As we make our way back to school, we can guarantee ourselves three things: there will be new faces, new challenges and a whole new round of summer learning loss.
Where mathematics is concerned, the ‘summer slide’ is particularly unforgiving, with an average 2.6 months of learning being lost over summer.
While there’s a lot we can do to identify and start the (sometimes painful) process of regaining that lost knowledge, there’s also a way to get students to help — it’s a win–win.
Student self-assessment is crucial for helping students take control and ownership of their own learning as well as being a valuable tool to aid focus and goal setting. Introducing this to students early in the year is a great way to set a precedent, nurture their sense of responsibility and — lucky for us — save time in revisiting what knowledge summer melted away.
We’ve put together some easy and fun activities for your students to help you (albeit inadvertently) identify what was lost and how you can prepare your future mathematics lessons:
One of the best ways to reinforce and refresh learning is to teach what you know.
Get your students into groups and have them pick or pick from a pre-selected list of topics from last year. Have them design a short and fast lesson going over the topic and let them steer the thinking and learning.
This activity provides great insight into confidence levels (it turns out teaching isn’t as easy as it looks), so be sure to keep an eye on class leaders to see how they respond to questions and how they’re explaining the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of the lesson at hand.
It’s a classic for good reasons: it’s simple, fast and doesn’t bring with it the intimidation of a test or exam. Better yet, it can be done anonymously so students can avoid potential embarrassment. However, while thumbs up/down can give you a quick overview of what knowledge might need some refinement or revisiting, it can’t give you a nuanced view of exactly where your students’ level of knowledge is. For that, it’s better to use …
This is where you’re going to get a great level of detail from students. Your questions can be as general or as specific as you like, with your students’ answers giving you a fuller picture of how confident they feel.
“I understand and can explain the topic to others.”
“I understand and can work on this alone.”
“I understand but still need a little help.”
“I don’t understand — yet.”
These sheets can either be filled post-assessment or in-class while you review last year’s topics. For younger grades, there’s an emoji-based sheet that has them select how they are feeling; older students can simply check off their confidence levels.
Another great way to use these sheets is in group work. Divide your students into groups and have them work through a review activity together. They can discuss how they felt about each topic and select a confidence level as a group. The advantage of this method is it gives you the chance to listen to your students, seeing how and where they’re succeeding or struggling with problems. For students, it’s a great opportunity for peer-to-peer learning, filling in one another’s gaps in prior knowledge in a fun, interactive and low-stakes way.