Engaging Assessment Strategy + Communicating Mathematically Through Writing = Effective Student Feedback

Using a variety of ongoing assessment techniques is an important way to assess how students are progressing toward mastery of a concept or skill. Traditional methods include tests and quizzes; however, there are a host of other tools that will not only keep your students engaged but will also provide the feedback that you need to get a gauge on your students’ understanding. By using student feedback and data to drive our instructional decisions, we cut-down on the time spent teaching things our students already know or aren’t quite ready for yet.

Strategy #1: Sometimes, Always, or Never*

For this strategy, students are given a statement and must determine whether the statement is always true, sometimes true, or never true. To do this, students must consider all of their options by selecting instances of and trying to create a generalization for the concept.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Post the lesson objectives in specific, kid-friendly language.
  2. Give each student a small slip of paper or an index card.
  3. Create a statement, based on the lesson objections, to which students can respond with “sometimes,” “always,” or “never.” Note: Responding in writing will certainly boost all of the students’ critical thinking skills, but creating a statement with a “sometimes” response really gives you a more comprehensive picture of your students’ progress toward understanding the learning objective.
  4. Ask students to respond to the statement with “sometimes true,” “always true,” or “never true” and give a justification in pictures, words, or numbers.

Strategy 2: Fact or Fib*

For this strategy, students determine whether a statement is a fact or a fib. Like the Sometimes, Always or Never strategy, the power comes from the justification piece. It is not enough for students to respond with fact or fib, they must know why and be able to communicate their thinking in pictures, words, or numbers.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Post the lesson objectives in specific, kid-friendly language.
  2. Give each student a small slip of paper or an index card.
  3. Create a statement, based on the lesson objectives, to which students can respond “fact” or “fib.”
  4. Ask students to respond to the statement with “fact” or “fib” and give a justification in pictures, words, or numbers.

Strategy 3: Exit Tickets with Understanding*

You may be familiar with traditional exit tickets where students complete a problem or write about a skill or concept on a small slip of paper at the end of class. The kicked-up version of this uses the same concept except that students write about their understanding of the lesson objectives. This allows the teacher an opportunity to get a glimpse of where each student is in their thinking about and development of the objectives of a targeted concept or skill.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Post the lesson objectives in specific, kid-friendly language.
  2. Give each student a small slip of paper. Note: I always collect extra copies, unused activity pages and handouts, or papers from the school in a container by the front door. Students are encouraged to use this paper as scrap paper to show work or for drawing. This paper collection is a great way to recycle paper. Just cut it into half-page pieces for the exit tickets.
  3. Students choose an objective, or one suggested by you, and provide evidence of their understanding. For example, ask students to share their thoughts in pictures, words, or numbers.
  4. Collect the students’ responses. Sort the student responses based on levels of student understanding. Use the feedback to determine the next steps in instruction.

Strategy #4: Vocabulary Dominoes*

This activity requires students to compare and contrast terms, as well as, look for, analyze, justify, and communicate about relationships as they connect “dominoes” to illustrate connections.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Program a set of vocabulary dominoes with content-specific math terms. Note: I intentionally placed words whose relationships were easily identifiable on the same domino so that students have to explore other relationships.
  2. Decide in advance whether you want students to create their own arrangement or if you will create one for them to use. Note: There are advantages to both approaches. The first approach allows you to gain knowledge regarding individual student’s understanding of the terms; whereas the second method forces the students to make judgments and find relationships based on someone else’s thinking. In addition, the second method may take less time because students will not need time to create their layout.
  3. If students are creating their own arrangement, provide them time to cut-out and arrange their dominoes based on the relationships between the words. If you are using a teacher-created arrangement, provide students think-time to review the layout and placement of the words.
  4. Ask students to write 3 – 4 statements regarding the relationship of the terms based on the connections made.

Strategy #5: Who’s Correct?

This assessment tool allows students the opportunity to evaluate the mathematical thinking of others and then either agree or disagree with the person’s response.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Present a problem to the class along with four characters’ answers and reasoning.
  2. Individually, have students determine who is correct and explain why.
  3. After students have selected the response(s) they believe to be correct, have them provide a justification for why the other responses are incorrect.

Creating engaging opportunities for students to show what they know provides teachers with rich information about student understanding of a selected content standard. This information can then be used to make more informed decisions in order to move students forward or provide necessary interventions.

Want to know more about using formative assessments in the classroom? Check out my Summer PD video series!

* Adapted from Lead4ward

Sound Off! Which strategy do you think would provide you with the most useful student information? Respond in the comments section below.

Shametria Routt Banks

Shametria Routt Banks

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2 thoughts on “Engaging Assessment Strategy + Communicating Mathematically Through Writing = Effective Student Feedback”

  1. Dear Shametria,

    I am a huge fan of your strategy #5 Who’s Correct? This is a great activity that allows students to meet common core practice standard number 3 where students are able to construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others. Presenting this question is a great low floor, high ceiling task. All students can contribute to the conversation about who they agree or disagree with, and then students are able to take it to a higher level of thinking by correcting the mistakes or supporting their arguments. What are some ways to have students converse using mathematical language during this activity and have them take lead of the conversation with their thoughts ?

    Thank you,
    Pre-service Teacher Vishna

    • Hello! I agree with you! This is a great way to help students practice critiquing the thinking of others. In terms of having students participate in math talk, each response can be assigned a corner of the room and students can go to the corner of the solution they chose and discuss why they selected that response. As an alternative, you can assign students to a particular corner and have them debate whether the response is correct or not. If the response is incorrect, students can discuss what went wrong and decide on the best way to help the person correct their thinking or their work.


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