15 Ways to Check for Understanding

Quick, casual ways to make sure everybody’s on board.

15+ Ways to Check for Understanding

Nothing’s worse than being met with a sea of blank faces at the end of a lesson. That’s why it’s so important to frequently check for understanding with your students. Here are fifteen simple ways to see who’s good to go, who’s almost there and who needs some one-on-one.

1. Use check marks.

SOURCE: Mrs. Beattie’s Classroom

Take a page out of The Daily Five‘s book and create these check marks to help your students remember to check for understanding as they read. 

2. Give a thumbs up/ thumbs down.

Sometimes all it takes is a quick thumbs up or thumbs down to make sure your students are all still on board. Stop frequently to check in and have your students hold them up high so you can take account. 

3. Use exit tickets.

SOURCE: Mr. Elementary Math

Download this cute freebie to create these exit tickets. Students can write the question of the day at top and turn in their responses on the way out.

4. Flash white boards.

Ask one quick question that shows students are keeping up and have them write their answers on individual white boards. Do a quick sweep before they put them down. Pull any students together that still need more and re-teach.

5. Give it a four-finger rating.

SOURCE: Mrs. Wheeler’s First Grade Tidbits

Teach your students this quick check method and check in often to see where everyone stands. Pair up students who flash a 3 or 4 with students who flash a 1 or 2. 

6. Do a Quick Write.

Ask just one question and have students jot a quick paragraph on an index cards to show that they understand. Have them share their answer with a partner or collect the cards to review for the next day. 

7. Post your name on the stop sign.

SOURCE: Musings From the Middle School

This teacher blogger asks students to check for understanding by writing their name on a post-it, then attaching it to the stoplight on the appropriate color. She then groups students who need re-teaching and advises students who are ready to move on. 

8. Give them a Yes/No question.

Check for understanding by asking students to flash a red piece of construction paper for no (they need a little more explanation) or a green piece of construction paper for yes (they get it and are ready to move on).  Alternatively, laminate squares of red and green construction paper and glue them back to back to large popsicle sticks to make paddles for your students to show. 

9. Do a self-assessment.

SOURCE: Not So Wimpy Teacher

Download this free resource and print up a stack of them in different colors for different subjects. Pass them out as exit tickets to plan for the next lesson period. 

10. Draw a T-chart.

Ask your students to tell you five (or whatever number you think is sufficient) things they learned from the lesson. Have them make a T-chart and on the left hand side write a fact or opinion, and on the right side give evidence to support their fact or opinion. 

11. Do a quick sort.

SOURCE: The Science Penguin

Ask one question that you feel shows understanding of the concept you are teaching. Have students write their answers on cards and collect them. Sort cards into piles: Got it, Almost There, and Re-Teaching Needed. Divide students into groups based on their answers and keep teaching. 

12. Pick a card, any card. 

SOURCE: Upper Elementary Snapshots

Print these free cards, laminate them and connect them together with a ring or twist tie. Give one copy to each student to keep on their desk. When it comes time to check for understanding, students can just flip to the appropriate card and you can do a quick check by color to see who still needs help. 

13. Display mini flip charts. 

SOURCE: The Elementary Math Maniac

If you’re not the crafty sort, you can buy 12 of these desktop flip charts for $13.99 from Really Great Stuff

14. Use cooperative learning structures


SOURCE: 4th Grade Racers

This teacher/blogger uses cooperative learning structures to check for understanding in a fun and engaging way. 

15. Reference this chart. 

SOURCE: Mia MacMeekin

This amazing infographic shows all kinds of imaginative ways to check for understanding. Print out a copy and display in your classroom for inspiration. 

What are your favorite ways to check for understanding? Come share in our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook.

Also, read 15 ways to know when your students aren’t “getting” it.

15 Ways to Check for Understanding

Posted by Elizabeth Mulvahill

Elizabeth Mulvahill is a teacher, writer and mom who loves learning new things, hearing people's stories and traveling the globe.

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