Formative per Day #2

So much of the health of any new habit rests on one’s ability to begin, but a week of failing to meet my goal will not discourage me.  Although I’m batting just .200 after posting once in the first five days of class, I’d still like to state that my goal moving forward is to post a reflection on one formative assessment each day this school year.  Our current four-day weekend followed by three-day week should help me get going.

The pace at which school began – oh, it just breathlessly showed up, panting and lapping happily – was unique this year, because we were rushing to implement so much of the new that it was impossible to get everything done, and we just kept working until we realized that we’d already started teaching.  I was forced to rely on tools that I already knew about, and also to lean on technology for the first week – but this was not a bad thing!  It just means that the first few posts in this series will be different than I’d planned, and that we’ll get to the structures I’d envisioned a few weeks down the road.

But enough overviewing – I’ve got a habit to form!

Description of Formative Assessment Strategy:
I used the fantastically elegant web site thatquiz.org to administer a timed percentages pre-test to my Money Talkin’ class.  I gave the students 12 minutes to solve as many percentage problems as they could (max. 50).  Difficulty was on the low side – an integer percentage of an integer between 0 and 100, with an integer solution.  Calculators were not allowed – I wanted to see what would happen.

How did it go?
Not well.  The class average was to get 10 problems right (out of 50) in those 12 minutes.  There were students who went 1 for 30.  Takeaway: I’ve got my work cut out for me with this group.  On the other hand, this is precisely why we use formative assessment.  Kids weren’t really demoralized – they understood that this was just a baseline.  They look forward to doing it again.

This is my most mixed group.  I have seniors who have taken trig, and I have juniors who are entering a large class for their first time from self-contained.  The topic of Money has attracted many excited minds to the class, and it allows me to differentiate widely to the students here.  Percentages, of course, will be central to a lot of our work, indeed the first math content learning target for the class is “I can use proportions to solve percent and ratio problems.”  This is taken from one of the 7th grade CCS, but it’s one that can always use some work.

What’s nice about the interface of thatquiz is that there are no frills.  Students don’t need a whole lot of explanation to jump in, and there are no distracting bells and whistles.  The teacher view of the results is organized by student, with the number each attempted, got right, and got wrong, plus a list of wrong answers, so I can comb through and look for misconceptions.  I can’t seem to find a spreadsheet view of the results, but the student-by-student view provides such a useful summary for each kiddo that I don’t really miss it.

Both my students and I will look forward to using this again — of course, seeking better results.

Additional Notes
Since I last used it a year or two ago, the teacher community of thatquiz seems to be thriving.  There are hundreds on teacher-made quizzes shared in an easily searchable database.  If you have access to computers in your classroom, this is a terrific resource.

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