cheesemonkey wonders

cheesemonkey wonders

Friday, October 3, 2014

Formative Assessment PLUS Practice Activity: "Lightning Rounds" Review With Whiteboards

I've been looking for a way to do formative assessment that also doubles as a practice activity, and I seem to have stumbled on something good with my new "Lightning Rounds Review With Whiteboards activity. It uses some of what I appreciate most from both Steve Leinwand and Dylan Wiliam.

We have large-ish whiteboards — enough for one per table group — in our classrooms. Since I've also got around 36 students in each of my classes, I've been drowning with my older methods of checking for understanding. With 175 total students, even a 1-minute-per-exit-ticket assessment can take ages to go through — plus all the time it takes me to make it up.

This activity has been working much better. It also takes less prep up front and allows me to engage more deeply with the students and/or groups who need more attention. Assessing 9 tables' work at a glance is much more manageable and less exhausting than trying to flip through 36 pieces of student work. And of course, that is better for everybody.

Here is how it worked today.

In Precalculus, we're working on evaluating trig functions of real numbers on the unit circle. Students and groups are strongly encouraged to use their unit circles and notes to help them gain confidence and fluency.

Each table group gets a board, three markers, and an eraser. On the document camera, covering the non-current rows with a folder, I reveal one row of problems, which contains three problems: (a), (b), and (c).

Students discuss and work the problems, and when they are done, they hold up their table's whiteboard for a "check-in."

I glance around the room and check three answers at a time, calling out, "Table 2, you are checked in and correct!" "Table 6, you are checked in and correct!" "Table 1, you need to reexamine part (b)."

Because there are three problems in each "round," there's plenty of time for groups to make an error, assess their work and reconsider, and re-present their findings. Because there are only nine tables reporting in, it is manageable from both a teacher and a student perspective.

Plus, of course, since there is a group whiteboard and markers to play with, those groups who finished quickly and received their checkpoint are happy to doodle or play tic-tac-toe or offer funny editorial comments or cartoons while other groups receive some attention or extra time.

Last night was our Back To School Night, and student clubs were selling food as fundraisers for their clubs. Two of my students discovered that my classes' parents and I were helpless in the face of their delicious goodies. At one point, I had told them, Look, I don't have cash; my purse is locked upstairs in my desk.

Around the 6th or 7th round, Table 7 included an editorial comment on the side of their board: "We heart Dr. S! Also, you owe us $2. :)" While everybody started working the next round of problems, I unlocked my purse out of my closet and paid my debts. Some good laughs were had by all, and it was a nice piece of mathematical community-building.

The files I used are on the Math Teacher Wiki.

All in all, an easy, effective practice activity, with embedded formative assessment and community-building built right in. Not bad for a too-hot Friday!


  1. Love this idea! I have too many students to be grading papers from everyone everyday! I use the individual whiteboards quite a bit but love the idea of the group boards for review! That way students can talk math, encourage one another, and there is room for more work! This is happening in my class on Tuesday when we are solving word problems using matrices in Algebra 2.

    1. Beth, I love this too for all the same reasons. Plus it makes mastering something a collective, community project. Nobody wins unless everybody wins — that's MY kind of competition.

      Thanks for commenting.

      - Elizabeth (@cheesemonkeysf)

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