An easy method of self-assessment that you can quickly and easily set up in your classroom consists of 3 drawers (I have a red drawer, a yellow drawer and a green drawer). Stick these labels on the front. At the end of every lesson, pupils place their book or sheet into the drawer to show how they feel about their understanding in that lesson.
I am a big fan of using mind maps as a way of tracking learning and understanding. I always use mind maps in Science lessons and we always create a new mind map at the start of each topic. I encourage pupils to use their mind map as a ‘working document’ and to be constantly updating them throughout the topic.
In order to track what they have learnt, we do our mind mapping in stages.
Start of topic:
We begin our mind map by adding anything we already know about the topic.
We highlight or shade in with pencil crayon anything we have added.
In a corner of the page, we write WINK (What I Now Know) and the date.
At the end of (or during) a research-based lesson, pupils have the opportunity to add anything new that they have learnt about the topic to their mind map.
Again, we highlight or shade in with pencil crayon anything we have added, but in a different colour.
In a corner of the page, we write WINK (What I Now Know) and the date.
Throughout the topic:
I provide opportunities at the end of lessons to update the mind map.
The updating is always in a different colour and I always emphasise the importance of writing the date with WINK.
End of topic:
A final opportunity to reflect on their learning throughout the unit or topic takes places (again in a different colour).
The result is a somewhat colourful mind map that should be full of key words and essential information that can be added to and used for revision purposes.
Why I like using mind maps throughout topics.
It isn’t resource-heavy (just highlighters or colours, a ruler and something to write with and on).
It is an easy way to track learning. I can see what has been learnt when.
This is a really quick way for pupils to summarise their learning. I tend to use it at the end of a lesson where I have introduced a new concept. At first pupils find it hard, but they soon get the hang of it. I have used it in a range of subjects and find it an effective reflective tool for pupils that requires no additional resources (I have a little sheet to stick in but this isn’t necessary) or much additional time – pupils can do it before they hand in work.
All pupils do is summarise a new concept or a topic in 5 words, then 4, then 3, then 2, then 1. Simple! It makes them think about the key points and what is most important. Hopefully they are then more familiar with it when we revisit it later in the topic or they come across it in another context.
This is an activity that can be used at any point of a lesson, in any subject, to check understanding of a topic. I find it particularly useful in Science.
Pupils work in groups within a short time period to write down everything they know about a specific topic on one whiteboard (you could use paper).
After the time is up, one member of each group stands up.
Go around each group and they must say one thing from their list. They cannot hesitate or repeat anything already said. (If they do, they are out). Emphasise the importance of excellent listening skills (to avoid repetition).
The last group with a person standing wins.
This is a very simple and very speedy activity that allows you to ascertain where pupils’ understanding is and how to move it on. It also focuses on listening skills and encourages effective group work.
If you encounter problems with participation, you could combine the activity with the ‘String web group work’ activity as an immediate visual clue as to who is struggling to fully participate in the activity.
Pupils are engaged as they want to win. I often provide house points or raffle tickets to the winning team.
Using mini whiteboards isn’t a revolutionary idea but I find that sometimes teachers forget that they have this resource to hand.
They are great for AfL in that you can immediately work out who understands a concept and who needs support, especially if you introduce basic rules, such as not showing the teacher the board until you say “Show me!” or count for them to show you. Encouraging pupils to do this will give you a more accurate understanding of who needs more help, as in a larger class, it can be easy for pupils to copy the correct answer from a fellow pupil without you seeing.
I use whiteboards constantly in Maths lessons, but I also encourage the use of them constantly in other subjects. Giving pupils the opportunity to draft ideas, mindmap or use them to support other pupils (consolidating their own understanding) will create good habits and should help pupils to produce a higher quality of work.
I also find that not only is it far more targeted, but by asking pupils to complete these regularly (they stamp WWW, EBI or Next Steps, or a combination of these into their books on completion of a piece of work) it ensures that pupils take more responsibility for their learning and are more aware of their targets and how to make progress.
In English, we complete a weekly DIRT session (Dedicated Improvement and Reflection Time) where we are able to spend time looking back through work, proof-reading and improving, before completing a WWW, EBI and Next Steps target based on work completed that week. By incorporating this into my teaching as a regular activity, pupils know that there is that expectation of them and they know they have to take responsibility for moving their learning on.
This is not only used as a self-assessment task, but I also provide time for peer assessment of work where peers are able to also provide WWW, EBI and Next Steps targets.
I used it in the context of a SPAG lesson where Y6 pupils were answering test questions in preparation for the SATs test.
In a previous lesson, pupils identified areas of weakness from mock SPAG tests and CGP grammar tests they had completed. I gave them a boarding card with SPAG topics. They used the previous tests to help them identify areas they needed to focus on in this lesson. Each area was colour coded with the questions, which were laminated in the correct colours.
I turned the classroom into an airport with 5 ‘airline staff’ who were children secure in L5 grammar. The rest of the class were ‘passengers’.
All pupils had their boarding cards. They went to he staff to ‘check in their spaggage’ and were directed to a particular question type by the staff. The staff had all the answers, a grammar revision guide and a whiteboard and pen to help them resolve any misconceptions with passengers.
Passengers completed a question, returned to the check-in desk, their form was initialled by staff and then passengers repeated the activity.
Pupils had a form to fill in with the question number, topic, quick smiley face to show their understanding, and a column to say whether they needed further support with that particular topic.
The landing card (reflecting on learning and future learning)
Before the end of the lesson, pupils again queued at the check-in desks to receive their landing card. This was almost exactly the same as their boarding card. Pupils could seek help from airline staff if necessary.
Using their form and boarding card, pupils ticked areas they needed further support with in future.
To encourage all members of a group to participate, use wool or string during the discussion. Every time a person speaks, they take the ball of string/wool. This tracks who is participating easily from a distance for the benefit of the teacher, who can view participants in the different groups and ensure every child is taking an active role in the group. It also has the benefit of making all pupils aware that the teacher can track their participation easily so they are more likely to feel under pressure to take an active role rather than sit back and let the other members of he group do all the work.
You could reward pupils (e.g. with raffle tickets that are used to enter them in a prize draw. Alternatively, with house points or equivalent) by giving each pupil a reward equivalent to their contribution, e.g. 4 raffle tickets for 4 contributions.