When I first started using interactive notebooks, I really wondered how to vary the types of formative assessments. The summative assessments were easy – a quiz or a chapter test. The main type of formative assessment that I could find was grading students’ notebooks. Honestly, I found grading notebooks took a long time and required me to cart around a lot of notebooks. I didn’t mind spot-checking them, but didn’t want to cart home a set of notebooks every week. I also wanted to see what they understood – not just what they wrote down. Over time, I figured out how to use interactive notebooks for a variety of formative assessments.
1. Exit Tickets
Exit tickets can be a fast – and fun – way to check what students know or think. In language arts, I made tree trunks on my cabinets and had students post up their responses for different topics. For example, when we reviewed Greek and Latin roots students wrote words using that root on “leaves” and taped them to the tree trunk. (Teachers could use Post-It notes for this type of activity as well.) I have also seen teachers using quarter sheets of paper or index cards for students responses.
It is important that the teacher select a question that represents what they wanted students to learn. Reading responses to that question will show whether students are ready to move on or not.
2. Short Response Questions
Short responses take a little longer to complete than exit tickets, but they are helpful if the teacher wants to see if students understood the “big picture.” In math, a teacher might ask students to explain how to estimate a number. In reading, students might be asked to explain why a character did something in the story.
In my social studies classroom, I asked students to respond to a few types of questions. The essential question is a good short response topic. I also would ask students comparison questions, such as “How were the Plains tribes different from the Northwest tribes?” Sometimes I asked students their opinions, such as “Would you have rathered lived in Sparta or Athens? Explain why.”
3. Interactive Worksheets
Doing anything too often gets really boring, but sometimes a worksheet is a fast way to check comprehension. A worksheet does not have to always be written though! I try to keep in mind that students have different strengths. Students with processing problems or vision problems can really struggle with written activities. Occasionally, I will use a worksheet where students sort pictures/statements and glue them to the correct place. (For students with OT issues, teachers may want to cut the pieces for them.)
Also, teachers could have a worksheet where students create a Snapchat profile for a character or historical figure. This type of activity really shows how well students understand a person’s motivations.
Another idea is to have students draw something related to the topic. For example, teachers could ask students to create a t-shirt that represents that New England colonies. Longer drawing activities could include creating a comic strip ( 2-3 frames).
Just keep in mind that not all students enjoy drawing, so it might be better to offer a choice of activities.
4. Oral Responses
Don’t forget that oral responses can count as a check of students’ understanding. I know I sometimes overlooked class discussions, but that can be a very quick way to see which students understand the material and which ones need more support.
5. Student Experts
I called this assessment “student experts,” because I can never remember the official education terms I have seen! After I got to know my students, I would place them into small groups of varying abilities. Each group would be responsible for becoming the “experts” on their section of the text. I would give them class time to work together. I also made sure to circulate to all the groups and help them if they had questions. After that, students “taught” their portion of the lesson to the class. This activity works best in groups or 2-3 in order to make sure all students are participating.
It was often interesting to see what they really understood in their presentations. Sometimes students misunderstood concepts, and I would step in and explain it further. This was very eye-opening for me, because many times students did not understand the informational text as well as I expected.
If you would like to try interactive notebooks in your classroom, I have a few free activities in my store for upper elementary grades on Colonial America, Florida’s Geography, and Maps and Globes – Geography Unit.
What are your favorite ways to use interactive notebooks for formative assessment?