Category Archives: Formative Assessment

Assessing Retell in Rhyme

One of my go-to EduProtocols this year has been Retell in Rhyme. The act of responding to a text in writing has a very large, positive ( .77) effect on reading comprehension. Sometimes it is not easy for teachers to tell if a student has selected historical details because they are important, or because they are easy to rhyme. Adding a self-assessment follow-up activity with a rubric and/or a success chart can give teachers more insight as to what students got out of the learning event.

This post will look at three samples of student work and examine their self-assessments. These tenth-grade students listened to a podcast from 15 Minute History and were allowed one class period (50 minutes) to listen, take notes, and create 10 rhyming couplets with a partner. The next day, they were given 10 minutes, this rubric, and a success chart to do a self-assessment. I asked them to write at least ten sentences.

Sample A

Self-Assessment 1

Self Assessment 2

Clearly, self-assessment 1 is effective at aligning their work with the language in the rubric. They identify four key terms that are on the success chart. They justify why they omitted important dates. They could be better at identifying how many events from the success chart they included. Is it 25%? 50%? 75%? In this case, a “good portion” is hard to measure. Self-assessment 2 only mentions that they met the 20-line requirement. They cite no evidence from the rubric or success chart. If I were to grade these reflections, assessment 1 would get an A, and assessment 2 would get a D.

Sample B

Self-Assessment 1

Self-Assessment 2

Both of these self-assessments would be in the B range. I like how #1 acknowledges that they needed more details. I like how #2 includes Napoleon & Gens de Couleur, but they could have been more specific when saying “Some lines had key summarized details.” This is your chance to convince your teacher you deserve an A. Don’t blow the opportunity with soft, non-specific language.

Sample C

Self-Assessment 1

Self-Assessment 2

Both of these assessments would be in the A category. Teachers can extend learning by asking students to compare their work to a success chart and/or a rubric. Andrade (2018) analyzed 76 empirical studies on self-assessment and concluded that “self-assessment is the act of monitoring one’s processes and products in order to make adjustments that deepen learning and enhance performance. Although it can be summative, the evidence… strongly suggests that self-assessment is most beneficial, in terms of both achievement and self-regulated learning, when it is used formatively and supported by training.” This means students self-assess to give themselves feedback and gain clarity on their performance guided by academic advisors. Students will improve their self-assessment abilities with coaching and reps over time.

I look forward to seeing your results with Retell in Rhyme. Please tag me on Twitter and use the #EduProtocols hashtag.

Indy Book Projects

As I start to reflect on the end of another school year, I want to focus on a couple of pieces of student work that have made me feel like an accomplished teacher. I always try to integrate an independent reading project into my history class. I am purposefully vague with students and only tell them that they need to complete a project that convinces me they have read the book. This year, I had two Gaby’s that exceeded my expectations.

The first student read Dead Wake by Erik Larson, which is a fantastic book to help students understand an important turning point in WWI history. This student was part of our school’s Teaching Academy and she decided early on that she wanted to transform this book into a children’s book. I was very impressed by the details she recorded and how she made the author’s text accessible to lower level readers.

Lusitania Children’s Book by scottmpetri on Scribd

The next student wrote a review of the book Forty Autumns by Nina Willner but responded to my feedback with at least five new versions of her review. I especially enjoyed how she included some questions for the author. I was able to contact the author on Twitter @ninawillner and she agreed to respond to the student’s questions. I love how technology has helped bridge a previously insurmountable gap between authors and readers.

Garden of BeastsInfographic Template

The-Great-InfluenzaGreat Influenza Foldable

I love doing projects like this where students have voice and choice as to the type of book they are reading and the project they are creating. The only instruction I give them is that their project should convince me that they read the entire book. The fun part of teaching is seeing how different and creative students can be.

Using Flipgrid to Improve Speaking Skills

This Fall, I have been using a video response tool called Flipgrid to help improve my students’ speaking skills. Flipgrid is a video platform used by over 30,000 teachers to ignite classroom discussions and promote social learning. In Flipgrid, teachers post discussion topics to which students respond with videos, providing every student an equal voice, increasing retention, and encouraging peer-led learning. Full Disclosure: Flipgrid asked me to join their Ambassador program and bribed me with stickers, t-shirts, and love. This program rocks and I have fallen in love with Flipgrid.

Since September, my students have created 304 video responses to 10 topics on 5 grids. They have viewed each others’ videos 6,324 times resulting in 1 year and 139 days of total viewing time. After some trial and error, I primarily use two grids: US History and World History for the majority of my assignments. I can add new topics and keep the majority of my student work organized. I am trying to use Flipgrid once or twice a month to check for understanding and see how well students can verbalize their thought process. Part of the impetus for using Flipgrid came from my principal who is fond of asking “How do you know if they have learned from your instruction?”  With Flipgrid, I can just click and let my students speak for themselves.


In the above example, I asked my students to play a “Who Am I?” game with their individual Enlightenment Philosophes. The students had 90 seconds to tell us everything about their philosophe except their name, then we would use the videos to review for the final exam on the Enlightenment. Because Flipgrid allows you to download the individual videos, I was able to upload the best to YouTube (unlisted) and then create a video Kahoot for the students to use as a review game. This was a big hit.

So far, I have asked my World History students to explain differences between Roman and US checks and balances in government, paraphrase three stories from The Adventures of Ulysses, and elaborate on historical details from the French Revolution. My US History students have had to conduct to a say, mean, matter on the Preamble to the constitution, justify eliminating four Amendments from the Bill of Rights, demonstrate an Academic Conversation about Imperialism, tell the story of the Panama Canal, and preview three arguments for an essay about civil disobedience. I am at the beginning of my Flipgrid adventure. This tool will help me show growth in student speaking skills. I can see using Flipgrid this spring to fine tune the work I am doing with my ASCD Teacher Impact Grant colleagues as we participate in a video lesson study on student speaking skills. Further, by sharing Flipgrid with the 300 Social Studies teachers participating in the Constitutional Rights Foundation’s Teacher 2 Teacher Collaborative, this important tool can dramatically increase the amount of student speaking assignments in classrooms. Try Flipgrid One for free and share how you used it in the comments section.

Measures of Effective Listening

Thirty-two years ago, Donald E. Powers wrote Considerations for Developing Measures of Speaking & Listening. It was published by the College Board, which expresses how important these measures are to a student’s academic success, particularly in their Advanced Placement programs, yet has not validated any standardized tests to measure these skills. This synthesis on some of the research on listening offers advice to teachers enrolled in our MOOC Teaching Speaking & Listening Skills

Research shows that students can listen 2-3 grade levels above what they can read. Listening while reading helps people have successful reading events, where they read with enjoyment and accuracy. Listening while reading has been shown to help with decoding, a fundamental part of reading. The average person talks at a rate of about 125 to 175 words per minute, while we listen and comprehend up to 450 words per minute (Carver, Johnson, & Friedman, 1970).

Listening has been identified as one of the top skills employers seek in entry-level employees as well as those being promoted. Even though most of us spend the majority of our day listening, it is the communication activity that receives the least instruction in school (Coakley & Wolvin, 1997). On average, viewers who just watched and listened to the evening news can only recall 17.2% of the content.

Listening is critical to academic success. Conaway (1982) examined an entire freshman class of over 400 students. They were given a listening test at the beginning of their first semester. After their first year of college, 49% of students scoring low on the listening test were on academic probation, while only 4.42% of those scoring high on the listening test were on academic probation. On the other hand, 68.5% of those scoring high on the listening test were considered Honors Students after the first year, while only 4.17% of those scoring low attained the same success.

Students do not have a clear concept of listening as an active process that they can control. Students find it easier to criticize the speaker as opposed to the speaker’s message (Imhof, 1998). Students report greater listening comprehension when they use the metacognitive strategies of asking pre-questions, interest management, and elaboration strategies (Imhof, 2001). Listening and nonverbal communication training significantly influences multicultural sensitivity (Timm & Schroeder, 2000).

Understanding is the goal of listening. Our friend Erik Palmer suggests before students engage in purposeful listening, their teachers should tell them what to attend to. We need to teach students what to respond to, how to respond, and when to respond. For example, today we are going to listen to five speeches. For each speech, we are only listening for LIFE. After each speaker finishes, clap, then take a minute to evaluate the level of passion they put into their speech. After that write down three suggestions on how they could improve the LIFE in their speech (i.e., instead of emphasizing: you stole my red hat, try stressing, you stole my red hat).

A classroom teacher who reads Powers (1984) College Board study will understand that speaking, listening, reading and writing are all tightly correlated. Empirically measuring oral communication skills requires many hours of assessment on small, controlled populations. It is the opposite of what we experience in public schools where it is not feasible for us to precisely measure each skill. The important takeaway here is that teachers need to prepare their students to actively listen, avoid distractions, and teach listening and speaking with core academic content by training students to evaluate how well various speaking functions are accomplished by their classmates. While there are reliability issues with classroom peer review models, the benefits of “learning by evaluation” far outweigh the negatives.


Character Timeline Feedback

In an earlier post, I described a character evolution timeline project that I assigned my students to measure their level of effort in spending more than 30 days reading The Plot Against America by Philip Roth. These projects were graded on effort and earned either 95, 85, or 75 points. Late work was given 59 points.

Exemplary Effort – First Place Entries

2015-12-13 13.16.46

This entry was well-thought out with thoughtful analysis of the quotes

2015-12-13 11.57.24 This entry had nice art production values, but the author did not explain what the quotes meant.

Excellent Work – Second Place Efforts.

2015-12-13 12.21.04

There is a substantial amount of text being analyzed on this entry. It looks like this author spent a fair amount of time thinking about the novel before beginning this project.

2015-12-13 12.34.35

This entry spent too much time coloring the art and not enough time explaining what the quotes meant. I like that the page numbers were cited. This author did more than ten events.

2015-12-13 12.01.57

This entry devoted a lot of space to the emoticons. I’d like to see more analysis of the text, but the layout and content make this a solid second-tier effort.

Need to see more effort – The Bottom Third

2015-12-13 12.11.47

This entry does not look like the author spent much time thinking about the book, or selecting quotes. There was no attempt to explain what the quotes meant.

2015-12-13 12.52.24

I understand that  my students are taking five other classes and have homework and projects in each of them, however, these last two entries do not represent high school work.

Final Numbers

Out of 173 students, 31 got As (18%), 19 got Bs (11%), 37 got Cs (21%), and 85 students (49%) did not turn in timelines. Eight students received zeros for copying each other’s work. It is better to get a low grade for poor work than to lose all of the points for cheating. I expect more effort on your semester-end Holocaust projects.

Checking For Understanding

This year, Zaption has become my go-to tool as I check for understanding in my World History classes. I have learned (the hard way) that waiting for the end of unit DBQ to really “listen” to what students have learned in your class is setting yourself up for failure. After students have taken the test and written the essay, they have no motivation to go back and review the material no matter how wrong they were. So this year, I have embedded questions in my video lectures and shortened my writing assignments so that I can quickly assess student understanding and promptly correct any misunderstandings.

Exhibit A

Too Late

When this gem appeared on my Edmodo discussion board, It was too late for me to help this student. They had not listened to any of my lectures and they had misunderstood what they read in the book. Their fundamental lack of WWII knowledge was at once horrifying and hilarious.

Zaption tours allow a teacher to ask students multiple-choice, true-false, open-ended, and/or discussion board-style questions during a video lecture. The answers to these questions provide teachers with insight as to student critical thinking skills and the level of effort they are putting into their study. In one video lecture, I explain that “Genocide” and “Holocaust” are not the same thing. “Holocaust” is a word of Greek origin meaning “sacrifice by fire.” Genocide was an element of the Holocaust, but the Holocaust was the systematic, bureaucratic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of approximately six million Jews by the Nazis. Thirty seconds later, I ask the students to explain these differences in an open-ended question.

This student understands.

Holocaust is a word of Grecian origin, meaning “Sacrifice by Fire”. Genocide is the deliberate attempt to wipe out an entire ethnic, nationality, or religious group.

This student does not understand.

The difference between holocaust and genocide is holocaust is a word of the greek origin meaning sacrifice by fire and genocide is an element of the holocaust but yet the holocaust involved much more than  genocide.

This student’s careless use of the term “democratic movement” makes me red flag him for a private conversation during class the next day.

A genocide is only a small part of the holocaust while the holocaust itself is a democratic movement by a racist opinion that the german’s are a superior race and that the jews are a weak and useless race.

Zaption also provides a host of other analytics that are useful for determining who watched the videos, how long did they watch them, and how many questions did they get right. Right now the open-ended questions are my favorite.

Useful Dashboards

Tour Analytics

Analytics 2

Looking at Individual Student Performance


What have you learned from the data in your Zaption analytics? Please share your experiences and ideas in the comments section.