Are you with me? It’s the question I pose throughout just about all of my lessons. It’s what I ask students when they come in before school for one-on-one tutoring. It’s the question that will occasionally show up on a worksheet or in a powerpoint after a long and challenging paragraph of information. It’s what I think to myself after I’ve taught passionately for 10 minutes, and then pose a question about the very content I’ve taught and am met with deafening silence. Sobering silence. Silence that is telling. But more than anything, silence that poses to me a question: What am I doing to adequately measure who is with me and who isn’t?
I think the issue here extends beyond creative and effective assessments. This is more a question of which students I should learn more about and how I will go about being curious about them.
In teaching the WWI-WWII global history course, World at War, I’ve realized that dense content demands creative outlets. So instead of a standard quiz, students created infographics that detailed the causes, conditions and aftermath of WWI. They worked heterogeneous groups, could only use the documents and notes in their class binders, and had one period to complete the assignment. I was able to assess how well students understood specific facts within a larger historical context, how well they could summarize information, and their ability to organize their ideas into succinct writing.
Students have also had a seminar where they used several sources to help answer several thematic questions surrounding the causes and major players of WWI, created slideshow presentations about the rise of dictators in Europe after WWI, and wrote an essay in response to the question: What conditions allowed for the rise of Hitler in Germany? I’ll be sure to share how students do. Their papers should be in by 8:30 a.m. tomorrow morning!
Sweet! So you’re looking for ways to vary assessment of student learning? It sounds like you’re using multiple modalities: seminars for verbal, infographics for visual. I’m always into coming up with creative assessments in social studies!
Were you able to tell who knew what? Sometimes that’s hard for me when they are in groups, even though the support is the point. Was there variety among the infographics? I’m curious if some were more detailed than others since they were using the same resources.
This is so interesting. I love the question of “Are you with me?” as opposed to “Do you understand?” I’m noticing the effect of intentional language choice on students and how they engage.
I’m also noticing lots of opportunities for students to answer these questions in diverse ways. I agree with what Nora said—a lot of modalities are being involved, which generally makes for a more inclusive classroom.
Something I’m wondering for myself is how you know ONE student is really “with” you, and how they know what to do if they aren’t with you. During group explanation quizzes, I find that I try to get certain students—students who haven’t demonstrated they are with me—to speak up, and ask them clarifying questions to help them re-evaluate their thinking But sometimes I notice that this just isn’t enough to get them up to speed, especially in the little time we have together. What do you do? I’d love some inspiration!