Saturday, May 11, 2013

Spark Student Motivation and Easy Skill Assessment

I've seen a lot of good ideas and a lot of good reminders of things I've done before but haven't done lately through this linky from Head Over Heels for Teaching

I figured I'd share a quick one myself!

Mine involves the use of multi-link cubes. When I can tell that the kids need a brain break or if I need to quiz my kids on a particular skill, then I play a game with them. For example, maybe I pass out the judy clocks and give them an elapsed time problem. They write the answer on a marker board (or right on the desk!) I quickly walk around the room and check for correct answers, if the student is correct they get a cube. I often have them put up a trifolder "office" to keep their answers private.

I usually make it through about 10 problems or so. The kids love collecting the cubes and building with them, and it keeps them focused on the questions I'm asking so they can get a new cube to build with. 

The best part of it all is that often I'll play this game right before lunch or specials and ask the kids to just leave their cube structures on their desks. Then when they're out of the room I can walk around with a list of my kids' names and mark the numbers of cubes they received. If I asked 10 questions and a kid has 9 out of 10 possible cubes then that let's me know that he gets elapsed time problems with 90% accuracy. It really helps me notice when a certain kid doesn't get a certain concept. And if I were the quantitative data collecting, grade giving type then I would have just collected a grade for the gradebook for each kiddo too! (We don't really give grades in my school.)

If everybody gets a cube, we move on. If a decent number miss a cube then I get a kiddo to explain how they got their answer. Sometimes I make the questions get progressively more difficult.

When playing with a group of kids that has some students in it that might not do so well I'm sure to be somewhat stealthy when I award the cubes. I've also started every kid with a small pile of cubes (I pick one color for this) and then disregard those cubes when it's time to use the cubes to assess their understanding.

I've played this game with my 1st/2nd multi-age class and I've played it with my 5th graders. Both groups have loved it. Better than doing a worksheet for sure! With the 5th graders I've been known to pass out two cubes for every right answer, just because they like having more cubes to build with. I've done it with a lot of skills that need to be practiced...time, greater than/less than, counting money, calculator usage, finding words in a dictionary, spelling tests, etc.

Another option in place of the multi-link cubes is to pass out pattern blocks for the kids to make symmetrical 'flower' designs with.

Check out the other great ideas in the linky!


  1. This is a great idea. I love that you can quickly walk around the room and know who has it and who doesn't based on the cubes.

    Hunter's Tales from Teaching

  2. I love this! What a great idea for a quick formative assessment. Love it! I absolutely love reading other upper grade blog posts. So inspiring. :)
    Brandee @ Creating Lifelong Learners

  3. Great idea! We just found you on the blog party and started following you. Very cool blog!
    Joe and Allie Teach

  4. What a clever idea! So simple and I bet the kids love it! I already have them writing on the desks, so I need to break out my unifix cubes! Thanks for linking up and sharing!
    Head Over Heels For Teaching

  5. Great idea! I love that it would allow you to keep track of how the well the students performed on the activity.

    Literacy Spark

  6. I love this idea!! My students would totally love it and I like your suggestions for the students who may not get many cubes. I will be trying this for sure. Thanks!
    Fourth Grade Flipper

  7. Thank you for sharing this great idea! I like how easy it is for the teacher to get feedback on student progress. I also think it would be easier for a struggling student to get less cubes than to get an awful grade.

    Forever A Teacher, Forever A Learner

  8. Awesome idea! No grades? Wow, that would make my heart happy!

  9. Thank you so much for posting this! I tried it out this week and it was a huge success!
    Upper Grades Are Awesome

  10. I saw this on another blog which linked back to you! I'm now your latest follower :) What a great and most importantly SIMPLE idea! We will definitely be doing this in my class too!

    x Serena x
    Magic Mistakes & Mayhem


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