Artistic Summary

Standards Met: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.2; SL.4
What You Need: Art materials, Artistic Summary Template
What to Do: Tap into students’ creative abilities by allowing them to use art to represent what they’ve learned after a lesson. This approach is especially useful to capitalize on the different learning styles of struggling students. At the end of a lesson, present students with art materials and allow them about 15 minutes to create an artistic summary of what they learned. You can use the Artistic Summary Rubric both to set expectations for student work and to grade finished projects. Students might draw detailed illustrations or perhaps show their knowledge by way of collage or other mediums. When they are done, have students present and explain their summaries to the rest of the class. Finally, have students write short explanatory pieces summarizing what they learned about the topic and how it is represented in their artwork.


Name That Word

Standards Met: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.1; L.4
What You Need: Index cards
What to Do: This game can be used to see how well students grasp key vocabulary terms. Choose 12 words that are crucial to students’ comprehension of major concepts in your current unit of study. Divide those words into two lists on separate index cards, List A and List B. Group students in pairs, assigning one as Player A and the other as Player B. Give students time to look over their word lists to make sure they know all of the words. If they do not, allow them to check their notes or quietly discuss with a peer who has the same list. At your signal, Player A should give Player B clues to guess the first vocabulary word on List A. The actual word or any derivative of it may not be used as a clue. When Player B guesses the correct word, he or she should give a clue to help Player A guess the first word on List B. Play continues until both players have correctly identified all the words on the lists.

Alphabet Activator

Standard Met: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.1
What You Need: Pens, Alphabet Activator printable
What to Do: Students often enter classrooms with more knowledge about a topic than we realize. Prior to teaching a unit, use this activity to find out just how much students know—and make teaching decisions accordingly. First, distribute the Alphabet Activator printable. Have students draw from prior knowledge to complete letter squares with words or phrases that relate to the topic. (For a World War II unit, students might write atomic bomb for A, Berlin for B, Churchill for C, and so on.) When they’ve filled in as many squares as they can, have them share responses with a partner; they can help each other fill in empty squares. Then, regroup as a class to brainstorm a list of several possible responses for each letter. Write the list on a sheet of chart paper or on an interactive whiteboard to refer to throughout the unit. Round out your lesson by having students summarize their prior knowledge and newly learned terms at the bottom of the printable.

Narrow It Down

Standards Met: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.1; SL.2
What You Need: Short text, video, or image related to a topic of study; Narrow It Down printable
What to Do: How well can your students boil down a topic to its most essential parts? The Narrow It Down activity will help them summarize new information and separate it from extraneous details. Give each student a copy of the Narrow It Down template. Share with the class a short text, video, or image related to your unit of study. Following the template, have each student write six words that best describe the content. This will give you a snapshot of students’ understanding. Then, separate students into groups to share their words and choose their top three. Rejoin as a class and give each group a chance to discuss their words of choice. Keep a running list of these terms on the board, noting any repeats. Finally, invite students to revisit their templates and make a final decision on three words that best summarize what they learned.

High-Five Summary

Standard Met: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.2
What You Need: Paper, pens
What to Do: Not sure your students understood the content of the day’s lesson? Check in with each of them with a High-Five Summary, a playful alternative to exit slips. At the end of the period, have students trace their hand on a sheet of paper. In the palm, they should write a brief summary of the topic. Then, on each finger, students should record five key concepts related to the topic. Collect the hands at the end of class to determine which points you need to revisit the following day or to target students who may need additional help. This is as much an assessment of your instruction as it is of their understanding.

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Troy Strayer is an eighth-grade American history teacher in the Red Lion Area School District in Pennsylvania. He and his mother, Beverly Strayer, are coauthors of Check-in Assessments for Differentiated Lessons and Strategies for Differentiating in the Content Areas.