-planning unit and daily lessons with the end in mind, before planning activities
-writing clear, student-learning-focused learning targets
-sharing learning targets with students
As we continue to review the Four Foundations 'Top Ten', we come to #4:
"I make it a habit to plan frequent formative assessments to check for understanding during lessons."
Formative assessment, or checking for understanding during learning well before any tests or grade-book scores are taken, is an essential practice that great teachers use routinely. Teachers need to know how close students are to grasping the learning target, and students need this feedback, as well.
To be effective, checking for understanding must be frequent, involuntary, and all-inclusive. All students need to be checked frequently. Just calling on eager volunteers who raise their hands gives both the teacher and the other students a potentially false read on the understanding of all the class.
Formative assessments should, of course, be connected to the learning targets. This connection not only guides what is asked but can also influence the means. For example, a learning target that calls for students to "recall" or "list" will be easily checked by an exit pass. A target of "evaluate" will require something more--some kind of discussion or extended written assessment will be needed.
For more on checking for understanding, see The Four Foundations of Great Teaching (pages 10-15).