Sunday, September 6, 2015

Formative Assessment, Technically

As a departmentalized fifth grade teacher, I work with about 90 students.  With that number of students, it isn't always easy to get one-on-one time with each of my students to formatively assess their grasp of mathematical concepts, as well as their ongoing use of the Standards of Mathematical Practice.  

When looking for opportunities to integrate technology into mathematics instruction, it occurred to me that there are many apps that provide a great fit for gaining essential information that I could use to inform my instruction. Many of these apps would fall into the category of "Interactive white boards."  Some of these are Educreations, ShowMe, and Explain Everything.

Although each of these has components that are unique to their individual app, they have the same basic functions.  Students can show their thinking by drawing, inserting pictures, or typing text.  An additional feature, which adds a level of metacognition, is that students are able to record their voice to explain their thinking.  Finally, students are able to share these recordings with their teacher by submitting a shared link as an assignment in Canvas, an email, or by posting an embed code on a wikipage.  

I chose to use Educreations for this feature because it is free (Explain Everything in iTunes) and it does not require users to be 13 years of age (ShowMe).  My students had previously used this app for myriad assignments in both reading and science.  This was the first time that I asked them to use the app to explain work in mathematics.  (Full disclosure:  I am in a classroom with 1:1 iPads.)

To begin, I selected an item from their Unit 5.1 Lesson 3 (Engage NY) homework.  The students received the mathematics instruction found in this lesson from my amazing colleague, Bill Joolingen.  The lesson's objective was to use exponents to name place value units, and explain patterns in the placement of the decimal point I was curious to hear students explain their thinking when solving this problem.
As I listened to students' recordings, I was able to hear them not only explain their mathematical thinking, but also take risks that they may not feel comfortable doing in front of the class.  It was so interesting to hear students alone with their thoughts.

I know many of us struggle with assessing the SMPs.  The use of videos such as these provide a window into a students use of the Standards of Mathematical Practice and give us, as practitioners, a starting place at which to inform our differentiated instruction for students.

Additionally, we are provided with an artifact of each students proficiency or need for support that can be saved and shared. This can be a valuable tool for communicating with parents or with other educational professionals during response to intervention collaboration.

The following videos are the recordings of two of my fifth-grade students, as well as some of my thoughts after hearing their work.

Student 1:

When listening to Student 1's recording, it is obvious that he is struggling with language acquisition, specifically with language found within the mathematics discipline.  Although his work is sound, as an English learner, he needs more exposure to mathematical terms and opportunities to speak mathematically. 

Student 2:

First of all, I think that Student 2 disconnected the microphone at about 2:25 in the video, so I was unable to hear all of her thoughts.  :(  During the portion that I did hear, it sounds as though she has a grasp of the procedure, however I would love for her to work more on her explanation.  I want to hear why the decimal point is "shifted to the left" when I am dividing by 10^2 and to the right when I am multiplying by the same number.  Just before the three minute mark, she could be explaining that, but I can't know for sure because of the loss of sound.  I included the video to reiterate the point of how crucial it is to be able to hear the student explain their mathematical thinking, as opposed to just watching them complete the problem.

I am overwhelmed by the amazing amount of information I obtained by watching these videos on many of my students.  I look forward to using the app more in the future for other formative assessment opportunities.

Thanks for reading!

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