Friday, September 11, 2015

Formative Assessments in the Dual Language Classroom

By S. Romero

Why is it important to use formative assessments daily in your classroom?  
You might be thinking,  “Give formative assessments daily?? Have you lost your mind?!” Formative assessments, I have to say is one of the most crucial, if not most important diagnostic components that you should conduct in your dual language classroom.  It should be included in your lesson planning and used daily in order to check for understanding of what it is you want your students to learn/master in both the native language and second language.
How does it benefit you as an educator and your students?
Using formative assessments can give you immediate feedback on whether your students understand the content and language being presented to them. This feedback will help the teacher identify those students who are still having difficulty grasping what is being taught. In addition, it allows for the teacher to modify the teaching and learning activities as deemed necessary. The student will benefit tremendously since this will allow for more than a “second chance” if you will, of mastering the content instead of waiting until the very end when given the “summative assessment” (the final test) which, by then is often times too late.  When teachers hear the word “assessment” right away we think of giving out a multiple test or quiz which, as we know takes time to create, time to give and time to evaluate. However, a formative assessment can be as simple as asking questions throughout the lesson. Below are some examples of some simple ways you can formally assess your students throughout the day.
NOTE: There are two forms of assessment: formative and summative assessments.  Formative assessments are more subjective and are not data driven but rather give the teacher a “quick look” at assessing the students’ skills and level of understanding in a particular content area. This type of assessment guides the teacher as to the direction the subsequent lessons will take. Is it time to move on? Have my students mastered this academic or language concept, or do I need to go back?   Summative assessments are your standardized tests, which give data of what your students have learned throughout a particular time period. These types of assessments are usually given at the beginning, middle and end of the year. They are also your state’s standardized test.
Examples of Formative Assessments that may be used when assessing in English or Spanish: 
Observation – Keep a folder with each student’s name on a tab. Grab a sticky notepad and walk around the room while your students are working independently or in small groups and make a quick anecdotal note of your student’s learning. Stick the sticky notes into their prospective folder. I usually write the student’s name on sticky pad, content area and date. If subject matter is taught in both English and Spanish (at a different time/day) make a note of language of instruction. This will help in monitoring academic and linguistic progress.
Exit Slips – Exit slips can be used to quickly assess learning right after a concept was taught. I usually give my students four quick questions to answer in their own words in regards to what was learned. This is a great way to determine which students still need a little or more help on a particular concept. It gives me the opportunity to quickly jot down the names of those students that are still struggling with that content and allows me to meet with them in a small group for re-teaching. It also easily identifies the students who have mastered the concept and can move on.  
Questioning – Asking questions and listening to your students’ responses can quickly give you an idea of which students get the “gist” of what it is being taught. I try to give more open-ended type questions so that I can hear my student’s learning /thinking if you will, instead of just yes or no answers. Some examples are:

Whiteboard feedback – Using whiteboards or just a piece a paper is fun ways to have your students give you feedback. I usually begin by asking a question out loud and my students race to write in their answer on a whiteboard.  They love it! We make it into a little game. At times, I’ll put them in groups of four and let them collaborate for the answer. I can quickly tell which table has mastered it and which table is still having difficulty. If I want to assess more individually, I call a student up at a time and ask them a question and have them write it on their whiteboard…still keeping it fun and less intimidating.  
Time Clock – With this type of assessment, I tell my students to get out a sheet a paper and write their name on it along with the particular subject matter they are being assessed on, for example, one area might be verbs. They write their name plus the word “verbs”.  I then give them three minutes to write as many verbs they can think of. I set a timer on three minutes and say out loud “on your mark, get set…go!” They love it! Once I collect the papers, I can clearly see who knows what verbs are.  To make it even more exciting, the person who has written the most verbs gets to pick something from a “Treasure Box.”
Visual Representation – This is one of my favorite types of formative assessments!  I especially like using this when assessing vocabulary.  Here’s an example of what it might look like.

It’s also a very effective way to assess your students that may not be awesome writers yet in the second language, but can visually represent their understanding of a word.
What are the most effective formative assessments that work for you and your students?  Please share in the comments!

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