical ways that teachers can implement formative assessment.

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Assessments That Deliver Results

My nephew, who is in elementary school, suffers from anxiety. When he was in third grade, in the days leading up to the high-stakes state exam, his teacher told his class that what they were about to do was so important that even the President of the United States would check to see how they performed.

This fire and brimstone approach to assessment has been going on for too long.

Just a few months after No Child Left Behind was passed, the Sacramento Bee reported that “test-related jitters, especially among young students, are so common that the Stanford-9 exam comes with instructions on what to do with a test booklet in case a student vomits on it.”

Rather than allow students to fear exams, we should use assessments in no-stakes or low-stakes settings to build confidence and strengthen learning. It’s time for us to realize the importance of using assessments to combat the anxiety of assessments.

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Formative Teaching and Learning

Everyone in education has heard of formative assessment. At first, we may think of it as something we collect and reflect on after school, such as an exit ticket or other quick assessment. But what if we shift thinking of it as an after class event to a during class event? We can use formative assessment at any time during a lesson in order to inform instructional decisions. Then it becomes an experience for both teacher and student that happens throughout the class, not just a one time shot when the student is gone from my presence. It becomes an experience I like to call formative teaching and learning.

In my mind, formative teaching and learning is similar to if I were taking my students on a trip. I need to pick the destination – where do I want to take them in their learning? Then, I need to select the route, deciding what scheduled stops there will be and anticipating detours. So, if formative teaching is more like a journey than a one-time event, how do you plan it?

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Formative Assessment Resources: Try Them Today, Tomorrow, or Sometime Soon

Recently, Teaching Channel brought you into classrooms where teachers and students are using formative assessment to adjust ongoing teaching and learning strategies to improve student learning:

While these videos take a deep dive into formative assessment, we also want to provide you with some quick tips and resources. These are some of our favorites:

Try These Today

These strategies are so simple and easy to do, you could try them today.

Hand Signals: Quickly gauge student understanding with hand signals by asking students for a thumbs up, sideways, or down to indicate their level of understanding. Another popular hand signal is Fist to Five, where you ask students for a 1 to 5 rating of their understanding.

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Letting Students Grapple: Formative Assessment

Editor’s Note: Math teachers across the country are learning about the power of formative assessment in their classrooms. In this video series, we bring you an opportunity to see formative assessment in action, with the help of math consultant Ann Shannon and resources from the Mathematics Assessment Project (MAP). Ann provided the initial training for teachers in Kentucky’s Kenton County on how to implement MAP and frameworks from the Math Design Collaborative. She observed teachers in the classroom, gave real-time feedback, helped facilitate the after school meetings to analyze student work, and helped build capacity in the district so that the work would be sustainable.

As teachers, sometimes we talk too much. We might do more of the telling, and have kids do less of the doing. Personally, I’ve always been someone who loves explaining things to people, so as a teacher this was an easy trap to fall into. I might get halfway through a unit of study, sense that my students are struggling, and decide that the best way to solve their misconceptions was to talk even more. Telling them what to do seemed easier, faster, and more direct. But in fact, that was my own misconception! Sometimes, the best way to help our students is to subtly guide them through their own struggles.

In our series Engaging Students with Productive Struggles, we took you inside two middle school math classrooms that are using formative assessment to do just that. We saw seventh graders deepening their understanding of proportional relationships, and eighth graders tackling the work of linear equations. Now in this new set of videos, we visit Meghan Mekita’s geometry classroom to watch her tenth graders deepen their understanding of transformations.

In these four videos, you’ll see Meghan’s students engaging in a formative assessment lesson that addresses their misconceptions and moves them forward in their learning.

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Checking For Understanding with Formative Assessments

As teachers, we all know what it feels like to grade a pile of tests and discover the unsettling truth that our students did not perform as well as we had hoped or predicted. For instance, after three of four weeks of teaching the Pythagorean Theorem, we find out that most of our students can’t consistently identify the hypotenuse of a right triangle.

For years this was a frustration while teaching high school Algebra and Geometry. Adopting daily exit tickets to assess more frequently only solved some of my problems. I still needed to more deeply understand my students’ misconceptions, and I wanted students to be in the habit of explaining what they were thinking.

Lessons from the Mathematics Assessment Project (MAP) turned out to be the perfect way for me to check for understanding in my Geometry class. Two-thirds of the way through a unit, I will spend about 90 minutes working with my students on a Formative Assessment Lesson (FAL). FALs are excellent pre-written lessons on different mathematical topics for grades 7-12, with materials included. Find the website here. Ninety-minute lessons can be found under the “Lessons” tab. There are shorter formative assessments under the “Tasks” tab. Every FAL requires students to work on rigorous problems with a partner who is equally matched for that skill. There is very little teacher talk time on FAL day. During that time, I’ll listen to students debating with their partners, and collect data from their written work. After the FAL is complete, I adjust my teaching for the remainder of the unit based on what I learned: I can increase the rigor to ensure I am challenging them, and I can address their misunderstandings.

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Give Students the Lead with Learning Goals and Success Criteria

One of the hardest jobs we have as teachers is assessing student learning. One of the things that has really helped me and my students assess learning this year is the use of learning goals and success criteria.

This is not a new idea or technique, I’ve always used some sort of objective or learning goal in my lessons. However, this year I want my students to truly understand and own the goal. In most lessons, we take time to discuss the goal as a class before beginning a lesson. One question I tend to ask is, “what does that mean?” After discussing the goal, we move onto the success criteria, which help describe how we will know when we have met the learning goal. One of the most powerful ways to get my students to own the criteria is to have them develop the success criteria with my guidance.

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Formative Assessment Practices to Support Student Learning

The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium is an organization of member states committed to providing tools and resources that support teaching and learning. The three core components of the Smarter Balanced Assessment System are summative assessments, interim assessments, and formative assessment practices. The videos in this series demonstrate how teachers implement the intent of the Common Core State Standards using the Formative Assessment Process. They were created as components of interactive modules in the Smarter Balanced Digital Library, but we are pleased to share them with you on Teaching Channel’s website.

Formative assessment is a deliberate process used by teachers and students during instruction that provides actionable feedback used to adjust ongoing teaching and learning strategies to improve students’ attainment of curricular learning targets/goals.

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