If you try this activity with your students, we’d love to see what you do. Share your journey via the #Inspired2Learn hashtag on your preferred social platform.
Discipline: These activities can be applied in any class or subject area.
Age level: All
Time: 5-15 minutes (or longer if you build out some of the activities more)
While a summative assessment may be the ultimate way we know whether our teaching led to learning, we benefit from formative assessments all along the way to help us change course if things just aren’t sinking in. There are lots of ways to gauge how well a lesson went in just the last few minutes of class and these forms of feedback can sometimes even be fun.
This activity can be used in lots of different ways and it adds a little movement (tossing and catching a ball) to the close of class. You begin with an inflatable beach ball – preferably the kind that has different colored segments. Using a wet-erase marker (this makes it possible to erase and reuse the ball for future applications but dry-erase maker will rub off when you toss the ball around) write different questions or prompts in each segment of the ball.
Assemble students in a circle and toss the ball to one of them. They answer the prompt/question that is under their right pointer finger (or some such designation) and then toss the ball to another student until everyone in the room has had a turn.
What you write on the ball depends on your goal. If, for example, you want feedback on your lesson, you might write things like:
- What worked well for you in today’s class?
- What could we have done differently to make today’s class better for you?
- What are you wondering about after today’s lesson?
- What did you find difficult about today’s lesson?
- What’s something from today’s lesson that you want to remember?
- What’s something from today’s lesson that you would like to go over again in our next class?
If you wanted to use this activity to check for understanding of a concept you taught, your questions could be content-specific. For example, in a lesson about parts of speech you could do the following:
- Point to a proper noun and say it out loud.
- Show us an action verb and tell us what you’re doing.
- Place the ball somewhere in the room and use a sentence with a preposition that explains where you put it.
- Use an adverb to describe the ball in motion.
- Use adjectives to explain how the ball feels in your hands.
- Share your pronouns.
If you wanted to use this activity to build community, your questions might sound like this:
- What’s the last book you read?
- What’s something you like to eat?
- Are you a night owl or an early riser?
- What’s one of your pet peeves?
- What makes you laugh?
- What song are you enjoying right now?
There are endless variations to the reflective beach ball – it just offers a different way of asking questions, providing a little spontaneity to the process, and rather than you being the director of the questions, students “pass” the inquiries to one another.
Like the beach ball activity, this one can be molded to a wide variety of purposes. This is essentially an “exit ticket” that you’d have students write and give to you as they leave the room, but what makes it interesting is how this structure organizes their reflection.
The frame for the prompt looks like this:
- 3 things you learned in class today
- 2 things you want to learn more about based on what you learned
- 1 question you have about today’s lesson
But you can tweak the prompts in different ways depending on your goal. For example, if you wanted to get a sense of how a class discussion went you might change the prompts as follows:
- 3 things your classmates said that stand out for you
- 2 things you contributed to the discussion
- 1 thing you wish you had said
If you wanted to check for understanding in a science lesson you could ask content-specific questions following the 3-2-1 format such as:
- 3 facts about atoms
- 2 things that still confuse you about atoms
- 1 reason why knowing about atoms matters in your life
You can even use this format to get a sense of how your classroom community is coming along with questions like:
- 3 ways your classmates are helping you to learn
- 2 things we could do to improve our classroom community
- 1 thing you would like to do more in this class
It is important to explain to students what you will do with these 3-2-1 reflections. In some instances, you may use them as part of students’ grades, but there is still value to them doing the work without a grade if you show them that you use what they have written for some other purpose. Here are some things you can do with these 3-2-1 reflections that don’t require grading or even providing written feedback:
- Read them over and create a summary of the main things you learned from the insights that you share verbally with the class the next time you meet.
- Pull out 1 or 2 statements from the collection to share aloud in the next class as examples of some of the insights you gleaned.
- If you do these regularly, consider having students keep them in a notebook for their own reflection. Explain to them how this kind of reflective writing after a lesson is good for memory retention.
Share One Word
If you have just 3 minutes left before the bell, simply asking students to share one word that represents their learning and inviting responses from around the class can give you a really good picture of what stuck out. Consider making this invitation in two parts so the answers are more original and less inspired by what a previous student has said.
Your directions might sound like this. “Take a minute to write down one word that best describes what you’re taking away from today’s lesson. Thumbs up if you have your word. [Wait until all thumbs are up.] Everyone has their word, now we’re going to start with the person closest to the door sharing just your one word until we all have shared.”
Take note of the words students share and where you see a lot of overlap. You’ll want to listen not only for overall trends but also pay attention to what individuals are saying and what that can teach you about their particular ways of learning.
Similar to the activity above, Word-At-A-Time Poems invite students to share their insights in just one word at time. But unlike “Share One Word” the words that each student speaks are recorded into a poem and then read back to the class. For this reason, you’ll want to do this activity when you have more than 5 minutes before the bell. Here is the process:
- Say to the class, “We’re going to create a poem together that sums up what we learned today. But each of you will contribute at least one word to that poem. Take a moment to jot down a few words that best describe your learning today. [Give about a minute for them to write.] Now we’ll start with [name]. Please share one word from your list that describes what you learned today. I will be writing your words down so please speak them clearly.”
- As students share their words, take notes so you have them all down on paper. Do not hesitate to go slower or ask students to repeat themselves so you are sure to have all their words.
- After the poem comes to a natural close read back the “poem” in the order of the words they shared. This is a beautiful way to showcase students as experts as you put their own words front and center. Consider sharing the finished poem with families as a summary of the day’s learning!
More Creative Ways to Gather Insights at the End of Class
Often times the classic “exit ticket” at the end of class is just a waste of paper and time. Teachers don’t have enough time to grade all the full assignments students do so taking time to read through lots of little slips of paper is often more struggle than it’s worth. But some sort of closing reflection or quick formative assessment at the end of class can be very instrumental in letting you know if your students got the lesson or they didn’t. This source from Ditch That Textbook offers several technology-based strategies from polls to Padlets that can give you a quick snapshot of learning without taking too much time on your part or that of your students.
Standards Addressed by these Activities
Common Core College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Language
Conventions of Standard English:
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.1 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
Vocabulary Acquisition and Use:
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.6 Acquire and use accurately a range of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when encountering an unknown term important to comprehension or expression.
Common Core College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Writing
Text Types and Purposes:
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.1 Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
Common Core College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Speaking and Listening
Comprehension and Collaboration:
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.1 Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas:
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.4 Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning Competencies
Self-Awareness: The abilities to understand one’s own emotions, thoughts, and values and how they influence behavior across contexts. This includes capacities to recognize one’s strengths and limitations with a well-grounded sense of confidence and purpose.
Self-management: The abilities to manage one’s emotions, thoughts, and behaviors effectively in different situations and to achieve goals and aspirations. This includes the capacities to delay gratification, manage stress, and feel motivation and agency to accomplish personal and collective goals.
Social awareness: The abilities to understand the perspectives of and empathize with others, including those from diverse backgrounds, cultures, and contexts. This includes the capacities to feel compassion for others, understand broader historical and social norms for behavior in different settings, and recognize family, school, and community resources and supports.
Responsible decision-making: The abilities to make caring and constructive choices about personal behavior and social interactions across diverse situations. This includes the capacities to consider ethical standards and safety concerns, and to evaluate the benefits and consequences of various actions for personal, social, and collective well-being.
Relationship skills: The abilities to establish and maintain healthy and supportive relationships and to effectively navigate settings with diverse individuals and groups. This includes the capacities to communicate clearly, listen actively, cooperate, work collaboratively to problem solve and negotiate conflict constructively, navigate settings with differing social and cultural demands and opportunities, provide leadership, and seek or offer help when needed.