Wednesday, September 23, 2015


The Wedding DJ

I used to be a Wedding DJ, as a part time job. I actually DJ-ed weddings for 7 years on Saturday nights. It was kind of a fun job -- everyone is happy and excited and trying to have a blast at weddings. It’s like being the wedding singer -- without the actual singing stuff. #dontgivemeamic

Other than introducing the wedding party and MC-ing the first dance and all that stuff, the hardest part was trying to figure out the musical tastes of the crowd -- which aren’t always the same as the taste of the bride and groom. It’s hard to read if one particular crowd is going to really get into Frank Sinatra or ”Don’t Stop Believin’” or “Baby Got Back” or “Uptown Funk” or something in between.

But on a dance floor, the crowd votes with their feet. And a full dance floor usually equals tips. If the crowd loves “Get Lucky”, you’ll know because they are on the dance floor, shaking it up and singing along. And if they hate it, well, you’ll know that too. The dance floor will be empty (except small children and/or the one drunk person) and people will suddenly come up to you with suggestions of better songs. #heydoyouhavethatonesong

Formative assessment is easy on a wedding dance floor. You know if they’re getting it or not -- either they’re dancing or they’re not.

It’s a whole lot tougher in a secondary social studies classroom.

Have you ever given a test and then gotten frustrated at the kids who didn’t get it? Especially when you think you taught the heck out of the topic?

Wouldn’t it be nice if you knew -- before the test -- if your kids had a clue or not? If they were getting it or not?

You can. It’s called formative assessment.

Formative assessment is tool to give students feedback (corrective or right-track) and to help the teacher guide his or her instruction.

There are a million ways to take formative assessment. Here are a handful of my favorites.

  1. Plickers -- Go to, sign up, download the app onto your device and print the plicker pages. Then, make multiple choice questions to check how your kids are getting it and adjust your instruction from there.
  2. List Three -- As an exit-ticket or a mid-period check-up, have kids jot down three misconceptions their peers might have -- and how to correct them.
  3. Check for Transfer -- Have students use a concept or vocabulary term in a different way to make sure they can transfer the idea. Have them explain “social structure” in terms of the school (principal, administration, teachers, students) or the role of the media in a different political or social issue.
  4. Call on Every Kid -- use or a another call-on system to make sure you hold every kid accountable for learning -- not just the motivated ones in the front row with their hands up.
  5. Today’s Meet/Padlet -- Have every kid leave a comment -- or comment on a thread -- on  or It’s like an active bulletin board where kids can talk about the lesson silently.
  6. Document the Turn and Talk -- Don’t judge(!), but it helps to take notes if kids are “getting it” or not, based on their turn-and-talk conversations.
  7. Gimme Five -- Have kids hold up five fingers it they really, really get it, four fingers if the mostly get it and so on until they get to one finger (no, not that finger) which means that they don't get it. This is good for quick checkpoints along the way.
    1. PS -- this is NOT equivalent  to your scale. Please don’t equate the two!
  8. Check Predictions -- have kids predict what they’re going to learn about (with a bellwork or an Anticipation Guide) and then at the end of class, see if they can make conclusions. Did they predict correctly? What did they get right or wrong?
  9. #Hashtag -- See if your students can summarize or connect what they learned by creating a hashtag (or two) about the lesson or activity. For the founding of the Maryland Colony, students might try #religiousfreedom or #catholicswelcome or even #lovethepope. I bet they’re a whole lot more creative than I am.  
  10. One Sentence Summary -- an “oldie” but a goodie. Have the kids summarize the reading, the political cartoon, the concept, the unit, -- whatever -- in one sentence. It’s good to be succinct. It’s better to use brevity to help us see whether our kids get it or not.

It’s easier to see where you “stand” when people are on their feet, like at a wedding. It’s harder to interpret your students. What’s your favorite form of Formative Assessment -- and will you try one of these new ones this week? Do you use formative assessment every day? Every period?

Don’t Stop Believin. Haaayyyy Macarena! #Iloveweddingmusic

As always, I love to hear about it! Email me at
#formative #ithinkigetthis #checkingthelearning #whatdoyouknow

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