Pre Assessment with Explain Everything

We recently got a set of six iPads for our level (Grades 3/4) to use. As I am the ICT coordinator I wanted to test out some of the apps to make sure that they ran smoothly for when others in my level used them. This meant I had to think of some quick activities I could do. I decided to use the Explain Everything app for our first project. I really love this app and wanted to encourage others in my level to use it too.

We have just started investigating addition and subtraction in my class. We began by looking at adding/subtracting 10, 20, 30 or 40 from a range of two digit numbers. We have a huge focus on mental strategies at my school and we encourage our students to record their thinking in a variety of ways. One strategy we use to record our thinking is the jump strategy. The students had only been learning about this strategy for about a week but I thought it would be good to use the Explain Everything app to have them create videos explaining what they know.

I have shared some of the videos they made below:

The Jump Strategy EE 1 from Aimee Gale on Vimeo.

The Jump Strategy EE 2 from Aimee Gale on Vimeo.

The Jump Strategy EE 3 from Aimee Gale on Vimeo.

The Jump Strategy EE 4 from Aimee Gale on Vimeo.

The Jump Strategy EE 5 from Aimee Gale on Vimeo.

I love that these videos are examples of the students learning, including errors. They show what my students already know as well as their misconceptions. It’s also interesting to listen to the language the students use. I can hear that some students haven’t developed the language required to explain the jump strategy in great detail. They are not referring to tens and ones, rather just a jump of ten. I can also see that some students are mixing up where they need to put their numbers and jumps. You may notice that some students are far to worried about where the ‘dot’ goes rather than thinking about the equations!

I am going to use this example of my students learning to help me plan for the next part of our addition and subtraction sequence. I am also going to put them on our class blog so that the parents can see how the students are going. I don’t want our blog to just be a showcase of the best work my class can do, but rather an example of our learning journey. Towards the end of term , after a lot more learning my students will create new Explain Everything videos and the students, their parents and I will be able to compare them to their first attempts. We will have a great measure of progress.

Meaningful Assessment

This year my personal goal to improve my teaching is to further develop my assessment techniques. I have always used assessment to guide my teaching but this year I want to refine what I do and keep better records. I also want to focus on the growth the students make and track if what I am doing is working.

I have been researching some different assessment ideas and thinking about strategies I already use. My aim is to blog about each of the strategies as I use them in my classroom so that I can reflect on how useful they are in giving me the information I need to assess my class’ understanding.

Some of the strategies I am going to focus on are listed below:

Exit Slips

Exit slips are a simple strategy of asking your students to record a reflection at the end of a lesson. Often they are used as a ticket out of class. It is important that enough time is allowed at the end of the lesson if you want the students to reflect deeply on what they have learned. It is a good idea to give the students a prompt for their reflection to help guide their thinking.

  • What was the most important thing you learned today?
  • What questions do you still have about …?
  • How can what you learned today be used in real life?
  • What do you think we will learn next on this topic?
  • Summarise today’s lesson in 25 words.
  • What would you like to work on in the next lesson on…?
  • What stuck with me today?

You can also use this strategy at the beginning of a lesson to gather information on the students prior knowledge. The Read Write Think website has more information on exit slips as well as some printable slips.

Audio Recording

I am hoping to use Evernote as my go to tool for recording students thoughts and reflections. I have started by using it for recording running records but I would like to use it to also record interviews with the students on particular topics as well as samples of explanations of strategies that they are using.

QT – Quick Test

QT is a strategy from Whole Brain Teaching. It stands for Quick Test and the idea is that you have the students close their eyes and then ask them a series of true/false questions based on the material that they have just learned. Students put their thumbs up if they think the statement or question is true and they put their thumbs down if they think the statement is false. In an ideal setting you would record on a checklist the students who were unable to correctly answer the questions. If they get less than 90% correct then they need intervention possibly in the form of a focus group or targeted work on the topic.

Explain Everything (or a similar app)

Explain Everything is a great app for recording student’s thinking. It is an interactive whiteboard app with many functions such as simple annotations, inserting media, pointers, drawing shapes and adding text. You can also record audio over the top of what ever you do in the app, making it very effective for recording reflections and the students teaching strategies we have worked on. We have it installed on the iPads that are available for class use next term, so I am looking forward to using it more effectively.

Prove It!

Prove It! is another strategy from Whole Brain Teaching. In this strategy you choose sample test questions (NAPLAN or other state tests) that relate to the content that has just been covered. The students must prove which answer they think is correct as well as proving that the others are incorrect. This can be useful when state tests are coming up as well as preparing students to justify their responses for multiple choice questions. I have also used a similar strategy where you give four maths problems that have already been solved. One is correct and the other three are incorrect. Students must look at the working out as well as the answer to work out which one is correct. They then justify their answer.

Choice Boards

Choice boards are used when you want to give students different options for the assessment task. The number of options are up to you. I have seen lots of choice boards based on multiple intelligences but they don’t have to be. It could be something as simple as “Write a persuasive piece based on one of the following 4 choices”. I want to work harder at giving my students choice when they show me what they know. Choice boards can also be created with the students input. You will be amazed at some of the ideas they can come up with for how they can show you their understanding.


I have started to take photos of my students work more and more often. Sometimes I will even quickly grab the camera and take a photo of the task and then take the photos home instead of the pile of workbooks. I sign the students work to highlight that I have seen it, but I am not always correcting it. Sometimes instead of the time I would spend on correcting the work I look at the photos and record “next step” statements for each student. This way I know which students need revision of the topic and those who are ready to move on. I find this is a much more valuable use of my time than correcting every misspelled word and ticking each part. Obviously spelling is a focus at other times.

Yes-No Way

Another quick strategy from Whole Brain Teaching, Yes-No Way is used when you want to quickly gauge whole class understanding. You simply ask a yes/no question based on the topic and the class passionately respond with either YES or NO WAY. One thing to keep in mind with this strategy is that you are only getting a snap shot of the whole class and some students will just go along with the majority rather than show their true understanding.

End of Unit Review

The ‘old’ end of unit review strategy is something I have been using for years, often in the form of a written test. I will use this strategy at the completion of a topic or term to find out what the students know about particular content. Often I will use this strategy for maths. For example when we finished a term’s work on Conceptual Place Value I gave my class a test to see what they had retained. This strategy is even more effective if you can do a pretest first so that you have a clear indicator of growth.


Edmodo is a safe social networking service that can be used with classes. I used it with my class last year and I am hoping to have it ready to go for next term with my current class. A feature of Edmodo is that you can assign tasks for students to complete. I used this last year to have students reflect on their learning and also to give me a quick summary of where their groups were up to with projects. I hope to expand on how I use Edmodo this year.

Do you have any great assessment strategies that have been effective for you?

Please share in the comments section.

I am always looking for new ideas for how I can improve my assessment. Hopefully by reflecting on what I am doing on this blog I will be able to challenge myself to improve.