3 Formative Assessment Tips: Coaching Misconceptions in Math

One thing I know to be true…
Most struggling students do not do their best learning during large group instruction.  Sometimes, even small group instruction isn’t enough.  Some students just need coaching–pure and simple.  
Of course, we can’t do one on one instruction for 25 students every day.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out.  But we can work to get better and grabbing these precious moments with students whenever we can.  Knowing how to “spend” your intervention minutes is an integral part of what we do.
One way I make sure to touch base with students who need it is to use entrance slips OFTEN.  I use entrance slips several times per week to do any of the following:

1.  See how students are doing on a topic we are working on

2.  See how students have retained a topic we did days/weeks/months ago

3.  See how much students already know about a topic we are about to cover.
Sometimes these slips are purely computation based like those shown above.  We are currently working on partial quotients division, so nearly every day I do an entrance slip to see how my students are doing.  Sometimes the slips are more open ended or problem-based.  It all depends on what information I am trying to collect.
What is most important to me is the next step…I quickly sort their slips and “see what I can see”.  I do this AS the students are turning them in whenever possible because I want to be ready to address misconceptions in any spare time I have.  These slips aren’t meant to be taken as a “grade” (although often I record them because I can’t remember ANYTHING these days), but are meant to guide my instruction.  After all, what “grade” do you give a child who gets one out of three division problems wrong?  What if it was a simple fact error?  What if they got all three wrong and it was simply because they didn’t include the remainder?
So what I do is simple…after sorting the slips into groups based on levels of  success, I have one of three options:
1.  Do I really need to reteach the entire class?

2.  Do I have a group that has similar needs–not necessarily the same number wrong–but are making the same mistake(s)?

3.  Do I have some individual needs that are best met in a one-on-one conference?
By asking these three questions, you can make decisions on the fly as to how to spend your precious minutes!  Yesterday I did the entrance slip pictured below.  We are on about day 4 of “partial quotients” and we’ve been doing a LOT of collaborative work.  It was time to start honing in on who was getting it and who was not.  Today, learned that . . .
1.  I did NOT need to back up and reteach the entire class.
2.  I did NOT have a small group that needed reteaching.
3.  I DID have 5 students I wanted to confer with about some misconceptions or “technique” issues they were having.  One student was really not understanding the method at all–so I knew we needed to back way up and get some manipulatives to model the process.  Two students needed me to talk with them about how they were organizing their work because their lack of organization was leading to precision errors.  One student needed me to help them better understand remainders.  Finally, one student needed to find his own mistakes…he is a “rusher” who knows EXACTLY what to do–but tends to rush and make silly mistakes.  He was easily able to find his mistakes.
So my “food for thought” for the weekend is–how often are you using formative assessment?  What are you doing with the information?  If you are interested in some ready-made formative assessments, I have many in my store.  The slips shown above are found HERE
I also have them for area and perimeter and addition and subtraction with more on the way!


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