One of the most important tasks for a teacher is to know how to check to see if your students know the material that you the teacher have been teaching them. Some students just fall through the cracks (so to speak). They never fully grasp the material that is being presented to them, and therefore they will struggle in more courses, or even beyond high school. They may have to learn it in college, or even on the job. In this essay I will describe four appropriate strategies teachers can use to monitor student understanding of lesson material. I will also describe an effective monitoring system that you could use regularly in your classroom for ELL (English language learners).
Monitoring student understanding of lesson material
The four strategies that I would like to address in this essay are the following; Questioning strategies that are used to get the students thinking, Think-pair and share which is where the teacher circulates through the classroom, and listens to the students share (Aguilar, 2010), An exit ticket where the students write on a piece of paper the answer to 2 or 3 questions that you have written on the board or given them to do before the bell rings, and Periodic Review: Once students have mastered a particular academic skill, the instructor will quickly move them on to a more advanced learning objective (Wright, 2001). However, the teacher should make sure that students retain previously mastered academic skills by periodically having them review that material (Wright, 2001). Periodic review is often overlooked but is a powerful method for keeping students’ academic skills sharp (Wright, 2001). These four strategies are useful when monitoring student understanding in this case a 10th grade History class. The strategy that I will use as an example for the ELL students is to meet with each of them individually and go over the lesson with them, and ask them questions to see if they understand what it is they should be doing.
The first strategy mentioned is questioning strategy to see if the students are understanding the material. There are several methods that a teacher can use, but my favorite one is to be giving a lesson using direct instruction, and then incorporate the questions thorough the lesson. Asking the students at random so that they do not know who I will ask next. Do not wait for someone to raise their hand to answer your question, call the student out by name e.g. “Mary, who was our nations first Secretary of the Treasury.” This works if you know the students well, and know them by name. At the first of a new school year the teacher may have to wait until the end of the question to call on someone because the teacher does not know their name. Another very effective method is ask a student a question, and then have them expand on what their answer is. Keep probing them for more, to give a more detailed answer. Continue to ask them questions to see how far they can go.
The next strategy is the think-pair and share strategy. This is effective when a teacher will put the students in groups, and have them discuss the formative questions that you the teacher have given them. Circulate around the classroom and listen in on each discussion. This will give the teacher a very good idea of which groups, and which individual student understand the material. Answer questions if they have them, or lead them to a place where they can get the answer.
The third strategy that I would like to discuss is the exit ticket strategy. Sometimes using the other two strategies that have been mentioned a teacher may not get to everyone. With the questioning you might be asking not all the students, and the one’s you do might be asked questions they do know the answers to, but might not know answers to questions you don’t ask them. With the think-pair and share the teacher might not be hearing all of the students speak if they are in a group. So the exit ticket can work very well. I would give the students 2 or 3 questions to answer the last 10 minutes of class to test their understanding. Have them write the answers on a piece of paper and hand in to you before the bell rings.
The fourth strategy is the periodic review strategy. This is good to go back after you have covered a particular lesson a week or two ago. Sometimes students are just memorizing to get past a particular unit the teacher is teaching. By going back in review at random the students are unprepared for this and will test if the student really learned the material, or if they just memorized it. This is important because the teacher should make sure the students have mastered a certain academic goal. This keeps the students sharp all year long.
The strategy for students who are ELL students is meeting with each of them individually. Sometimes with students who are learning English they need that extra attention to make sure they are getting everything. It is good to meet with them one on one, and go over things very slowly. This will help you the teacher distinguish if the ELL students are understanding your words, and therefore if they understand their assignment.
There are many other strategies that a teacher can use to monitor student understanding of a particular lesson. I have mentioned four strategies to monitor understanding for 10th grade History class. I also mentioned one for ELL students. These strategies can be a very helpful guide for a teacher to use in order to make sure his/her class is understanding the material. I hope this essay has encouraged you the reader to learn more about strategies to help teachers monitor understanding.
Aguilar, E (2010). Do you check for understanding often enough with students? [online], Available: http://www.edutopia.org/formative-assessments-checking– for-understanding-strategies (March 21, 2010).
Wright, J (2001). Teacher strategies to promote learning, [online], Available: http://www.pasadenaisd.org/curr_instr/intervention/tchrstrategies.pdf (April 14, 2001).