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If you break down the teaching of Science into its most basic form, all the way to binary, I figure it’s “Thinking” & “Explaining”. “Thinking” is usually taught through experimentation and manipulation. So, everybody probably agrees that a good Science teacher’s room is active with loads of manipulatives, demos, and experiments. But, it’s that “Explaining” half of the equation that is particularly difficult to teach. Many students arrive below grade level in reading, writing, and math skill. We often see large divides between our students’ ability to think vs. explain. The reasons for this problem are debatable. But, we teachers are not hired to “solve” the problem, only to help the child overcome it. What I’m advocating is the use of the best tool in our teaching arsenal; formative assessments. Some simple examples of when you use them are when you have kids show a thumbs up, sideways, or down for checking understanding. When you make them “think-pair-share.” Or when you use an exit ticket. So, it’s those times for student reflection that really get most of the class understanding the material. I believe the most powerful computerized formative assessment tool is Pear Deck, due to its seamless integration with the Google environment, and multi-modal student response features. What other program allows for drawing, coloring, and typing all in the same answer? It’s a formative assessment platform that displays exemplars in real-time. Students get to see well formatted models and answers, discussions can ensue, and everybody can make changes bringing up the level of the entire class.

With this Google Add-On, the teacher can start a lesson by finding out what students know very quickly, and then initiate the topic with intriguing questions nested within demonstrations, lectures, or slideshows. We can also insert timely assessments within labs, follow-ups for review before tests, and even use a self-paced mode for homework, sub days, or just when we want our kids to be able to move through the assessment at their own pace.

Here are some examples of using Pear Deck in my 6th grade Science classes: