“Assessment is not just about “success” or “failure” but about learning – learning what to do, how to do it, and knowing what needs improvement.” By Nancy McMunn
Last week I focused my attention on using formal assessment data to drive instruction. To continue this conversation, this week I am taking a look at how informal assessment data can be used to drive instruction. To be clear, I consider formal assessment when the students obtain a grade while informal is not graded.
Informal assessment is as simple as stopping during instruction to observe or to discuss with the students how learning is progressing. I use their journals, discussions, student conferences, exit slips and class work to make sure the students are understanding the main parts of the lessons. When I see they do not understand; I pull re-teach groups while the students are working on their differentiated independent contract during workshop. What is great about informal assessment is it quickly lets teachers regulate individual needs because you are looking at what student either know or don’t know.
One way I like to informally assess students is by quick three question assessments that require no pencil, paper or grading after a mini-lesson. You can complete this many ways such as using mini-dry erase boards, index cards and or popsicle sticks with answer choices or numbers.
This strategy of using informal assessment lets you quickly scan the room, to see who comprehend that day’s lesson, letting you pull students who have not mastered a certain skill. (I like using colored coded index cards or popsicles sticks as it is an easier visual for me.) I also “train” the students to assess themselves. They are the ones that truly know if they understand something or don’t. In order to do this in a classroom, you must make the environment a safe place so students feel comfortable in analyzing their learning.
Another way to use informal assessment data is by using exit slips. Exit slips enable teachers to quickly assess students’ understanding of the material to see how they need to change their lesson for the next day based on the students needs. Below are three types of exit slip ideas I use often:
Exit Slip Ex: Triangle, Square, Circle
∆: “3 points” or ideas I think were important from today
: something that “squares” with my thinking
○ : something that’s still going “around” in my head
*This style can help you gage what the students understand but also gives them a chance to ask questions.
Exit Slip Ex: Open Ended (Must be a Paragraph)
Please explain more about ________
* This style gets the students to write about what they learned while making them to use critical thinking skills. It helps you gage who truly understands the skill taught.
Exit Slip: Synthesize
In 14 words synthesize what you learned today.
*This style forces students to form a thought by bringing together parts of a lesson; another critical thinking skill. This also helps you gage who truly understands the skills taught.
Informal assessment is a great progress monitoring and best practice to gage your students on how they will perform on a formal assessment. Teachers need to evaluate their assessments, practices and instruction to see how they affect student achievement. Reflection is essential to using data to drive instruction because it makes, you the teacher, analyze what the students understand from what you have taught.
Next week, I will go into how to use data to drive instruction for pre-assessments in your classroom. Please share in the comment section if you, as an educator, have other ways that you use informal assessment to drive your classrooms instruction.