The English Classroom

A GUIDE TO IMPROVING STUDENT LITERACY

The Situation

You need to check your students understanding of content that you have taught.


The Solution

Checking for understanding is a vital part of good lesson design. A check for understanding is simple check to ensure that students understand a concept or task that they must complete. Often, when providing instruction, we can find ourselves unloading a truckload of information onto our students. After we take a breath and look into the crowd, it can be tricky to know whether they have actually understood what its expected of them.

You can do a number of things to ensure they are ready to move on:


Traffic Lights

This is predominately for younger year groups. A simple traffic tool is great way to get students to communicate what they do or do not know.

Post the following on the wall at the front of the class and ask students to identify which on they are at.

Alternatively, you could choose other images to indicate their understanding (A symbol of your choosing).





Fist to Five

Students indicate with their fingers their understanding of the content. A fist means that they need to have the content repeated to them. 5 digits means that they can move on independently.

From here, you can group the class and decide how you will organise the students who need support.


Repeat the instructions

When you ask students what they need to do, they will often say: “complete the questions” or

Although this indicates that they know what to do, it does not indicate how they should do it.

Through strategic questioning, ask students to repeat the instructions back to you before asking clarifying questions about how they will complete the task.

For example, if they need to write a paragraph, ask students to repeat back how they will find the information to write the paragraph. Alternatively, they could state how they will know if they are successful in the task (success criteria).

Repeating instructions allows students to put the task into their own words.


Check their vocabulary

Part of a check for understanding should concern vocabulary. If you have already taught, say, metaphors and similes, then record the following on the whiteboard:

One of these is a metaphor. The other is a simile. Identify which one is which and explain to your partner how you know.

The boy ate like a pig.

You are a beam of sunshine.

Let students figure it out for themselves. If they are clueless, then there is no point in moving forward with the content until they are able to understand the vocabulary.

Alternatively, you can say the following:

Last lesson we learnt two new words. One started with M, the other with S. What were they?

Once students have identified them, provide examples on the board. You are now ready to move onto more in-depth content.

This can apply to any type of vocabulary. Ensure students are familiar with the words first before jumping into complex ideas and content.

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