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Strategies for Monitoring Progress

Vanessa Cramer, ninth-grade science teacher at the Springfield Renaissance School in Springfield, MA employs a variety of techniques to help students monitor their own progress—with support from the teacher—toward specific learning targets.

This video accompanies the book Leaders of Their Own Learning: Transforming Schools through Student-Engaged Assessment.


- Now, what do we need to show? Think about the cartoon we’re making. The learning target that we’re working on in ninth grade Environmental Science is about how the earth is one giant system. Learning target one. Think about the goal of our cartoon. Kyle? And our major assessment for it is a cartoon that shows these interactions.

- Well, basically I just have the snowman melting and then it turns into a puddle so it evaporates and turns into the clouds...

- [Teacher] Kids had gotten today back a draft of their cartoon. It was actually their second draft with their rubric and comments so that they could then start their final draft of the cartoon.

- [Student] This is hydrosphere and atmosphere.

- [Student] Yeah.

- That is hydrosphere and atmosphere.

- [Student] Yeah.

- My next one can be the water actually gets into the plant and that’s hydrosphere and biosphere.

- [Student] Yes.

- And then groundwater...

- There are ways that I check for understanding in the classroom. One way is to look at student work and by giving them comments, I’m really seeing where they are. When I’m using cold calling in the classroom, I’m doing it for a variety of reasons. I’m often checking to see if students are understanding what we’ve just studied. I’m checking to see if they understand the directions that I’ve just given. And the first person is Jabien. What is your goal for today in class?

- My goal today is to work on my final draft, get one-on-one time with my mistakes.

- But most importantly, usually, I’m checking to see if they understand the learning target we’re working on and the material that they need in order to do well on that learning target. Trey.

- Why each of the spheres are important assets to earth.

- Okay. A lot of times if I’m randomly calling on kids, I can see some kids that are doing really well and other kids that are kind of struggling and haven’t gotten very far and then I know to go to those kids and check in with them.

- Okay, and you see my design on the

- Yeah. But what else is in the atmosphere that is holding in that radiation?

- The greenhouse gases.

- Yes.

- Hear my voice clap twice. Hear my voice, clap three times. The debrief is really important in the class because it’s your last chance before kids leave to remind them what happened in class that day. So I try to remind them what we worked on and I try to call out some positive things that I saw in class. So I saw a lot of people focused and I also saw a lot of detail. I hope, Kyle, you don’t mind I’m using yours to show for an example. But a lot of detail go into these pictures, into these writings. So notice... And sometimes negative if we need that to move forward but very often, the positive things that I saw for them to leave on a good note and also to remind them what it was we were working on, what their learning target is, what are the goals for the class, and where we’re going to be going next. I would like to hear from a few people what their accomplishments were in class today. First person, Anthony.

- I’m almost done with my second draft.

- [Teacher] Nice. And, you’re giving it to me right at the beginning of class tomorrow, right?

- Yes.

- Awesome. And... Olivia.

- Um... I got most of my...

- In our school, it’s really important that students can check their own learning and their own understanding because it’s gonna be so important when they go to college and we are college-bound. We’re trying to help them prepare for that. So along the way we have ways for them to get into the habit of doing that checking for understanding. We have learning target trackers in class that students do. We also have reflections that students will write after they finish their final assessment to really reflect on the work they’ve done for that learning target and that actually leads up to students being able to do their student-led family conference because then they can tell their families and parents where they are in terms of their understanding and how they’re doing in their classes.

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