Thursday, October 14, 2021

12 Ways to Quickly Check for Student Understanding

Teachers around the world are picking up the pieces and filling in learning gaps caused by school closures, distance learning, and concurrent teaching. Students haven’t had a normal school year in 3 years. Sadly, this means a loss of learning time for many and teachers are having to fill in those gaps and address those needs. 

Despite planning stellar lessons to teach your grade-level standards we must not forget about checking for student understanding. This simple act of checking up on learning throughout your teaching will make a huge difference in your students getting it. Let me say it now...Do NOT worry about your pacing. Instead, worry about making sure that your students understand what you are teaching. It’ll all pay off in the end, I promise. 

Let’s dive into different ways on HOW to check for student understanding.

Turn and Talk - Turn and talks are so powerful because they can be used with any subject in so many different ways. You can pose a question to students such as "share with your partner what you think the main idea of this paragraph is and why". You can have them solve a problem independently then share with their partner how they solved it and why. You can have them explain a concept that was just taught.

As students are sharing with their peers, you can walk around the room to listen to their conversations. You may pop into some of them to ask follow-up or clarifying questions. Depending on how students respond, this gives you an idea of their level of understanding.

While walking around, be sure to jot down quick notes about what you're observing!

Click here to get this observation sheet.

Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down- Teach students to put their heads down for this one (to avoid them looking around and copying others) OR have them place their thumbs by their heart so only you can see them. Pose different questions to your kids and have them give you thumbs up or down.

You could also use this one to get a gauge of student understanding after introducing new concepts. Thumbs up if this is making sense and you feel confident. Thumbs sideways if it kind of makes sense and you need a little extra practice. Thumbs down if you are confused and need more help.

*This of course will take talking to your students beforehand. Let your students know that it is OKAY if they don't understand and give you a thumbs down. If they aren't honest with you (and themselves) you won't be able to help them. Let them know that nobody else knows what they're showing you. Teach your kiddos to keep their thumbs showing until you tell them (to give you enough time to write down who needs extra help).

Whiteboard Checks- Whiteboard checks are great to use for math. Have students solve problems (teach them to hold their boards down while they write), then have them hold it towards their chest with the back of the board facing out. This is your cue that they are done. When most of your students have their answers completed, you can have them flip their boards and hold it above their heads. You can do a quick scan to see who got the answer correct and who didn't.

Jot down notes about how students are doing. Again, you can use a checklist like the one shown for student observations to mark how kids are doing with the concept. You can choose to make 5-6 kids at a time for each problem.

Whiteboard checks also pair well with task cards. This helps you to not have to think up of the problems. It can also be utilized well with multiple choice questions for longer answers like ELA.

Pinch Cards- Pinch cards are great to get quick snapshots of student learning. You can use double-sided pinch cards so that you have a variety of question types that you can use. True/False, ABCD, Yes/NO, Agree/Disagree.

If you're interested in the pinch cards shown above, click here.

Quick Checks/Exit Passes- Assign quick exit passes to your students to check for understanding of the day's lesson. Use these quick checks to determine what you will cover in tomorrow's lesson and/or to determine your small groups.

Utilizing Exit Passes like this will truly help you to avoid serious intervention issues later on. Your pacing may get slowed down, but it's better than keeping up with pacing and then later finding out that half your class do not understand what was taught in the last month!

I am currently in the process of creating these Quick Check Assessments for every single Grade 3 Math Standard. You can pick up what I have completed so far here.

Be sure that you are following me on Instagram and TPT so that you can be notified when I post new resources (and Quick Checks). Any time I post something new, I will ALWAYS mark it down 50% off for the first 24 hours!

Graphic Organizers- Graphic Organizers are a great way to assess reading comprehension! It's a quick snapshot to see if students are understanding the various comprehension strategies.

I have a ton of Comprehension Graphic Organizers readily available for you. The best thing about them is that there are both printable and digital options available.

Frayer Model- Yes, I know. Technically the Frayer model is a graphic organizer, but I felt this one needed to be a stand alone option. This is great because you can have students show their understanding in a variety of ways. You can truly see the understanding or lack of understanding through the various ways of representing something.

DLIQ- This is another great Exit Pass. This comes in the form of a Graphic Organizer. Students fill out each section below:

To get a copy of this DLIQ sheet, click here.

Whip Around- Whip Around and Pass works well for anything that can be answered with a quick response. You can decide if you want to allow students the opportunity to pass or not.

This works great with math facts, phonics practice, reading of sight words, etc. You can have a list on display, whip around the room and point to a different word, problem, or sound. Students must quickly respond then it's on to the next student.

This is a fun one that students often feel like it's a game. I used to time how long it would take us, and they would set goals to beat their previous records!

Hashtag it- Hand out sticky notes to students have them come up with hashtags for certain concepts. For example, you might ask them to hashtag multiplication. They might come up with #equalgroups #repeatedaddition #arrays #rowsandcolumns

As they exit the room, they can submit their sticky note (be sure to include names) so that you can quickly and easily see if they understand the concept.

Observations- Similar to the turn and talks, you would want to have some type of checklist to use while observing students. You could conduct observations while students are working independently (watch how their solving problems), listen in on conversations, observe them working on the computer, etc and take notes of what you notice.

Share Out- Have students share their thinking! This gives you so much insight into their own understanding of certain concepts. You can ask follow up questions to really dig deeper at student understanding. This is so much more powerful than a paper pencil test because you can truly see conceptual understanding through students sharing aloud their thinking and reasonings.

Regardless of how you choose to formatively assess your students, make sure you are doing it on a daily basis! In addition, make sure it's quick and easy so that you're actually able to check those assignments and use it to inform instruction for the following day. 

If you use any of these ideas, freebies or resources offered in this post, I would LOVE for you to share it and tag me on Instagram @teachinginparadise .. It would truly make my day :) 

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Don't want to forget about these tips? Pin the image below to save for later. 

Until Next Time...Aloha!

Thursday, October 7, 2021

7 Tips for Planning Parent Teacher Conferences

I remember my very first year of teaching, I was SO NERVOUS for Parent-Teacher Conferences that I thought I was going to throw up. Luckily, I had prepared well for conferences so I had all of my talking points, which was a good thing!

Over the years, I've perfected how I plan for conferences which have helped ease the nerves...but it is still a stressful time for sure. Today I'm here to share some tips on preparing for your parent-teacher conferences to help ease those jitterbugs.

1. Send Home a Parent Questionnaire

Sending home parent questionnaires can help you to plan for your conferences. Choosing a questionnaire that asks parents what they feel their child's strengths and areas of need are can help you to know beforehand if the parent sees the same things you see in school. It can also help you to get a gauge of how your conference will go as well.

In addition, plan to ask about any concerns that the parents have in your questionnaire. This will allow you the opportunity to address those concerns during your conference time. Knowing the parent concerns ahead of time will help you to plan out your talking points and gather any necessary evidence pieces or resources that may be needed.

2. Share Glows and Grows for Each Child

Many times, students are totally different at home than they are in school. We as teachers spend the majority of the day with these kids, we actually see them more than their own parents get to! Because of this, it's nice to share Glows (Strengths) and Grows (Area for Growth) for each child. 

Having a checklist similar to this one makes conference prep easy. Not to mention, this sheet will become a sort of "cheat sheet" for your talking points.

When planning for each child's conference, I check off the boxes or add notes for each individual child. I try to grab student work samples to show as examples for both grows and glows. I put them in order and paper clip them to each checklist. In addition, I add in any beginning of year assessment data to share with parents so they have an idea of how their child is performing academically.

As you go through the talking points on this sheet, you can pull out student work samples that address those Glows or Grows. Place the student work in the order of what you plan to discuss. 

3. Plan and Organize in the Order of Your Conferences

Know that you do NOT have to have ALL 28 of your conferences prepped and planned before any of your meetings begin!

A good rule of thumb is to be at least 2 days ahead of schedule in your planning. For example, if it's Monday, you have Monday and Tuesday's conferences all planned and prepped. At the end of the day on Monday, you can begin working on Wednesday's meeting prep. If something comes up for you on Monday afternoon, you don't need to worry about scrambling for Tuesday's conferences since it's already done.

Decide on what you would like to share with your parents. They truly appreciate seeing work their child 
has completed, so try to incorporate showing samples while you talk. It also helps parents to better understand what you mean when you're able to show examples. 

I use the above checklist to gather student work and figure out my talking points for each child's conference. In addition, I add the parent questionnaire to my paper-clipped stack. I go through the questionnaire to see if there are additional things I need to address and I'll write it at the bottom of my checklist (above). Any additional items I'll need will get paperclipped to that child's conference packet. 

I add all of my paperclipped conference packets into a basket in the order that the conferences will happen with the most recent conference being at the top. I'll add a schedule into my basket too so I can refer back to it to keep myself on track/time. 

If you have breaks in between your conferences, use that time to begin working on prepping more meetings! 

4. Send Reminders

Be sure to send out reminders to your families notifying them about conference week coming up and the modified school schedule. In addition, you'll also want to send home reminders to families about their specific conference day and time. 

You can print out simple reminders like this, fill them out for each child and staple them in the child's planner or communication notebook. 

I suggest sending home the reminder a few days in advance just in case a parent will need some time to rearrange their schedule.

Sending reminders home for each child does take a little extra time, but if you can save yourself from missed conference blocks (and making them up later), that time on the front end to send reminders will be worth it!

5. Set Up a Waiting Area Outside

Set a waiting area up outside for your families in case they arrive early for their conference block.Set out chairs for families to sit and wait and a table that has books or student work that parents can look through. This will help them to pass time comfortably.

In addition, be sure to include a sign on the door that reminds parents that you are currently in a conference. You'll be surprised how many parents will try to enter your room if you don't have a sign up!

 Next to that sign, it is also helpful to include a conference schedule so that families can see what time their conference begins and what time the conference before them ends. Sometimes parents with multiple kids get confused about which child is during what block. That schedule helps them to check and head off to the correct meeting!

6. Set a Timer

You'll be surprised at how quickly your 15 or 20-minute conference block will go by! Set a timer at the start of each conference so that you don't get off schedule. Let your parents know that you'll be setting a timer so that you can honor the time of all families.  

Set the timer to go off 3-5 minutes before the actual end of your conference so that you can address any final questions the parents may have. 

7. Have Parents Write Letters to Their Child

One of my absolute FAVORITE thing about conferences is having parents write a letter to their child. I ask parents to write an encouraging letter focusing on their child's strengths, what makes them proud, and to encourage their child to keep doing their best. 

I provide a simple half sheet of paper and an envelope.  Some parents will finish their letter during our meeting, work on it outside (and drop it in a basket I leave on the table), or some take it home and secretly send it back the next day. 

**If the child is in the conference, I kindly ask them to leave while I share a secret surprise with their parents. 

Once all conferences are done, I'll leave the letters on each child's desk. Their faces are SO surprised and they LOVE reading what their parents have to say. Many of the children keep the letters in their binder or pencil boxes. I've seen students take them out to read when they're having bad days. 

If you're interested in any of the conference sheets I shared in this post, you can snag them here

I hope this post was helpful for you in planning and preparing for your Parent-Teacher Conferences. One thing to keep in mind, most of the time, parents are probably just as nervous as you to hear how their child is doing. 

Save for Later!
Don't want to forget about these tips? Pin the image below to save for later. 

Until Next Time...Aloha!