The English Classroom

A HELPFUL GUIDE FOR PRESERVICE AND GRADUATE TEACHERS

Formative Assessment: Create a Conversation


The Situation

You want to clarify whether your students understand the concept, but are tired of old and overused teaching strategies.

The Solution

Writing out a paragraph explaining your understanding is a classic strategy for any teacher. Please write a paragraph about what you have learnt today. Students are asked to do this all the time. What students really hear is: please complete the same activity we did yesterday. Now, there is absolutely a place for this type of strategy, but it does not need to be your own one.

One way is for students to create an elevator pitch. Essentially, students explain in 30 seconds the concept to another student in the classroom. The purpose is for students to quickly vocalise their understanding. This is effective and allows students to ‘talk aloud’ what they have learnt.

An elevator pitch targets students who are confident and have strong interpersonal skills. However, you will also have massively creative students in your class who may not have the spark for communication, but will have a spark for creative writing and getting their ideas down on paper.

An alternative approach to the elevator pitch is to have students write a script.

A script allows students to not just think about what they are saying, but how the words are being said. Students consider the personality of each participant and this is shown deliberately through their writing.

Here are the instructions that you provide students:

Create a conversation between two characters about the learning from today’s lesson. Provide them with names and personalities; for this example, let’s go with Christopher and Jai. Christopher understand the learning, but Jai is finding it difficult to understand. The ‘conversation’ must outline Christopher explaining the learning to Jai. Here is the example:

Christopher: Hey Jai. How are you?

Jai: Not great. I can’t understand how to write a paragraph.

Christopher: Actually, that is kind of tricky. Let me explain it to you…

The purpose of this task is for students to consider how they would explain their thinking to another person. There is a significant difference between knowing a topic and knowing how to explain it to someone else. The latter, is the focus for this task. Students need to think carefully about teaching the topic to another person. They must consider the nuances of conversations and whether their explanation would realistically make sense to the other participant. Of course, students still have the opportunity to perform their script if they wish. Now your simple exit ticket is dynamic and has a little more colour than a repetitive task like writing a paragraph.

Have a go! Your students will be pleasantly surprised by trying something different in the classroom.

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