Here are some AfL activities to try with your learners.

They include ideas on collecting information, the strategic use of questioning, giving feedback, and introducing peer and self-assessment.

Collecting information

Draw a face

At the end of an activity or lesson, ask learners to draw a face to show how confident they are about the topic. Smiley face = ready to move on,  neutral face = fairly confident,  sad face = not confident, need to review.

Summary sentence

Ask learners to write one sentence to summarise what they know about the topic at the start or end of a lesson. You could focus this by telling them to include e.g. what or why or how etc.

Pair share

At the end of a lesson learners share with their partner:

  • Three new things they have learnt
  • What they found easy
  • What they found difficult
  • Something they would like to learn in the future.

Traffic lights

Give learners red, yellow and green cards (or they can make these themselves at home). At different points during the lesson, ask them to choose a card and put it on their desk to show how much they understand (red = don’t understand, yellow = partly understand, green = totally understand).

Post-its

Use post-it notes to evaluate learning. Give to groups, pairs or individuals and ask them to answer questions. For example:

  • What have I learnt?
  • What have I found easy?
  • What have I found difficult?
  • What do I want to know now?

Draw a square

When a learner has finished a worksheet or exercise, ask them to draw a square on the page. If they do not understand well, they colour it red, if they partly understand, yellow and if everything is OK, green.

Not clear

At the end of an activity or lesson or unit, ask learners to write one or two points that are not clear to them. The teacher and class discuss these points and work together to make them clear.

Thumbs up!

Check class understanding of what you are teaching by asking them to show their thumbs. Thumbs up = I understand; thumbs half way = I understand some; thumbs down = I don’t understand.

KWL

At the beginning of a topic learners create a grid with three columns – what they know; what they want to know; what they have learned. They start by brainstorming and filling in the first two columns and then return to the third at the end of the unit.

Most ……. thing

Ask learners what was the most, e.g. useful, interesting, surprising, etc. thing they learned today or in this unit.

A, B, C, D cards

Give learners four cards: A, B, C, D (or they can make these themselves at home). Ask questions with four answers and ask them to show you their answers. You could do this in teams too.

Mini-whiteboards

Ask learners to write their answers on mini-whiteboards or pieces of paper and show it to you (or their peers).

Observing

Observe a few learners every lesson and make notes.


The strategic use of questioning

Questioning helps teachers identify and correct misunderstandings and gaps in knowledge. It gives teachers information about what learners know, understand and can do.

Use open questions

Closed questions only ask learners to recall. Use open questions to encourage the use of thinking skills, communication and eliciting more information. Examples of good question stems:

  • Is X important?
  • Why is X important?
  • Why does…?
  • What if…?
  • How would you…?
  • Can you explain…?


Use ‘might’

When questioning, use the word ‘might’ to encourage learners to think and explore possible answers. For example, ‘Why do teachers ask questions?’ and ‘Why might teachers ask questions?’ The first question seems like there is one correct answer known by the teacher, but the second question is more open and suggests many possible answers.

Wait time

Tips:

  • Give 30 seconds silent thinking before any answers.
  • Ask learners to brainstorm in pairs first for 2-3 minutes.
  • Ask learners to write some notes before answering.
  • Ask learners to discuss with a partner before answering.
  • Use think, pair, share.

Use higher order thinking skills (HOTS)

Don’t ask, e.g. ‘Is flour uncountable?’ Ask, ‘Why isn’t flour countable?’ Then learners don’t only recall, they reason too.

Prompt

Prompt for more information, e.g. ‘Why do you think that?’ ‘Persuade me!’

Bounce

Ask learners to build on each other's answers. E.g. ‘Maria what do you think about Javier’s answer?’

Giving feedback

Comment-only marking

Only write comments on learners’ work, and don’t give marks or scores. This helps learners to focus on progress instead of a reward or punishment. They will want a mark, but encourage them to focus on the comments. Comments should make it clear how the learner can improve. Ask if they have any questions about the comments and make time to speak with individual learners.

Feedback sandwich

Use a feedback sandwich to give comments. An example of a feedback sandwich is:

  • Positive comment, e.g. ‘I like … because …’
  • Constructive feedback with explanation of how to improve, e.g. ‘This is not quite correct – check the information with …….’
  • Positive comment, e.g. ‘You have written a very clear and ………’

Time in class to make corrections

Give learners time in class to make corrections or improvements. This gives learners time to focus on the feedback that you or their peers have given them, and make corrections. It also tells learners that feedback is valuable and worth spending time on. And, it gives them the opportunity to improve in a supportive environment.

Don’t erase corrections

Tell learners you want to see how they have corrected and improved their written work before they hand it to you. Don’t let them use erasers, instead tell them to make corrections using a different colour so you can see them, and what they have done to make improvements.

Introducing peer and self-assessment

Share learning objectives

Some examples:

  • Use WILF (what I’m looking for).
  • Point to the objectives on the board.
  • Elicit what the success criteria might be for a task.
  • Negotiate or share the criteria
  • Write these on the board for reference.
  • Two stars and a wish

A useful activity to use when introducing peer or self-assessment for the first time is ‘two stars and a wish’:

  • Explain/elicit the meaning of stars and a wish related to feedback (two good things and one thing you wish was better/could improve).
  • Model how to give peer feedback using two stars and a wish first.
  • Role play the peer feedback, for example:

- ‘Ah this is a really nice poster – I like it!’ (Thank you)

- ‘I really like it and I think you included most of the information.’

- [Look at the success criteria on the board]

- ‘Hmm, but there is no title for your poster so we don’t know the topic.’

Feedback sandwich (see above)

This is a useful activity when learners are more confident in peer and self-assessment. Model how to give feedback first.

  • Write the following text on the board:

- I like... because

- I think next time you should... because...

- ... is good because...

  • Elicit from your learners what a feedback sandwich is from the text on the board (what is good and why, what could be better and why, what is good and why).
  • Given an example like this:

"The poster gives all the necessary information, which is good but next time you should add a title so we know the topic. The presentation is good too because it is clear and attractive."

Learning wall

Make a ‘learning wall’ where learners can post positive feedback about others.

Peer check

Ask learners to read each other’s written work to look for specific points, such as spelling mistakes, past tense verbs, etc. During speaking activities such as role plays and presentations, ask learners to give each other feedback on specific points, e.g. how interesting it was, whether they understood what was said and any questions they have.

Self-assessment prompts

Examples:

  • Choose one thing in your work you are proud of. Tell the whole group why. You have one minute.
  • Discuss which of the success criteria you have been most successful with and which one could be improved and how. You have three minutes.

Three things

At the end of the lesson, ask your learners to make a list of two things they learned, and one thing they still need to learn.

I have a question

At the end of the lesson, ask your learners to write a question on what they are not clear about.

Journals

Ask your learners to keep a learning journal to record their thoughts and attitudes to what they have learned.

Portfolios

Ask learners to keep a file containing samples of their work. This may include work done in class, homework, test results, self-assessment and comments from peers and the teacher.

Reflection time

At the end of the lesson give learners time to reflect and decide what to focus on in the next lesson.

Setting goals

After feedback, encourage learners to set goals. Tell them they have identified what is good, what is not so good, and any gaps in their knowledge. Now they need to think about their goal and how they can reach it. Ask them to work individually and answer the questions:

  • What is your goal?
  • How will you achieve it?

Personal goals

Ask learners to set personal goals, for example: ‘Next week I will read a short story’.

Self-assessment forms

Work with learners to create self-assessment forms or templates that they can use to reflect on an activity or lesson. For younger learners, something like the form below would work: 

My writing is ……
 very good! (two smiley faces)
 good.  (one smiley face)
 not great, but OK.  (neutral face)
 This task was ……..
  interesting!  (two smiley faces)
   OK. (neutral face)
   boring! (sad face)
 

Below is an example for higher level or older learners:

I can write an email giving news and information

How true are these? Circle the best number(3 = true, 2 = partly true, 1 = not true)

I can write an email giving news and information

How true are these? Circle the best number(3 = true, 2 = partly true, 1 = not true)

I enjoyed the writing task. Why/Why not?

    3

     2

     1

I answered all parts of the question

     3

     2

     1

I used paragraphs

     3

     2

     1

I used linking words

     3

     2

     1

I used a range of vocabulary and phrases

     3

     2

     1

I checked my spelling and punctuation

     3

     2

     1

I used the correct verb tenses

     3

     2

     1

What I did well:

 

Something I think I need to work on next time:

 

Teacher’s comments:

 

Some of the activities listed here are taken and adapted from: www.tes.com/teaching-resource/assessment-for-learning-toolkit-6337093

Author: 
Deborah Bullock

Comments

Assessments, as learning activities, organized and inputted into teaching and learning procedure is a good idea. It can motivate students' learning, the increase some interactions between students and teacher, and make learning interesting. But, the purpose of doing so isn't for assessment only, but for the cultivation of literacies, somehow can be supported by digital technologies - videoing, sound-recording (Teachers can guide students to present) and digital operations by our hands. All in all, we just need to keep one thing in mind - assessment as activities should not keep students away from leaning - they felt hard then stopped, or classify a group of students with different identities, then higher ranked students will look down upon some lower ranked. Assessments, as learning activities, are for continuing, loves and motivations. In my opinion, these pathways our teacher educator has concluded are very interesting with encouragements that we can try to organize some in our own classrooms.

Self-assessing is a skill that needs to be developed and taught.

I am working with groups in a school that, apparently for the first time, is offering alternative courses, after years of spoon-feeding information for tests. Among other things, I'm trying to implement self-assessment as a way to get these students to understand the concept that they are responsible for their own learning, how much they learn and to a large extent determining the lesson plans and curriculum. It is a difficult process and requires a totally new way of thinking for most of these students.

This is a very good adaptation of the TES Toolkit. Worth particular attention for my situation is comment-only marking.

The blog is so educative and useful that I have decided to make use of the columns in my school.Since I am reputed teacher trainer in south India and friends across the globe among the teachers and honoured by the British council itself as one of the most prolific blog writers in the world and the first Indian to get this honour, I think it Will revolutionize the teaching process in the world.What a great blog it is by my friend and the site administrator Paul Braddock

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