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March 04

Gail Brown

Part 2: Checking in with your students, continual & formative?

  • Mon 7th Jan 2013
  • Gail

Last post, our post focused on early intervention, and again, I’ll recommend Tim Shanahan’s post on this topic. Especially because, if you scroll all the way to the bottom, you’ll see a downloadable journal issue that overviews and updates this thinking with research.

This post I want to further extend early intervention concepts and thinking in two ways: firstly as a part of continual formative assessment, and secondly as part of what every teacher, in every grade could use to improve students’ learning.

If we’re serious about formative assessment, then we probably already know that this is any strategy or assessment, in any format, that happens at the start of teaching something. That something might be a unit of work in ANY curriculum area, and in ANY grade.

So, such an approach is easily adapted to a Year 1 unit of work about “Family”, as well as a Year 9 unit of work in Science or PDHPE. This formative assessment cycle is continuous – linking to our eye test – most of us do this regularly, and my question for you to think about is: Do we regularly use formative assessment regularly, too?

Whenever we introduce a new topic or unit of work, we want to build on what our students already know. Including a simple formative assessment – NOT a “test” – rather “What do you already know?”

This can be a blank sheet of paper, where students write or draw a picture about what they know. Or, it could include a double sided page, asking students to write any words they know, and use these in sentences, and draw a picture on the back.

This is not ‘rocket science’ – just simply finding our what our students already know.

Once we have some idea, there are so many options for improving learning! Those students with lots of background knowledge might be paired with students who don’t, for example? They can be set some independent work – extending their knowledge – while you work to build background knowledge for other students.

Bottom line: If you know NOTHING about a topic, you have a lot more to learn than others who have strong background knowledge. This applies to all of us, as well as our students. Email me if you want more information about building background knowledge, or some professional readings or learning?

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