It might seem like over-simplification, but there are essentially two steps to formative assessment:
Step one: “check in” on a student to determine how well (or if!) they’re understanding content or mastering a skill.
Step two: Adjust your teaching or classroom procedure based on what you learned in step one.
Today I’m going to share a new way to check in on students to see if they understand content. This simple activity is a great replacement for those boring quizzes or “paraphrase” exercises that we sometimes fall back on. It can be used with any content area text. And students can do the activity individually, in pairs, or as part of an engaging Literacy and Learning Center classroom.
SNAPCHAT THE MAIN POINT
After they’ve read a text, ask students to imagine that the author didn’t have access to a word processing program, blog, or even paper. Instead, the author had to use Snapchat to explain his/her argument. What 80-character message and one picture would express it? Give students a time limit, say 10-12 minutes, to summarize the entire text that they just read, using nothing but a quick sketch and an 80-character Snapchat caption.
Then share the pretend Snapchats with the class. You’re bound to see some entertaining pictures and funny sentences. But when you assess for understanding, look for messages that truly encapsulate the author’s topic sentence or main idea. While Snapchat messages can be quite short, give extra applause to students who use exactly 80 characters. And scan the sketches for details. The drawings don’t have to be well executed - not everyone is an artist! - but they should include specificity to indicate that the students examined the text closely and were able to make inferences from what they read.
Students can count out their characters manually or they can use a word processing program or an online character counter like www.lettercount.com.
And if your school's technology permits, students can use real Snapchat to create and share their summaries of the author's main point!
An example of this activity follows: