September 16, 2016
Compelling explanations on complicated topics may result in some engaged, nodding heads from your students, but overall class comprehension can sometimes be difficult to measure. There are several ways to be assured your students are understanding the information you’re delivering. (And they don’t require any mind reading—just a bit of time and extra planning!) Try these eight strategies to check for understanding during your next lesson.
Encourage your students to be reflective thinkers and check for comprehension with interactive notebooks. Divide a simple composition book into two sides: ask your students to complete any assignments on the right side. On the left, leave room for your students to show their understanding of any new material (and the corresponding assignment on the right side) by exploring connections. Periodically check the notebooks for understanding (and a letter grade, if you wish) and adapt accordingly.
Kahoot! is a game-based learning platform that kids love. It’s part game show, part video game, and encourages a lively, friendly sense of competition. Set up a quick game of 10 questions to check for understanding and gather data on what’s working from your lesson plan. Even your most reticent students will participate.
Pair up and talk it out.
Have your students find a partner to discuss the lesson and take turns being the “teacher.” While they’re talking, walk around the room and listen in to see if they have a clear understanding of the critical points of the day’s lesson. If students appear not to have a firm grasp on the main points, talk it out with the whole class. Only one or two students who need assistance? Address them individually at an appropriate time.
At the end of class, encourage students to write what they learned on a whiteboard. This is a great way to review all of the material at once, and students can work together to write things on the board. You can also see which students are struggling and might need some extra help. Once your students are finished, go over the information on the board as a class and correct any misinformation or resolve any misunderstandings.
Keep any quizzes simple and broad: one or two questions at the most related to the crucial points of the lesson. Take it a step further and have students pair off in small groups to discuss their answers or alternatively, have them drop their answers in a box at the end of class, and let the results determine the course of your next lesson.
Turn the tables
Challenge your students to test you on the material by instructing them to create their own quiz relevant to your lesson. Naturally, students will be set on stumping their teacher, so the more difficult or complex the question, the higher the level of understanding!
Exit slips are like a pop quiz without the “pop” and the pressure. At the end of class, ask your students to write down a few main ideas from the day’s lesson and any questions they may have about it. On their way out have them drop their slips in a box. Before next class, open it up to measure their understanding.
Give students time to reflect
Some students might not immediately articulate what they’ve gleaned from a lesson, so instead of checking for it right away in class, give students time to reflect. Assign homework for later that night that specifically checks for understanding. Often, this extra time between class and when they sit down to do their homework may be all your students need for the day’s lesson to finally click.