“They steamed through that, even when I set that extra challenge!”
“They really struggled with that, should have used the dienes. We will have another go tomorrow.”
First of all, it’s important to note, that teachers have little middle ground when it comes to their lessons. We are extremely self-critical and always wanting the best; especially when we have poured hours into planning and preparing. It’s really rather terrible that we don’t acknowledge our input when the lesson went well, only when we feel it wasn’t as great as it could be.
For this reason, I wanted to find a way to fine tune the content of my lessons and make the most of our time in class.
On a previous adventure, in a bid to find out what the children could already do, this started with what I called a “Plug In”; a question for the children to answer, linking to the objective of that day, to ascertain whether they could already “do it”. This was followed by a “Switch On” at the end of the lesson; another question to judge whether they had been successful. It was a great way to clearly show what the children had learnt and a clear signal to the learners themselves that they had made a small gain that day.
However (and I would imagine you have already asked yourself), what if the Plug In already showed they could “do something”? How do you show progress at the “Switch On”?
Fortunately, I am part of an amazing team that allow each other to share ideas and try new things. I changed my “Plug In” idea, to become an “Entry Quiz”, and I am really seeing the benefits. My rationale? I have always seen a Gap Analysis completed AFTER an assessment, when everything has been ‘taught’, regardless of what the children already knew. So why not find the strengths and weaknesses first, and teach what they need? Just 15 minutes of one lesson helps to prevent wasting the whole hour of another, because you would have found out they’re pretty competent already!
Examples of Entry Quizzes.
What is an Entry Quiz?
I have been teaching the 2014 Curriculum, splitting each Maths topic into a 2 week unit; a fortnight on Number and Place Value, a fortnight on Addition and Subtraction, etc. The first day of each unit starts with an Entry Quiz.
An Entry Quiz is where I have written (on average) 10 questions, to be answered in around 15 minutes, linked to the unit expectations that I’m planning on teaching in that fortnight; we want depth, not breadth. Let’s not forget, the expectations are designed to be mastered across the year, the end product; there are no longer ‘blocks’ of increasingly harder objectives that get updated as we move from Block A through E, Units 1, 2 and 3, regardless of whether the children were ‘keeping up’ with them or not.
The children answer the questions, fully aware that they might get every single one wrong, simply because they don’t know it yet; they have a year to tackle them! However, it’s surprising how quickly they make links from the expectations the previous year. For example, once you have been able to add 4 digit numbers as part of the Year 4 expectations, it’s not the biggest challenge to add numbers to 1 million in Year 5. As a result, in some cases, a smaller teaching input could be used and more time can be spent on the objectives they find hardest.
Examples of the learning completed as a result of the Entry Quizzes.
Equally, our Addition and Subtraction Entry Quiz showed me some of their most common misconceptions regarding lining up the digits, the use of place holders and using the inverse to solve problems. Both the correct and incorrect answers have allowed me to pitch my lessons more accurately from the outset. I have been able to find different challenges, opportunities for application and reasoning to try and push my learners a little further based on the knowledge their answers gave me, alongside the findings of day-to-day Assessment for Learning.
My Entry Quiz for Multiplication and Division showed me that all of my children were confident at multiplying large numbers by a single digit. Therefore, I edited my questions for the day I would have ‘taught’ that, to be solely about multiplying by tens and ones. By single digits proved to be a great confidence builder for the learners, but I was able to maximise time in order to teach the gaps in their learning.
An example of an Exit Quiz.
When suitable, I also end each unit with an “Exit Quiz”; a similar design to the Entry Quiz, just the numbers changed. Like the “Switch On”, they are a great way to assess how far we have come, only it's the end of the unit, not the end of the lesson. However, sometimes this has been replaced with a linked Problem Solving task or completely abandoned because we have used the Entry Quiz to squeeze out some more challenges.
As teachers, we value the highly commended ‘Gap Analysis’. Yet, why do wait until we have taught what we assume they can’t do? Surely it’s more efficient to find this out first, then plan ahead, right from the start? Just 15 minutes ‘out’ of one lesson, has really helped me shape the subsequent lessons in the unit for the better. Tailor Made.
Please be aware that this method is helping me continuously assess the children's understanding and plan my next move; it is not a sure-fire way to ensure understanding in the first instance; learning is a constant process.