Confering with students while they are working to stay constantly apprised of what they are thinking, what they understand, and where you need to re-direct.

by Peter Haun

Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12


I believe the formal assessment of students on a regular basis, as opposed to just quizzing and testing them at the end, is an important teaching strategy. Engaging students all the way along about what’s happening in class and what they are understanding, provides teachers with meaningful information about student comprehension, understanding, and competency on tasks and skills.

There are many aspects to formative assessment but the one I focus on is “daily conferring”–talking to the students as they work to see what they’re thinking, what they’re understanding, and whether they are grasping the tasks. This allows me to be able to clarify and redirect my work as we go along so that I’m not just waiting until the test to realize that students didn’t understand.

The way this works in my classroom:

–First, I walk around and read over the students’ shoulders as they are writing.

–Next, I’m evaluating their wording to see things such as: Is it clear? Is it debatable? Is it defensible? Is it nuanced?

–Then, if I see a student is not on track, I ask leading questions, such as: “What point are you trying to make?” How can we reimagine this? Why is this evidence supporting your claim?

This process is about surfacing student thinking so that I know they are understanding.

This form of assessment is also very useful for evaluating new and transfer students when their prior level of instruction is unknown. Daily conferring effectively gives me the information I need to individualizing instruction for my students.

About Peter Haun

Peter Haun was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan. Peter is an English Teacher at Oak Park High School in Oakland County, Michigan. He represents...

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