As part of our Teaching American History grant, I get the chance to hang out in the classrooms of some great teachers. Last week, it was lessons by Nathan McAlister and Keil Hileman. Both teach middle school and have been recognized for their ability to motivate students.

And it was during my time in Keil’s class that I saw a very cool strategy that I hadn’t really seen before. Some of you may already do this but since it’s new to me, I’ll just call it Sit Down Quiz. Keil used the strategy as a way to review past material and assess student knowledge at the same time.

It’s pretty simple.

Give kids time to prepare for the quiz. Keil told his kids:

You have to share one thing from the reading, from the video we watched or something you saw / heard / read outside of class that connects with our topic. You’ve got 60 seconds to get ready. Go!

He used the 60 seconds to take roll and get organized. Keil then had every student stand up. He proceeded to  select students one at a time to share what they knew. Once a kid had shared their content or had answered a question, he allowed them to sit down. This made it very easy to see who had contributed and who hadn’t. It also ensured that everyone participated.

And because kids shared stuff from all over the place, the content was completely and totally random. But as the teacher who knew the content, Keil was always directing the discussion back to the specific topic. While some students were allowed to sit after sharing a minimal amount, Keil used the Sit Down Quiz with other kids as an opportunity to focus on higher order questions. He asked kids to make connections with what was shared by students before them, to refer back to prior knowledge, to compare their information with the text or to predict how their information might tie in with other content.

Keil also used the Quiz as an opportunity to share mini-lectures on specific topics, especially if it seemed kids weren’t making proper connections.

I like this. Kids clearly knew that they were expected to take part and to have something ready to share. Because kids never knew who he would pick next or what question he might ask, they all stayed engaged. Keil didn’t do this but if you need more documentation, ask kids to write a quick summary paragraph that outlines what they shared and how it connects with your topic. They should also include new content from the discussion.

The day I was there, Keil used this activity with 31 eighth graders and 32 seventh graders. Both times, he spent about 15 minutes with the strategy.

Sit Down Quiz seems like a quick and easy way to check for comprehension, review content and activate prior knowledge. And with practice, it would be fairly easy to do but remember that underneath there’s a lot of stuff you’ll need to stay on top of – classroom management, review, assessment, thinking skills, content presentation. But it’s all stuff that’s good for kids.

Have fun! Let me know how it turns out.

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