Saturday, August 22, 2015

Formative Assessment- Tech Tools to Formatively Assess (Working Smarter not Harder)

Formative Assessment. The idea is not new to teachers. With the KY Professional Growth System, teachers must select a student growth goal and that leads to many formative assessments to find out what students do not know, in order to create that growth goal. 
 According to Formative Assessment (FA) is the “Where am I going? Where am I now? And How can I close the gap between the two?”  While there are many traditional FA routes, thanks to technology,  there are many tools available to formatively assess our students with instant feedback available. We have to learn to work smarter rather than harder. 

What’s the purpose of formative assessment? First and foremost, FA is meant to measure student ability in order to inform our instruction. Formative Assessment also informs students of what they know and don't know in order to create personalized  learning goals for the classroom.  When I begin a grammar unit, I assess my students to see what they know and need to know.  The tricky part is what to do next.  For me, grammar is very easy to work with when it comes to FA. I pre-test students and those who know it can either practice using the concept in a more challenging way or they can move on to a different concept altogether. Those who do not know it or show weaknesses, will practice that concept until I hope they reach mastery.

One technique that a fellow- teacher uses is “Just for me Mondays”. Students work on skills and concepts that they showed they did not know through pre-tests,  while other students move on to other skills. It takes a lot of work; I won’t lie about that! Creating various activities and providing the practice for each student is time-consuming and challenging, but students are getting the materials they need in order to grow.

There is nothing worse than sitting through lessons/lecture/activities that you have done and have already mastered (think about those PD’s you sit through every year…). Formative Assessment keeps kids moving forward because you know what they know and can do,  as well as what they need to improve upon.

There are many tools available to formatively assess students and the traditional paper/pencil assessment is not out of the question. Certainly there are times when the traditional route makes sense, but gathering the data and recording it can be really challenging and frustrating.  In our present age, we are lucky to have many tools available that can assist us in formatively assessing our students, and while I will highlight a few, there are many, many others available.

What the heck are Plickers, you ask? The great thing about Plickers is that you and only you need a smart phone to use them.  Plickers is a card system that allows students to do a quick multiple choice assessment. You display or ask the question, students hold up the card so the letter answer is at the top of the card, and you scan the room with your cell phone using the free Plickers APP. Each card number is assigned to a student and you get a cumulative report of student answers. The app is free and the cards are free and available HERE.   And you can get the free App for your Smart Phone HERE
Much like the student hand-held response systems that many schools have for their active boards, Plickers simply require one piece of equipment to run (your smart phone) and a set of laminated cards.  You can log into the site or see on the APP  an entire class’ results quickly and easily. 

Why use it? Variety. Brain research shows that a variety in instruction and assessment practices keeps kids interested. So while you can keep using that hand-held response system that goes with your active board, breaking it up once in a while with something different just changes things up and makes learning more interesting for students. Student Results 

Edmodo- Quiz/Grammar apps
Edmodo is approved by most schools for student use; it is also safe and easy for teachers and students to navigate. Edmodo has several options for gathering student results- there is a Quiz feature where you can create various types of quizzes. Students take the quiz, which shows up as a post on their “wall” and the results immediately transfer into your Edmodo gradebook where you can view student performance.  What I really like about the Edmodo quizzes is that you can see each student’s individual results, but you can also see results based on a breakdown of the questions. If the majority of the class missed question 2, I can do a quick mini-lesson in class the next day to target that question’s concept or skill. Now THAT is using assessment for instruction!

Individual Student Results on Edmodo Quiz

Question Breakdown- Information for Quick Mini-lessons! 

Edmodo also offers many free or partially free apps and for the ELA teacher there are two grammar apps- NoRedInk and Snapshot that assesses students and provides quick results in various forms. These grammar apps are connected to the Common Core Standards and are easy to assign and for students to take.  Snapshot , while the content is limited for the free version of the app, provides a much more detailed breakdown of student understanding than NoRedInk does. Snapshot also assesses in Reading CCS. 

NoRedInk Student Results

Snapshot Individual Student Results

Snapshot Results by Standard 

Using the Result by Standard in Snapshot, a teacher can quickly adjust instruction in order to target a concept the whole class is struggling with or create small group/personalized instruction for those few students who are not understanding the concept or skill. 

Sample Narrative BlendSpace Module I created 

BlendSpace provides you the opportunity to create multi-modal modules for students to progress through at their own pace. You can insert documents, PowerPoints, YouTube or other video resources, and more! The site is free and is available as an app on Edmodo for free! (Be advised that if used on Edmodo, students have to log-in to BlendSpace in order to take the quiz- which could pose as a potential problem).

BlendSpace  provides a quiz feature at the end of the module and student results are displayed in your “gradebook”.  This site is a great way to flip instruction. I use BlendSpace to give students basic notes on Narrative Writing, for example, something they have been exposed to for at least 3 or 4 years. Rather than take up class time to “do notes”, I have students do the work at home so we can jump into the meat of writing in class. I can also quickly see what aspect of narrative writing the majority of my students don't "get" for added mini-lessons or individualized instruction in small groups for those concepts that only a few don't understand. 

BlendSpace Student Results by Question 

Here's the thing- there are so many tech tools out there that gather and sort the results for you! Formative assessment is not always easy, but for those who truly want to reach each child in instruction, it is necessary. After you formatively assess, the biggest obstacle can be aggregating that data. Thankfully, there are now many tech tools  that can assist us in this monumental task. 

How Do you both Formatively Assess AND Gather/Sort the data? What strategies in ELA do you use to take that data and DO something with it? Please Share!! 

Further Resources on Formative Assessment: 
What is the Difference between Formative and Summative Assessment?  LINK 
Traditional Strategies to Formatively Assess-  LINK
Teachers Share Formative Assessment Strategies on Edutopia 

Photo at top of blog: photo credit: <a href="">Educational Postcard about teachers working smarter using formative assessment</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">(license)</a>