Saturday, April 9, 2011

Many Genres Educational Tip from Matt Duvall

One area many teachers (myself included) struggle with is assessing whether students are actually understanding what we're teaching. Formal assessments, such as tests, take time and effort to create, grade, and return. Worse, there are some situations where a test just isn't an option--like when you're teaching a writing workshop. Here are a few quick ways to assess student comprehension in almost any teaching setting.

The first technique is student self-assessment. Have the students give you a "thumbs up" if they're very confident in their understanding, a "thumbs sideways" if they feel so-so about it, and a "thumbs down" if they're completely lost. This gives you a quick, immediate sense of how your students are feeling.

The second method is to pose a simple question based on the material you covered. Have the students write three sentences, max, to answer the question. You can quickly read these over during a break or while the students work on another activity, and decide whether there's anything you need to clarify.

The third method is to have a volunteer share with the class a paraphrase of what you've said. Then, the students can discuss if anything was left out or different than what you taught. This allows students to learn from each other, and also gives you feedback on areas where students are still confused. (You can also break the students into small groups, where each group does this--it can help for shy students or large classes.)

There are many ways to check for understanding--these three are just some that have worked for me. Regardless of the method you use, make sure you are checking and not just assuming that because you've said it, students got it.

Contributor: Matt Duvall

Articles in MGOC: "Powerman Writes Women's Fiction: On Writing What You Know"


Other Work: "Writing Hell" to appear in The Chiaroscuro re-launch mega-issue (April 2011)
"Writing Hell" is a reprint of Matt's humorous horror story that originally appeared in Seton Hill University's Eye Contact magazine.

You can pre-order Many Genres, One Craft, edited by Michael A. Arnzen and Heidi Ruby Miller, through any of your favorite book sellers, including Amazon.


  1. Thank you, Teffanie, for hosting MANY GENRES at Free Cotton!

    And, thank you, Matt, for the wonderful teaching tip. I'm going to use the thumb indicator in my lectures now.


  2. Love it! @Matt-fabulous! This toolbox tip can work everywhere- it's classroom 'like' button!

  3. The 'like' button! That's perfect, Teffanie.

    Thanks, Matt. It's an awesome idea.


  4. Thanks for allowing me to guest on your blog! What a great resource for writers and teachers.