Archive for October, 2007

Formative Assessment Cycle in Your Classroom: Your Technology Use?

Formative Assessment Cycle (Question, Response, Interpretation, Action)

How do you generate an activity that requires a student response through technology?
How do you gather student responses through technology?
How do you interpret or diagnose the gap between where the student is and the desired goal through technology
How do you provide meaningful suggestions to help the student close the learning gap through technology?

© Harry Grover Tuttle, 2007


Spanish Street (calle)Scenes Photos from Flickr

Here are a variety of hispanic streets. Please share with your Spanish teacher so that he/she can help the students to improve their speaking and writing through visuals.


Calle de las flores, Andalucia, Espana

Calle Zamora decorada para la navidad, Salmanca, Espana

Calle feliz, Iquitos Loreto Peru

Calle que lleva nuestro nombre, Montevideo, Uruguay

Calle Obispo with the Hotel Ambos Mundos (Hemingway’s haunt), Havana, Cuba

Calle Santa Isabel, Madrid, Espana

Calle del leon (hisortia, Madrid, Espana

Fútbol en la Calle 26 de Marzo #8, Montevideo, Uruguay

Calle del diamante, Xalapa, Mexico

Frutería. Calle San Esteban. Sevilla, Espana

A stall in Calle Heredia, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba

Pinturas en la Calle El Conde, Santo Domingo, República Dominicana.

Other Spanish (Hispanic) images:


Spanish streets – Calle

Spanish sports –Deporte

Spanish transportation Transportes

Spanish restaurant Restaurante

If you have ideas you would like to share about the problems that students have in being fluent speakers and, if possible, the possible solutions, please add as a comment.  For example,  some students can not keep a conversation focused on the topic – a solution is to start them with a series of pictures about the topic or for them to focus on a specific problem such as an ordering problem in a restaurant.

Improve Rubrics to be Formative Assessment

I’ve been looking at rubrics online. I’ve been very frustrated.

Most rubrics do not explain the differences between the quality levels of Advanced, Proficient, Growing, and Starting in the standard. Can your students really improve by reading the rubric? Do they know the difference in the quality expected in each level?
Some typical comments which supposedly describe the quality:
Advanced – Has complete explanations;
Proficient – Adequately explains the information;
Growing – Has some of the information;
Starting- Has a little of the information
What does this mean to a student who received a Starting designation? How does the rubric indicate that he/she has to do to improve?

Most rubrics do not distinguish between which categories are critical and which are helpful. For example, in writing the message (the critical part) is supported by grammar conventions (helpful). Without a sound message, it does not matter how grammatically correct the message is. Unfortunately, usually the message and grammar conventions are given the same weight.

Perhaps three questions (Sadler, 1989) will help you to evaluate a rubric:
Does it clearly indicate the standard and the high quality expected for the standard?
Does it clear indicate to the student how the student’s present performance compares to this standard and quality?
Does it clearly indicate to the student how to close the gap between where the student now is and the expected high quality of the standard?

Rubric as Formative Assessment

Does your rubric clearly indicate what next steps the student is to take to improve in the standard? If not, then probably it is not a student formative learning rubric but a teacher grading rubric.

Wiki Wonderful for Student Learning

W I K I Wonderful Information Kids Inspired

I did a presentation today on improving students’ in-depth and comprehensive learning through a wiki.

I showed:
How students can create their own class textbook.
How students can summarize and clarify textbook chapters.
How students can work on projects together with a shared repository for materials, ideas, and drafts.
How students can do individual long term projects (term paper, science report, etc.) using the wiki as a scaffold.
How students can use a Wiki as a presentation tool.
How educators can do formative assessment during any stage of the students’ projects instead of waiting until the end to assess since the educators can see what changes have been made by which students.

How else do you promote in-depth and comprehensive standards-based learning through a wiki?

Harry Grover Tuttle 2007

Written Feedback: Improving Student Learning

Written feedback can be a powerful tool for helping students to move forward in their learning. However, if we bombard the students with too much feedback, the students will shut down. Do you remember ever getting an English paper with more red marks than your original writing? Did you feel that it was hopeless to try to write?

Written feedback has the advantage that the student can refer to it over and over again. With oral feedback, the student may forget what was said.

Some techniques for effective written feedback:
– Sandwich your improvement feedback between what the student did well in terms of the standard.
– Focus on one to two critical aspects only. Do not comment on all five components of your Science lab report rubric.
– Word process your comments so that students can read them! If students hand in their work in digital format, you can add your comments in the appropriate places
– Word your feedback in student understandable talk.
– Instead of telling , asking questions
– Be positive or neutral, never negative!
– Be very concrete about what the student needs to do to improve. Avoid “Write better”, “Enlarge ideas,” and “Be specific.” Create a word processed list of concrete suggestions so that you can easily cut and paste.
-Review your written feedback notes for students to see if you need to do whole class, small group, pair or individual focused instruction.
– Allow an opportunity for the student to re-do the work. Student learning is the purpose, not a summative grade.

What other techniques do you use to give written formative feedback?

Changing a Test from Summative to Formative

How does a test change from being a summative (end of unit, no more work on it) to a formative one (ongoing learning)?

One technique is to assess the test against a specific rubric or checklist. When a student is missing something, you circle it. A student can easily see what he/she did not do.

First paragraph/sentence Details Paragraphs Closing paragraph

Requirements for a direct request order letter

However, correcting a test is summative unless the student can learn from the test. Since the student can see by looking at what is circled, what he/she is missing, the student can see his/her gaps in learning. The next step is for the student to re-take that part of the test now that he/she knows what his/her gaps are and how to correct them. In addition, the section of the textbook is indicated if the student has additional question.

The success of this method is when the student hands in the revised test to demonstrate his/her learning. A wonderful climax is for the student then to be given another letter of this type to do to fully demonstrate his/her new learning.

Are your tests summative or formative? If they are formative, how do you make them formative so that the students learns what the gaps in learning are and fills in those gaps to be a proficient student?

Students Standard Success Pre-Requisite: Purpose and Demonstration

My favorite questions to ask in class are “What is the purpose of this class?” and “How will I know that you have learned it?”

Two critical classroom questions about a standard

If students are not aware of what they are to be learning (the standard, outcome, or proficiency), then they are not focused learners. I do not want to hear their answers as activities such as “To find information on the web” or “Use APA style.” I want them to identify the major outcome for the unit or course such as “Write a research paper on a future career.”

Likewise, if they do not know how they are to demonstrate their learning, then they will not be focused on the types of activities they need to do. If students can answer “Write a research paper detailing career responsibilities, skills, education and employment possibilities for two careers,” then I am sure that they know what they have to do to be successful in the course.

I’ve actually give quizzes on these two questions. If they cannot answer these two questions, then they probably will not do well in their course learning. I will provide them with many opportunities to self-assess their progress. I use the online survey tool of Zoomerang to give me a class and individual overview of their progress in reaching the course outcome so that I can work with groups and individuals who need additional support in order to be successful.

How well can your students answer these two questions for your course? How do you check on their progress using technology?

Harry Grover Tuttle© 2007

More In-depth Textbook Reading Through A Wiki

Greater Textbook Reading Through a WIKI

The above diagram depicts how I am using a WIKI in one of my classes. Students read the chapter more carefully since they know that another student will be looking over their summary. The student who reviews the summary has to carefully read the chapter and then the summary to see what is missing, add any important concepts, and then to supply examples of the ideas presented in the text. The last student has to read the chapter, read the summary and examples, adds more examples, and then determine what outside sources will help other students who read this. They also know that I can see all the revisions to see what they added. By the way, many textbooks are not sequential.

To paraphrase a student, “I have to examine the text more since I know someone will be looking at my summary.”

How do you improve student learning through a WIKI?

Formative Assessment for Asking Questions in World Languages and ESL

Speaker and Listener with Formative Feedback

World Language teachers (Spanish, French, Germany, Chinese, Italian, etc.) and ESL teachers want their students to become fluent in the language. However, often they have no easy way to measure the students’ fluency nor the time to listen to each student. A solution is to have students practice in groups of two with their partner providing some formative feedback according to a checklist or collection form.

1. A student is to ask ten questions about a picture in a minute while her/his partner counts the questions. At the end of a minute, the partner gives feedback to the speaker such as “You asked nine questions. What else could you ask about …..? The partner points to a place, object or person that the speaker did not ask a question about.

2. A student is to ask all the question words about the picture. Her/his partner checks off each question word on the list as the partner says it. At the end of a minute, the partner gives the feedback such as “You used all the question words.” or “You used all the question words except Why? What is a Why question for this picture?”

3. A student is to ask and answer all the question words for a picture. His /her partner checks off each question word on the question column and checks off the answer-the-question column. At the end of the minute, the partner gives the feedback such as ” You asked and answered 4 questions. You did answer the question “When..” but what other answers are possible for that question?”

4. A student is to ask complex questions about a picture such as “What color is the table that is next to the door?” or “How many people who are standing have red shirts?” within a minute. Her/his partner checks off the question word column and the complex sentence column and gives feedback such as “You said four complex sentences about the picture. One question ‘Where is the girl?’ was not a complex question. How could you make it one? or “I did not understand your question about the food, could you please say it again?”

5. A student and his/her partner have a conversation about a visual. The first student is a reporter and the second student is a person in the visual. The second student jots down a slash for each question that the reporter asks and one for each answer he/she responds to. At the end of the minute, the non-reporter reports back on how many questions were asked and answered. The two students brainstorm how they could generate more meaningful questions about the visual. Then they do the same activities, after switching roles, for another visual.

How else can students give each other formative feedback on their speaking? Please share your additional ideas on how students give each other formative feedback in your subject area. I’m writing a book and would like more examples than the ones I generate.

(My 365th blog)

Harry Grover Tuttle©2007

Formative Assessment- Let Your Students Rate Your Feedback to Them

Teacher Feedback Analyzed by the Students

Do we really give formative feedback to our students? I would suggest that the best people to answer that question is our students.

If you really want to know, you might give each student a Feedback card that has five columns – the date and each of the four point values. You will have rows for various dates. Row 1 = Day 1, Row 2 -Day 2, etc.

On the card they write their name. They give you a slash in the appropriate column at the end of each class:

1 point each time you ask them a question, ask them for a comment, listen in on their group, or look at their work.
3 points if you tell them their answer or task is correct or not.
8 points if you tell them why their answer or task is correct or why their answer or task is incorrect.
20 points if you give them clues, prompts, ask them for additional information, etc. that directly enables them to arrive at the answer, do the performance task well, etc. (They only give you 20 if they can do it well after your feedback).

If students have laptops or computers, then you can create a spreadsheet that they complete.

What’s your reaction to the student formative feedback form? What other techniques do you have to assess how well you do formative feedback? Once you know, what do you do?

Spanish Sport (Deporte) Pictures from Flickr for Student Conversations

Deportes – Please share with your Spanish teacher so he/she can have a source of pictures for classroom conversations about sports. Can the students ask 10 questions about the picture? Pretend to be someone in the picture describing what she/he is doing? Have two people in the picture having a discussion about what they are doing. Tell what was, is and will happen.

How will the teacher assess the students? How will the teacher give formative feedback to the students so that they can improve?

Marathon -Barcelona, Espana

Volibol – Buenos Aires, Argentina

Boats – puerto madero, Argentina

ejercicio por bicicleta – Sevilla, Espana

futbol – Pamplona, Espana

ciclismo, bicicletas – Espana

Palacio de los deportes de Madrid, Espana

Saltar del puente – Venezuela

Correr – Nike10K

Un ganador -sign Nogales, Mexico

Tienda de futbol -Madrid, Espana

Kayak Race – Sevilla, Espana

baloncesto – Madrid, Espana

patinaje agresivo -Madrid, Espana


Other Spanish (Hispanic images) for conversations or writing

Spanish streets – Calle

Spanish sports –Deporte

Spanish transportation Transportes

Spanish restaurant Restaurante


Spanish Language Menu

If you have other flickr Spanish sports images to add, please put them in a comment.

If you have ideas you would like to share about the problems that students have in being fluent speakers and, if possible, the possible solutions, please add as a comment.  For example,  some students can not keep a conversation focused on the topic – a solution is to start them with a series of pictures about the topic or for them to focus on a specific problem such as an ordering problem in a restaurant.



Free Testing Websites

There are numerous free website that can help you to prepare tests if you do no have an online classroom management program that can produce tests.

I would suggest word processing your test questions first and then cutting and pasting so you do not loose it if something happens online. Also, carefully look at all the buttons before continuing to the next page of any program.

Easytestmaker allows you to create a test online and format it. You print it out for the students. The program produces an answer key to facilitate manual correction. allows you to create and administer the test online. You can have public or private tests. Your students see the correct answer for each question and your comment about the answer, if you included one. In the options, make sure to make it private if it is just for your class. You can have the students print out their pre-assessment total score and correct/incorrect response for each answer.

SchoolCandy allows you to create a test and administer it online. Students can see their results on individual questions only if the teacher enables this feature. Students receive their score as soon as they finish. There is a small statistical matrix to show questions with unusually high correct or incorrect answers. Tests are stored for one year plus 2 months. If teachers do not see the orange test screen, then students have left the site.
Zoomerang is an online survey site. However, you can also administer tests. You see the results of the class per question and can see how individuals responded to the test. Students cannot see their results. After 10 days you do not have access to the information unless you pay for the next level.

What other free test services do you use? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each?

Using a Pre-assessment as Formative Assessment

Usually students take a pre-assessment and the teacher is the only one to see the results. If we look at a pre-assessment as a formative assessment, then the students not only need to see the results but also need to be presented with new information or strategies to help them learn the standards-based material. The pre-assessment tells the students where they are in terms of the standard and where they need to be. A score such as 70 does not help them. Seeing which items they did well on and which they did not do well on provides them with an awareness about their present learning.

One technique is to have a checklist that you use to evaluate the pre-assessment. You check off those student strengthens that are present. Students can see what strengthens they have and know what areas they need to improve in. You can refer to a handout, textbook, or website that can help the students as they begin to progress in the standard.

Another technique is to have an online system that tells if each answer is correct or not. More important, you make a comment after the correct answer to explain the correct answer. Students can understand why they had an incorrect answer and begin to understand what is required for a correct answer. They have more than right or wrong; they have the start of their future learning in the standard.

Checking for Understanding: Coupons for More Than Participation in the Classroom

Standards-based formative student participation coupons

A world language (Spanish/French) teacher was telling me that she gives a coupon to a student when he/she participates (Thanks, Kitty). The students turn the coupons in at the end of the month.

I would suggest a variation that reflects more of standards-based assessment of language learning.

A coupon of 1 point represents identifying a vocabulary item (“window”) or doing a grammar item (I form of to sing)
A coupon of 2 points represents asking or answering a basic question such as “Where do you live?” through speaking or writing.
A coupon of 5 points indicates that the student has read, listened, or watched to some information, then responded by speaking or writing in five different sentences or five different questions about the one topic.

The student are told that by the end of the month they are to have at least 120 points.

Each week they can count up their 1 point, 2 point, and 5 point coupons. They could make a graph to see where they are and to analyze their progress. They will quickly realize that by only answering with vocabulary or grammar or by only answering basic questions, they will not get them their needed total points. A look at their weekly score provides a formative assessment of how they use language in the classroom. As teachers we have to provide them with the opportunity to use their language in extended ways and to scaffold their writing and speaking so that they can speak or write in extended ways. We can share techniques for saying or writing five different sentences or questions about a topic. We can help them to make the transition from minimal language use to expressing ideas in the language.

How do you use participation coupons as formative assessment?


Checking for Understanding-Teacher Mistakes and Better Techniques

Hunter Checking for understanding

Over thirty years ago Madeline Hunter used the term checking for understanding. Hunter, M. (1982). Mastery Teaching. El Segundo, CA: Tip Publication, pgs. 59-62.

3 common errors teachers make in checking for understanding

1. “O.K.? “With the assumption that student silence means it is OK and they understand.

2. “You all understand, don’t you? You don’t have any questions, do you?” Few students are willing to publicly admit they don’t understand. In fact, most students work hard to keep their teacher from discovering that they don’t know or can’t do. Yet one of the most important pieces of information that teachers can have is the knowledge that students have not yet acquired the necessary understanding.

3. “Now does anyone have a question?” Too often a query carries the implication that “If you do have questions, you obviously weren’t listening or you’re not very bright.”

She suggested several approaches to really check for student understanding:
Signaled answers
Choral response
Sample individual response
Tests, papers or observations

How do you check for student understanding and then what do you do to help the students improve in their learning?

Online Discussion: More Than Responding to Others

 Online discussion

Unfortunately, one of the most common discussion teacher instructions is “Respond to 3 people.” Usually, a student has done something (answered a question, summarized a reading, given an example), and others are asked to respond. Unless the students know how to respond, they will simply make a brief comment back to the person, “Good job, Mike” and even an elaboration “Good job, Mike, on your use of science websites in your class.” does not provide helpful formative feedback. Even when they say, “Mike, your websites are very interactive and they show students the variables that impact any experiment,” they are not growing from reading the other student’s responses unless they also are a science teacher.

I think the learning that takes place is more important than the  actual number of response.  Have all students contribute to a common project is much more participatory such as researching how two different occupations use oral communication and share with each other so that the class can determine the types of work speaking they  will learn.  Have students brainstorm a topic such as different types of letter for a business class allows all students to share ideas. Have students peer-correct another student’s project or suggest improvements.  Having each student find a different YouTube videos or podcasts that explains a science concept and be prepared to explain the science concept becomes exciting for students. When students know that doing the conversation with help them to learn, they become motivated.  They do not see it as just an exercise.

What do you do to make your online discussions valuable learning experiences for your students instead of just counting (react to three people) activities?

Online Discussion/Conversation Groups: How do we group learners?


How do we organize professional development online discussion groups with educators who are from different disciplines?

Mechanically, the groups could be organized alphabetically such as the last names of A-E, F-I, etc.
Mechanically, the groups be organized by the order in which the educators sign up for the class.

Content wise, the groups could be organized by their disciplines.
Content wise, the groups could be organized from the mixed disciplines when they all have a common problem that each can contribute to and grow from each other.
Content wise, the groups could be organized by the educator’s common interest or chosen area for improvement (structuring online classes, responding to students, etc.)

How we group the learners helps to determine how much they will learn in the online discussion. How do you group people (students or instructors) in online discussion groups to maximize learning?

Checking for Understanding- Formative Assessment Techniques: Review and Analysis

Checking for Understanding Book from ASCD

I just finished reading Fisher, F. and Frey, N. (2007). Checking for Understanding: Formative Assessment Techniques for Your Classroom. Alexandria,VA: ASCD.

A mini- summary of the some of the formative assessment techniques:
– Oral Language-accountability talk, non-verbal cues; value-lineup; retellings; think-pair-share; misconception analysis whip around
– Questions – non-verbal support; response cards; hand signals; audience response systems (clickers); reciprocal questioning; Socratic seminar
– Writing -Interactive writing; read-write-pair-share; summary writing; RAFT;Projects/
– Performances – Readers’ Theatre; Multi-media presentation; electronic and paper portfolios; graphic organizers; Inspiration; foldables; dioramas; public performance

I appreciate that the authors
– identified concrete ways in which teachers can assess for student understanding through the language skills of speaking, writing, and
– provided several classroom examples for each way of assessing
– included numerous rubrics and student examples
– provided much research on each topic

I felt that they
– did not stress the assessment of standards
– focused primarily on whole class assessment for understanding
– assumed that all teachers can observe for students’ misconceptions and lack of knowledge while they are teaching. As teachers are teaching, they are trying to call on students, keep track of other students, keep the topic moving toward the achievement of the goal, keep track of materials, etc. Teaching is a huge juggling act and sometimes teachers can not do everything (such as keep track of misconceptions, lack of knowledge) in a meaningful organized way while they are teaching.
– did not provide tools to help teachers keep track of their assessments of understanding
– focused primarily on the isolated classroom teacher . I would have like to have heard about team’s working together to compare their findings on their classes and teams working together

What was your reaction to the book?

Acuity – Not so sharp for teachers

I talked with someone whose school district is using Acuity to assess students in language arts and math. The district has decided to assess four times a year instead the much larger number they originally thought.   The teachers get the results back.  They discuss them at a team meeting and then they go back to teaching.  The classroom teachers who have been given so much information do not have time to digest the information, let along figure out how they will change instruction.  They do not have curriculum re-planning time. They do not collectively create remedial activities. They do not have an additional resources to help them in modifying their curriculum.

Although the idea of frequently assessing students throughout the year is an admirable concept, unless teachers are given adequate time to analyze the results, determine what changes they need  to make, create/refocus learning materials, develop formative assessments, learn new ways of grouping students, then such frequent assessments serve no purpose except to lessen instructional time.

Online Course Material: Helpful or Confusing?


A friend shared with me the experience he is having with an online course he is taking. During the first week he downloaded a 34 page welcome and instruction booklet. He was shocked when he noticed that each section was in a different font, font size, and style. There were no divisions between the sections just a change in formatting. It seemed that different people wrote each section and these sections were just put together. There was no table of contents so that he could not find anything easily. He could not determine any logical flow to the materials. When he went to read one set of instructions for an assignment, he found that all the text was centered and bolded. In that section he could not determine what were the critical parts nor what he was to do. He was new to the online program but there were no screenshots showing him what was where. There were no visual illustrations or concept maps showing how various things went together. Only one of the initial practice activities was critical to the topic of the online course. He said he would give it one more week before he gave up.

How do your online course materials support your students’ success in your course? Do your materials gently guide the student through the necessary background/skill set so that they can handle the mechanics of the course and focus on the content? Do your online materials help the students to grow in the content in an in-depth manner?

Supporting Standards-Based Learning and Assessment With Word Processing

Standards Based Learning and Assessment with Word Processing

How else do you use a word processor in your standards-based classroom? searching for Great Results searching

I was talking to someone teaching an Information Literacy course and found out that the course centers around various search engines, search terms, boolean searching, validating sources, researching and writing a research paper. They cover search engines, metasearch engines, subject guides, and specialized tools (databases within one’s field). They use many online academic databases.

I noticed that they did not include the resource of 21st century Web 2.0 social bookmarking. In sites such as, people share their bookmarks so that you can search bookmarks of others just like you would search a search engine. You can see how many others have linked to each bookmark. Social marking gives us another tool to use in searching for useful information. See what others have already found for you!

How do you use social bookmarking in your course?

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