Formative assessment lessons from the Shell Center website always begin with a lesson pre-assessment. This assessment is to be taken by all students as they work completely alone to complete as much as possible. I let my students know that the assessment questions are meant to be unique so that I can see their thinking as they work to answer the questions. The assessment is not a grade in the grade book but instead a piece that lets me see what they understand before completing an activity that will help them to perform better on the assessment piece when it is taken again in a few days. This working alone to solve unique problems ties to math practice standard MP1 – make sense of problems and persevere in solving them. Give students about 15-20 minutes to work without asking you or other students for help. I do allow students, however, to use tracing paper, rulers, or protractors as they have need. I put all the supplies in the front of the room and allowed them to take what they needed as they worked through the pre-assessment. Allowing students to use supplies directly connects to math practice standard MP5 – use appropriate tools strategically.
All the details of the pre-assessment are located within the lesson plan, pages T1 – T3, T8, and S1-S2 at the following link: http://map.mathshell.org/materials/download.php?fileid=1368 The Shell Center is always revising and improving the lessons, so it is recommended that you always pull lesson materials from the website and resist the urge to download them all to the flash drive for use year after year. The main lesson homepage is located at http://map.mathshell.org/materials/lessons.php .
Environment - creating cooperative groups
I like to give the pre-assessment at least a day in advance of beginning the activity because I use the pre-assessments to look for common misconceptions among my students and I develop guiding questions to ask throughout the activity that will address these common problems. The lesson plan has some suggested questions on page T3 of the lesson guide. I also use the pre-assessments to group students for the collaborative activity. I use partnerships for the activity and I group students homogeneously meaning, if two students struggled with the same content on the pre-assessment, then I put them together as partners. Sometimes, I group students who answered the same questions correctly through using two different processes and I want them to share their unique thinking with their partner. My goal with strategically grouping students is to put together groups who will work at the same speed, and work together to grapple with the same math content so they will learn together. I do not want to group students where one student knows everything and the second is extremely dependent or lazy.