What are we doing to help kids achieve?
Card sorts are a great way to achieve a number of classroom objectives. They can be used as a review activity or they can be done during the middle of a lesson as a type of formative assessment. Sorts can encourage students to work with other students or can even be used as a type of exit ticket. I decided to use the strategy about two thirds of the way through a unit on covalent and ionic compounds and lewis structures. I knew there were items we did not cover in the sort but I was curious to see how they would approach these unknown topics. Typically, the sort involve words, diagrams, pictures, properties and phrases on a topic that are easy to put in a document, print, cut up and put in envelopes for groups. Students are instructed to place them in the column "Ionic", "Covalent", or "Both". I decided to try something different. I gave the students about 15 minutes and then told them to make a fourth group with an asteric that was "I don't know".
There were six groups and I was able to have discussions with most of the groups that I wish could have lasted longer. The sort provided me with a chance to help clear up some minor misconceptions. More important was the asterick, "I don't know" group. It clearly provided me with topics for future lesson plans. It also was helpful to see that many groups had the same questions. If I could do it again I would have used it at the beginning of the lesson and then at the end. I also would have had students use their cell phones to take pictures of the "before" and "after" and then discuss the differences (maybe next year.....).
Assessments, especially formative assessments, do not always have to be electronic or recorded. Some of the best often are not. The bad news about these assessments is that as a teacher I have to go where the students misunderstandings and questions lead us as a class. This often requires a "Plan B" and is sometimes difficult for me, who, as a person and a teacher, is under the illusion that sometimes I am in control of some things. It leads to a "messy" place...but this is where the challenges and fun often get started.
Have you ever had to take a "U-turn" in your teaching....or had to go to a "Plan B"? What was that like? Would you do it again? Do you have a great formative assessment you would like to share? Let's start a convesation...