Student Led Assessments

One of my goals this year is to involve the students in the creation of assessments. Last year I got this started by giving them a rubric and having them score themselves against it. I’d also grade the item in question and we’d compare scores and discuss the differences if they arose. This year I wanted to up the stakes by involving them in both creating the assessment rubric and contributing assessment items.

About once or twice a week after our investigation and practice, the last question will be to create a problem related to the days work. Students author a question and either an answer key  or suggested solution paths if it open ended.   These questions often make up the quizzes or parts of the assessments. We’ve even had a few student led debates or Would you Rather sessions. I’ve also had students switch questions and use them as a review session.  When we started this work, most were lower level skill questions, but as they’ve had more exposure to the types of questions I ask, they have stepped up their game. There are obviously lots of less well thought out questions still too, but I’m happy with my first attempt of getting the students more involved.

A few examples of questions I’ve received and then used on an assessment or quiz:

From a 1st semester Algebra class – Systems of Equations:

  • Find the value of circle, triangle and square and explain how you know.Pic Student Puzzle

From a 2nd semester Algebra class and a 3rd Year Class – Quadratics:

  • Which form of a quadratic function is most useful? Defend your choice.
  • Create  two (or more) quadratic functions for each situation:
    • Same two roots, no other points shared.
    • Same y-intercept, no other points shared.
    • Same vertex, no other points shared.
  • Team A is the Gray circle. Team B is the blue circle. Graph Team A and write the equation for Team B. If Team A won, what might the contest have been? What if Team B won? Is there a contest which they would tie?Quad Student


From a Geometry Class – Probability:

  • There are 10 students. 3 names are chosen. Write a situation that would involve:
    • A permutation
    • A combination
    • Where each pull is independent.

Most of the time, its a quick 5 minute end of class task. Sometimes I give them more time to create more involved problems, solution guides, and rubrics. It still doesn’t take up much time, gives me an idea of how confident the students are with the material, and gives the students more ownership of the class.  The first time a quiz was all student submitted questions, they were grinning while doing the quiz. I don’t think they believed I’d use them. For most students its a point of pride to see his or her question used and I’d careful to make sure they’ve all been chosen a few times.

I’d love to hear from others that have students help with the assessment process. Ideas, resources, readings… I want to go into next year and be even more intentional about student led assessment.

Using A Clothesline for Slope

This is quite a few weeks overdue, but I saw Jon Orr’s twitter and blog post about using the clothesline to do a slope activity. I ran mine (files at the end of the post) much like he did, but with a few modifications. He does a great job sharing all the background thought that went into designing the activity so its worth checking out.

Here is a basic run down of what we did. I had two pieces of yarn taped up which ran the width of my classroom. Kids entered and were immediately curious and ready to start.

Each student got a pair of two points and was asked to calculate slope. They wrote the slope on the card and then would go up and add it to the number line. I used no anchors at first, instead letting students adjust others as needed to fit their card on correctly. This brought out some great student to student dialog when both trying to place cards. I had more cards than students, so they’d grab a few card and repeat until all the pairs were placed on the line. One of the cards had an undefined slope.  We had a quick whole group discussion on where to put it. They decided to set it on a cart off to the side.

When the point stack was exhausted, they each took a graph card and drew a graph of a line using the two points. I had them place the graph on a second number line over the corresponding points. Rinse and repeat until all had a graph.

Each student walked along the line as was asked to jot down what they noticed, what they wondered with each line and the connection between the two number lines.  Again, I had them think about the graph of the undefined slope and where it looked like it would fit. They shared out their notices and wonders with a small group and any lingering questions were brought up to the whole class.

Finally, each student a blank card and graph and had to create their own ordered pair and graph to place on the line that would lie in between two assigned points on the graph that were currently right next to each other. I actually  let them pick the two points, but the key is to pick a target interval first, not create some points and see where it fits. For students that needed more support I was able to quietly suggest intervals that they would have more success with. Another way to make it their own, they could keep the (0,2) as a point or try to find two points where (0,2) was not a point, or do both. 

Overall, it was a fun way to practice the slope between two points and reinforce the visual picture of changing slope.  I noticed fewer errors between a slope of 0 and an undefined slope after the activity, and we had the bonus of some number sense practice when trying to figure out how far apart of place cards and readjust them as we added numbers. It would have been quicker to provide anchors, but they extra few minutes was worth it to see the thought process and conversations.

Here are my files for Clothesline Points and the one for the Clothesline Graphs that I used. my class is small, so I had 15 of each card, plus the blanks for the end activity. It would be easy to add a more points as needed for a larger class. Nothing too fancy, but it did the trick.





Posters and Gallery Walks

Ah, poor neglected blog. I have so many posts half written, waiting to go up. With all the formatting and explaining, they go to the back burner when school gets busy. The posts are either really complicated and time consuming or I get into the “its not exciting enough to blog about” mindset for the quicker posts. I’d like that not to be an excuse. Although I pride myself in trying to create engaging, rich tasks for my students most days, there are definitely days when we have to relax.

I’m committing to posting more about those days too. The reality is that day to day can’t always be “Blog Worthy” and especially for newer MTBoS members, it can be hard to only read the elaborate successes. One of my favorites in the real life of a teacher blogs is Justin Aion’s Re-Learning to Teach  where he blogs about all the ups and down in daily teaching life. But I have more trouble finding people that put up post with regular, not everything is an amazing re-tweetable activity, type of lessons that I could turn around and use in class. I’m sure they are out there and I’d love to know about them if you have any favorites. I’d like to try to do more of that. Blog about the lesson even if it wan’t the most spectacular activity. I know it won’t be daily, I have too many preps and I’m getting my masters to commit to that, but hopefully more than the once a month I’ve fallen into.

Yesterday was one of those days. We had finished all the classwork for a unit on quadrilaterals in Geometry and  have 3 days until spring break. Add to that I had three new students in class that had never taken geometry who I did’t want to lose for a week. I decided to do a poster project. Each student picked a quadrilateral we had studied and were responsible for creating a poster with anything they felt others would want to know about it, especially someone studying for our unit test tomorrow.

We are a half live, half online school (Our students take math, language arts, and advisory/life skills in person and the other three classes online) so I figure they needed some time to get up, stretch and decompress and the students apparently love to color, or at least most of them. The new students were able to jump in by using someones notebook or the computer for research and complete a poster as well. No pressure, but not wasted time.  The new students want to contribute without being made feel dumb. They were excited to have some of best work up.

After about 30 or so minutes, we hung the posters in the hall and did a gallery walk. Students left comments on each poster, either something new they learned, something they had a question about, or, in a few cases and error that had been made. The questions were great because they highlighted the need clear mathematical communication in statements and diagrams – often both people were trying to say the same thing but with different symbols. We had student-student talks to clear up any confusion and a quick whole class wrap up before heading back in the room. The gallery walk is a much used format for a reason. Students are up, looking at lots of math, and talking to each other about math.

Lastly, we jumped back to a few ‘puzzle’ problem where I gave one angle of side in a picture and they had to fill out as many others as they could. (We call them puzzles because somehow that makes math problems more exciting?) A few students flipped through notes, but many went back into the hall to look  at the posters when they got stuck which was fun. And now I think most of them are ready to test and the new students were able to pick up some base of knowledge to build from, each getting about half of the puzzles complete which is great for one day of class.

The lesson took no prep other than having poster paper, markers, and sticky notes and was a great review day which allowed the students to talk ownership of the material. I don’t normally have a whole dedicated review day, but due to timing it make sense. And the students liked it enough that we might do it again next unit regardless if spring break is looming.