How to Check for Understanding

Last February I wrote a post entitled, Angry Birds – A Lesson in Assessment FOR LearningIt has been one of my most popular posts. This past week I shared some quick formative assessment ideas in a weekly newsletter I write for teachers in my two schools. I thought I would include them in a blog post in order to reach a larger audience. I hope you find some ideas to try in your classroom.

As teachers we create conditions for our students to learn. As we plan it is critical to create opportunities that keep students engaged in the learning process. The outcome of this process is to determine if students have reached our learning targets.  In order to know if students have learned the concept(s) taught, formative assessment data should be collected to check for our students’ understanding. These can be short preplanned activities that serve as a closure to a specific lesson.  The data collected will help develop the your next steps.

  • Where are my students headed?
  • Where are they right now?
  • How can I close the gap between where they are and where I want them to be?

The following strategies are quick 5 minute strategies that can be used in the classroom.  The strategies send a message to students – be the best learner you can be because you will be asked to demonstrate your learning  during class. Most were adapted from a PPT from D.C. Everest Area Schools in  Weston, WI, which unfortunately is no longer available. (but I still want to give them credit!)

Good Questions –

  • On a piece of paper, write three good questions you could ask to learn more about the topic we studied today. (Ticket out the Door)

Three Minute Writing

  • You have three minutes to write everything you learned today. Don’t worry about the organization – just write for three minutes about what you have learned.

Draw Two Names

  • You have one minute to think about how you might summarize today’s lesson.
  • Two names will then be drawn and those two people will stand and each gives a thirty-second (time can vary) summary of the key points of the lesson.

Simon Says

  • Simon say – tap your head if you understood _________ from today’s lesson.
  • Simon says – hold your arms up if you didn’t understand ________.
  • Simon says – turn around if you understood ________.
  • Simon says – flap your arms if you know what _____ means.

Roll the Dice –

  • Decide which person is “even” and which person is “odd.”
  • The teacher asks a questions and you and your partner discuss how to respond.
  • The teacher rolls the dice. If it’s an even number the “even” people stand and the teacher calls on someone to respond. If an odd number is rolled, the “odd” people stand.


  • What part of the lesson today was the most unclear (or foggy) to you?
  • Write it on a piece of paper. (Ticket out the Door)

Newspaper Headings

  • Create a newspaper headline that may have been written for the topic we are studying. Capture the main idea of the event. (Ticket out the Door)

Chalkboard Champs –

  • The class is divided into 3-4 teams.
  • The chalkboard/whiteboard is divided into a large space for each team.
  • Each person needs a writing utensil.
  • When the teacher says “Go,” all team members rush to their area and write or draw (symbols/pictures) to represent key ideas in the current topic of study. (It will be crowded!)
  • At the end of 3 minutes, each team must present 2-3 ideas from their chalkboard creation.

Chapter Skim –

  • Skim over pages _________ in your textbook that you have already read. You will have two minutes to skim.
  • You now have thirty seconds to tell your partner some key ideas from the book. Then your partner does the same.

Retelling – 

  • You have just finished reading/hearing about ______________.
  • You have one minute to think about what you read/heard.
  • Partner A – retell it to Partner B in two minutes.
  • Partner B – ask questions to check for understanding.

Test Questions –

  • Write two test questions that you think the teacher might put on the test.
  • Make your two questions be about the most important ideas of the unit.

Mini Drama –

  • The main idea of the lesson today was ________________.
  • You and your partner have two minutes to come up with a short one minute play that tells the main idea of the lesson today.
  • Present your play to another pair.

Letter to the Principal –

  • Write a short letter to the principal telling him all of the ideas you have learned about this week.

Meet the Teacher –

  • You and your partner decide on the most important idea from the lesson.
  • Together, state that idea in one sentence.
  • When you are ready, you and your partner should line up to “meet the teacher” and tell what you think the most important idea was.

Rock Paper Scissors –

  • Have students pair up and number each group.
  • Listen to the question the teacher asks and discuss it with your partner.
  • Do “Rock, Paper, Scissors” with your partner.
  • The winner stands and the teacher will choose one or more of the winners to answer the question.  Repeat several times. (Teacher could use number cards to determine students.)

Back-to-Back Boards –

  • You and your partner each get a mini-white board and stand back-to-back.
  • The teacher asks a question and you each answer on your board.
  • When the teacher says “turn around” you show each other your answers and discuss.

Trio Rap/Song –

  • Your trio should create a rap or a song that includes three main ideas from the lesson.
  • If you’d like, use the melody of a common song.
  • Perform your rap/song for another trio.

What strategies do you use to check for students’ understanding!

Remember – Each Day is YOUR day to SHINE!

Keep Shining, 


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