Tips and Tricks

10 Quick-and-Easy Methods to Check for Understanding

In a time crunch and need to formatively assess student understanding? We’ve got you covered!

A huge part of teaching involves determining student levels of understanding. As teachers check for understanding, they are able to formulate, reconfigure, and differentiate, so learning outcomes reach their highest potential. Sometimes an impromptu check-in is warranted, and these 10 formative assessments are the perfect solution when little to no prep time is available.

  1. Show & Tell — To formatively assess understanding of an applicable skill or process have students Show how to complete an example, and then Tell in a written response how they did so. This can work with math equations, scientific calculations, writing mechanics, etc.
  2. Headlines — Have students create tabloid headlines to reveal the main theme or concept of the current topic/unit of study. While this may seem like an easy task, it requires a thoughtful level of synthesis.
  3. Sureness Sort — Display key vocabulary, people, events, etc. and have students create a T-chart or similar graphic organizer with the column headers For Sure and Unsure. Have students sort all terms in the column that best describes their sureness level when it comes to understanding.
  4. Learning Lights — This concept can be created in multiple ways, but each student’s learning space houses 3 plastic cups/cards or a laminated stoplight and clothespin. Students place the red, yellow, or green cup/card on top or clip the clothespin to the light color that matches their level of understanding or ability to move forward during independent work time. A quick visual scan can get teacher right to the red lights.
  5. Exit Slips — Pose a question or create a mini-example for students to complete that relates to the day’s lesson. Students can craft their responses on scrap paper or a templated exit slip. They turn these in as they leave, and upon reviewing the class responses, teachers can determine the starting point for the next day.
  6. Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down — Have students put a thumb up, down, or even to the side, to show whether they’ve got a concept and are ready to move on to something else. A quick visual to use when going over directions or reviewing material in a positive classroom environment.
  7. Formative Flowers — Students create a flower designed around the current topic or unit of study. The key term or concept is placed in the center circle or pistil. Related concepts or ideas are placed in each of the surrounding petals. An overall summary statement is placed on the stem. Leaves can be added for questions students still have about the topic.
  8. ABC Graffiti — This is a more challenging check-in to be completed at the end of a unit. Students brainstorm a term and/or phrase associated with the unit of study for each of the 26 letters of the alphabet. Some creative turn of a phrase may be required. See this organizer idea and more shared by Align, Assess, Achieve, LLC.
  9. Leader or Learner — Give students a chart of terms, learning targets, etc. with 2 additional columns titled Leader and Learner. Have students place an X in the column that shares their comfort level with each item listed on the chart. Could they lead a discussion on it, or do they feel a need to learn more about the topic?
  10. 3 Truths & a Goof — Have students create 4 statements about a given topic of study. They must create 3 true statements and 1 false statement. This can be a fun activity to share as a class with students trying to stump the group by crafting a false statement with a single goof, such as an incorrect date, sequence of events, location, etc. Students will find it can be trickiest to formulate a believable goof, and this is a great way for teachers to check on the validity of the 3 truths.

By checking in on a regular basis during the learning process, teachers are able to identify whether it’s necessary to reteach, review, or reach for the next lesson. Don’t put off checking in until an elaborate assessment can be crafted. Student understanding will be front and center with any of these 10 quick-and-easy check-in methods!

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