Doug Lemov's field notes

Reflections on teaching, literacy, coaching, and practice.

01.07.21“Chat for Understanding”: Sadie McCleary uses the chat to assess student mastery

What a great video I get to share today! This clip is from Sadie McCleary’s Chemistry class at West Guilford HS in Greensboro, NC. It’s striking not just because Sadie uses the chat function brilliantly to keep students active and attentive but because she uses it so effectively to Check for Understanding.

Here’s the clip. In it you’ll notice that Sadie uses the chat three different times in rapid succession:

Presenting students with a chart showing reaction rates for various concentrations of two compounds, she wants to ask them to assess whether they understand what they’re seeing.

She cleverly asks them to complete her sentence in the chat:

“As [HCL] doubles and “Mg(OH)2 remains constant, the rate….”

One thing this prompt does for her is allow her to assess quickly. She’s streamlined the data. By asking for students to complete her sentence she makes sure she gathers exactly the information she wants and also that, as she glances at students answers streaming in, it will be easy for her to assess because there won’t be too much information. If she’s said: “Please chat me, what will happen to the rate to the rate here,” she might have had students answering based on observations about a different interaction on the chart, and their answers might look every which way. She avoids having spend unnecessary time assessing varied and vague sentences (e.g. “the rate will be different because the inputs are different…”) that might or might not answer the question she wants them to answer .

As you can see she’s made her first assessment in just seconds.

Her next chat asks students just to identify the exponent in her next formula. Again a precise question and a clear specific format for the answer allows her to assess efficiently. Notice also how active her steady use of the chat is making students as well as the appreciation she shows as soon as students engage. “Thanks, Harrison. Thank you, Noah. Thank you, Luke.

Now the third question. The hardest of the three and most summative. “What is Y based on our data table?”

Here she modifies her use of the chat. For those of you who are TLAC nerds she’s been using “Now Questions” so far… allowing students to chat right away to build energy and momentum and keep the pace up. But here she slows down to a “Wait Question.” Students can’t share their answer until enough time has elapsed for everyone to have had a chance to think the question through. She wants wait time and thinking. She doesn’t want students to piggy back off of early answers.

Again she quickly assesses. “Most of us got it.” And as the video closes asks a student–via Cold Call–to explain to her peers how she got the correct answer.

As a side note–I’ll be blogging about this soon–Sadie teaches is a school where she and her colleagues can’t require cameras on. Obviously we think that’s a big loss for students and teachers but Sadie doesn’t make that decision, she just lives with it.

Using the chat so frequently here makes it easy for her to Cold Call since seeing who is chatting basically tells her who is engaging with the lesson. It’s awful but true that teachers who can’t ask for cameras on live with the angst of teaching blank screens that often represent students who aren’t even there (or who are on tik-tok). Who’d want to risk a cold call revealing that in fact half the class isn’t even listening? [No one]. But frequent chatting before hand gives her what she called “presence data” which allows her to allay that concern and engage student verbally as well.

It’s great stuff all around!

Thanks to Sadie for sharing.

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