Welcome back! Today’s post is part two of my summer blog series focused on formative assessments. Last week, I gave a quick overview of formative assessments, the purpose and the importance of them, how teachers are currently using them in the classroom. Then, I offered a new perspective on how we can use formative assessments in the classroom to inform planning and teaching. This new perspective is one that I formed while reading the book, The Formative 5. (Missed last week’s post? See it here!)
In this book, the authors introduce five techniques that teachers can use every day to formally assess their students. These five techniques are in many ways simple but very powerful ways to better understand what our students know and understand about the content and skills that we’re teaching. In part one of the series, I described these learning tools as assessments done with intention and in the moment. As we continue through the series, I would like for us to look at the assessment tools with that lens, both with intentionality and in the moment.
The first technique is observations. I know what you’re thinking, you’re saying to yourself, “Why is observation a formative assessment tool?” I personally thought the exact same thing, but as I read the book and delved more into the section about observations, I begin to understand more clearly. We make observations about what our students are doing all the time, but we don’t always formally record the observations and then take that information and do something with it later. We often kind file it in the back of our minds and utilize it later, but more often than not, we take those observations and just file them for use later. In this case, we’re going to take the observations and we’re going to use them and do something with them immediately.
How are we going to do this? We’re going to plan for it! In order to be intentional, we have to plan for the use of observations during our lesson. Here’s our plan:
- What do you expect the students to be able to do? – This involves identifying the standard and the expectation. What’s the final outcome of that particular standard? What do you expect the students to be able to do at the end of the lesson?
- What does the standard look and sound like? – This may actually have several components, but we want to be able to identify how success for this skill looks and sounds.
- What challenges do you foresee? – This is where we want to identify what challenges, what misconceptions, or misunderstandings may impede the successful learning of this skill. We want to think about that and plan for it in advance so that we know how to address it later.
- How might we create a formal record of and provide feedback for the observations? – This is a critical piece, because in the words of one of my coaching buddies, “in order for something to be formative, we have to do something with it.” This question requires us to take action—to do something. This is where we decide what to do with the information and how to record it.
Let’s look at an example (see the image below). Here’s a sample planning sheet. I’ve chosen a Common Core standard and I’m going to use this standard to demonstrate how to plan for using observations as a formative assessment tool in the classroom.
Now, let’s look at a sample checklist. As I’m walking around the classroom and listening to students or watching what they’re doing, I can check off things that I’m certain they are able to do. After I have collected all of my data, I’m going to take the checklist and use it to help me plan for the next day, pull a small group later in the day, or decide what types of story problems I need to focus on for the next time, partitive or quotative. The most important thing is to take that information and decide how it’s going to best help me plan for the next lesson, the next segment, or support my kiddos who still aren’t mastering all of the steps.
That’s how you use observations as a formative assessment! Please join me next week to make a plan for using interviews as formative assessment tools.
Sound Off! How might you use observations to formatively assess your students?
Reference: Fennell, F., Kobett, B. M., Wray, J. A. (2017). The formative 5: Everyday assessment techniques for every math classroom. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin.