Personal Communication is a tool used to assess students’ understanding. It may include instructional questions, class discussions, conferences and interviews, oral examinations, and student journals and logs (Chappuis, Stiggins, Chappuis, & Arter, 2012, p. 264). These types of assessments may aid students in self-assessment and help deepen students’ thinking or understanding of the learning target. During instruction, there are many opportunities to engage the class in discussion and ask questions to assess students’ current level of understanding. This type of formative assessment allows teachers to adjust instruction and guide students’ learning. Instead of waiting until the end of the lesson to determine if students met the learning target, teachers can ask questions that help them modify instruction as needed.
It is important that teachers are intentional with both the questions they ask and how they present the questions. Chappuis et al. (2012) state, “Personal communication options that involve the whole class or a group of students run the risk of oversampling the knowledge and understanding of some students and undersampling the knowledge and understanding of others” (p. 268). Since some students may not be participating in class discussion, teachers have to use strategies to determine an accurate level of understanding. Chappuis et al. (2012) provide some suggestions which include:
- Ask questions before calling on a student so all students have to think about a response.
- Use random drawing (popsicle sticks) so all students have a chance of being selected to answer a question
- Have students discuss thinking in pairs or groups
- Give students a choice of possible answers or use whole class response (ex. whiteboards)
- Have all students write a response and share with class
- Establish norms for discussion
In my classroom, allowing students to share their thinking with peers has kept everyone accountable for engaging in the lesson and participating. This artifact, thinkpairshare, is a “think-pair-share” activity I use to increase “think time” and provide a safe environment for sharing. After I ask a question, each student has his own time to think and write down his response. Then each student shares with his partner. They then have to decide as a pair what they will share with the class. This activity provides students with “think time” so they can process the question and have time to think about their answer. Chappuis et al. (2012) states, “The intent of the pause is to give each student time to ponder the question and formulate a response” (p. 269). “Think-pair-share” also provides students with an opportunity to share their understanding or teach their peer because they have to explain the learning to someone else. If a student doesn’t understand the learning they have an opportunity for someone else to explain. This is a chance for them to hear the learning presented in a different way and gives them an opportunity to feel successful. One idea that was new to me in regards to “think time” is that it is beneficial if teachers also provide “wait time” after a student responds to a question.
Another type of personal communication can be in the form of writing such as: response journals, dialogue journals, personal journals, and learning logs (Chappuis et al., 2012, p. 282). In my classroom, students engage in reading independently from books that they choose. This time is often limited because I worry that this time isn’t being used efficiently. I wonder: Are kids really reading? Could I use this time instead to teach a focused reading skill as a whole group? I think reading response journals are one way I can continue to allow time for independent reading while ensuring that students are practicing reading skills, reflecting on their reading, and thinking about the text. According to Chappuis et al. (2012), “Response journals are most often used in situations where we ask students to read and construct meaning from text” (p. 282). Below are a couple of resources that may help me introduce reading response journals and help guide students towards using them effectively. This rubric would help students understand the purpose and goals for learning. These response journal starters, Fiction Reading Responses and Non-Fiction Reading Responses, would help guide students’ responses for both fiction and non-fiction texts.
Chappuis, J., Stiggins, R., Chappuis, S., & Arter, J. (2012). Classroom
Assessment for Student Learning: Doing It Right-Using it Well
(2nd ed.). Pearson Education, Inc..