3 Ways To Check For Understanding


Anna Wells

Anna has an MA in Applied Linguistics and came into teaching via Schools Direct in 2013. She currently works at a primary school in Greater London as English Lead and aspires towards school leadership. She is a self-confessed football nerd and loves a good statistic…
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What are the best ways to check for understanding in your classroom?

There are many ways to check if your class has understood what you are teaching them. Here are 3 different methods to try out in your classroom!

We can often think we have taught a fantastic lesson – children were listening, got on with their work and there were no disruptions. However, their books tell a different story and the evidence shows they didn’t understand the objective or aim of the lesson. To stop this from becoming a regular occurrence, teachers can use simple techniques during lessons to check for understanding. This minimises the workload of having to re-teach and allows the lesson to be changed mid-way through if necessary, to go over key concepts again.

Here are 3 ways to check for understanding in the classroom.

1. Use mini whiteboards during the input

Mini whiteboards really do make teaching easier. They add pace to an input, give immediate feedback and allow children time to think before giving an answer. A teacher can ask a question and then observe children’s work, giving feedback at the same time. Answers can be shown all at once, allowing for a quick skim of the room before moving on to the next teaching point. Alternatively, children can keep their work to themselves, allowing you to gauge individual understanding. The only downside is trying to find enough whiteboard pens for each child!

2. Ask open-ended questions

Questioning will always be a great technique to give children the opportunity to show their knowledge. It puts the onus on the children to reflect on their learning and come up with an answer. However, it is the type of question you ask that will really give you a true reflection of the understanding in your class. Open-ended questions mean the children are doing the work, rather than closed questions which just require a yes or no answer. Use questions that start with ‘how’ or ‘why’ to encourage students to explain their learning. If they can put it into different words, then they have understood the objective. If they are struggling to answer, you can re-phrase the question or re-teach the concept.

3. Mini plenaries

There are many different ways to describe a plenary; whatever you call it, it is a summary of what you have been teaching in the lesson. Traditionally, a plenary comes at the end, tying together all the strands neatly. However, it can also be effective to do a mini-plenary in the middle of a lesson to check for understanding and make sure everyone is on track. In an English lesson, this may come in the form of reading some examples of writing for other children to ‘magpie.’ In Maths, it may be picking up on a question that children are struggling with and working through it together. However you use it, a plenary is a useful tool for focusing children and getting them back on track with their learning.

Why not try some of these ideas to check for understanding in your classroom?