Now that the school year has started and hopefully we are making the transition into hybrid, distance or in-person learning, it is a good opportunity to think about options that will work regardless of our learning space. We may need to transition throughout the year and it is important to have a variety of options available for having our students create and be able to assess their learning. If we have a list of methods that work in any learning environment or a few ideas to try using different digital tools, we will be better prepared for what may at times be a challenging school year.
As I try to plan for the year, I have started by reflecting on the end of last year and the types of strategies and tools that I used with my students. There are a few key questions that I keep in mind as I consider my choices:
What are some ways to create more active learning experiences for my students which promote student choice?
Which methods can I use or what are some tools or resources that will better enable me to understand where students are in their learning?
What opportunities exist that will benefit students regardless of the learning space?
I think it is important to offer multiple formats for students to show what they are learning and that can be different ways to provide more authentic assessments for students. There are many digital tools and methods available for doing this, but sometimes it is helpful to start with just a few ideas that can be used in any grade level or content area.
Below are a few that I plan to explore this new school year. My hope is that these options will not only enable me to assess students throughout their learning journey, but help students to build confidence by showing their learning in a variety of ways.
Tools that help provide student choice in assessments:
Quick status check-ins: It is easy to do a quick check-in while in our classrooms simply by having a conversation with each student or through observations. However, with many educators and students engaged in a virtual learning space, we need some digital tools to help us check in with students and be able to provide them with timely and meaningful feedback. There are quick tools to use such as Google or Microsoft Forms or we can try some different tools like Mentimeter or Socrative to do a quick poll or multiple choice as a formative assessment. One tool that has many possibilities for classroom use is Quizizz, which offers free and paid accounts. Through Quizizz, teachers can include short response, fill-in-the-blank, polls and also create interactive lessons. Using tools like this we can create a variety of assessments to use with our students and for checking in on them during the year.
Show What You Know: Having students choose how to express where they are in the learning process, leads to more student engagement because of the power of choice in learning. By leveraging some tools for video creation for example, students can talk about what they are learning, create their own lesson for use with classmates and it also helps students to develop vital technology skills for the future. In my classroom, students have used tools like Edpuzzle and Educreations, to teach a lesson using the Spanish vocabulary and grammar topics that we are covering. Some students have also used WeVideo to create a demonstration of what they have learned in a way that meets their specific interests. Students may also enjoy creating something using digital tools for sketchnoting for example, where they can convey what they have learned using icons and use sketchnotes as a way to represent their understanding of the content material covered.
Student Newsletters: One idea that I can recall doing when I was in school, without the digital options available, was creating a newsletter. Depending on the grade level and content area, students can create a newsletter with the goal of informing classmates, the school community and even their families, about what they have been learning in class. Whether students choose to create using traditional non-digital methods or explore one of the many digital tools available, creating a newsletter provides students with a lot of choice in how to show what they know. Depending on the tool used, some newsletters can even include links to resources, a short video introduction to the content and graphics and other animations. Some of the tools that my students have used are Buncee which offers templates for creating visually engaging newsletters and also offers Immersive Reader with translation available in more than 100 languages. Additional tools for creating newsletters and presentations are Canva and Smore which make it easy to get started with the templates available. Students can add in different types of content and create a multimedia newsletter. We can also offer students the opportunity to collaborate using these tools.
Choose Your Own Assessment: Something that I tried in my classroom a few years ago and recently went back to is having students choose their own assessment. Sometimes they need a few options to explore before deciding on something that interests them the most, but in the past year, students have created a variety of projects that have engaged them more in learning and led to greater retention of the content. Some of the favorites are writing a skit and performing it with a partner. At times, students decide to perform the skit in class and others rely on tools like iMovie or even Flipgrid, to record and edit their work. A few students have decided to create a short story and used Storybird which can then be printed into a softcover or hardcover book. I have many student-created books in my classroom.
It is most likely a busy time at the start of the year and finding ways to engage students in learning, especially if we are teaching in a hybrid or distance learning environment, can be challenging at times. There are a lot of possibilities out there and we simply need to choose one and get started and provide our students with the chance to decide exactly how to show what they know. The digital tools and ideas shared here are applicable for any content area or grade level. As we plan forward, exploring new ideas and offering students more choices will help to promote student engagement and offer a more meaningful learning experience, wherever learning is happening.
About the Author:
Rachelle Dene Poth has been teaching at Riverview High School in Pennsylvania for the past 21 years. Rachelle currently teaches Spanish and a STEAM course What’s nExT? In Emerging Technology. Rachelle is an attorney and has a Master’s Degree in Instructional Technology. She was President-Elect of the Teacher Education Network and Communications Chair for the Mobile Learning Network and was selected as one of “20 to watch” by the NSBA and received the PAECT Outstanding Teacher of the Year for 2017. At ISTE 2017 San Antonio, Rachelle received the Presidential Silver Award for Volunteer Service to Education. She is a regular blogger for Getting Smart and Kidblog. Find Rachelle regularly on Twitter @Rdene915.