Friday, July 26, 2013

Using Formative Assessment in Math Class Part 3

Want to see my other posts about formative assessment in math class?

Traffic Lighting

These darling little table tents have gotten a lot of use in my classrooms and are a wonderful way to manage a whole group instruction.  They are double sided so you can see them from anywhere in the room and they are a great way to see who needs help and to prioritize assisting kids.  It takes some initial training of students to help them use their table tent instead of raising their hands, etc but it is well worth it if you can commit to using these!  Each table tent has 3 traffic light colored parts that can be flipped between.  They are relatively cheap to buy and last about 2 school years before they look really shabby.  The last set I bought made it through 3 school years but they were pretty much falling apart by the end of year 3.  I have had the most success using these in grades 3 and up.  

Snowball Toss

Want a quick way to see what kids know at the end of a unit or before you start a new one?  A snowball toss is a super fun way to activate prior knowledge or to review at the end of a unit.  All you need is some scrap paper.  Here is how I do a snowball toss
1) Have kids think about some things they know about a topic.  For example before a unit on fractions, I might have students brainstorm things they already know about fractions
2) Give kids a few minutes to think independently then have them turn and talk with a partner or the kids at their table about what they know.  (giving kids a chance to share with neighbors lets you see who knows what and assures that everyone will have something to write down in the next step)
3) Give each kid a half sheet of scrap paper and have them write down one thing they know is true about the topic.
4) Have students crumple up the paper and on the count of 3 have them all throw their snowball at a designated target.  I often have them use the screen at the front of the room or draw a quick target on the white board.  
5) Everyone goes up and gets a snowball after the toss.  Stand in a circle and have students read the snowball they picked up.  This gives kids a chance to read another person's idea.  
6) Record true statements if desired on a piece of chart paper.  (If you often use KWL charts this is a fun way to do these as well) If someone wrote something that is not true, this becomes a great time to clear up misconceptions.  

I also sometimes do a snowball toss in math class with equations that all equal the same thing.  For example on the 100th day of school, we will often do a snowball toss with equations that equal 100.  When we are learning fraction operations in grades 5 and 6 we often do a snowball toss with equations that equal 1/2 or 2/3.

Parking Lot

A great way to answer lingering questions or to get back to kids' ideas during the next class period is to have a designated parking lot space.  You can use a part of your white board or a piece of poster paper and some sticky notes.  It is a place where kids can leave lingering questions or requests for help or extra practice.  It also can be a place where kids share observations or things they notice or connections they made.  It gives the teacher another measure of how kids are doing and what they are thinking without taking up too much time.  It is a great way to make sure ideas get revisited and questions get answered before the next day's math lesson begins.

If you are looking for more ideas around formative assessment check out these books




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  2. The snowball toss sounds like a great way to assess their understanding and address misconceptions too. Thank you!

    1. It is a super fun way to assess their understanding and address misconceptions. Thanks for the comment!

  3. Some great ideas here for formative assessment. I stumbled across this post via Pinterest and have blogged about it here: I'm now following you on Bloglovin' and am looking forward to reading more of your posts. Cheers!