Teachers are constantly working on creative ways to teach lessons and help students to learn! With the change in teaching methodology that began in March 2020 (not necessarily by choice), educators have been exposed to many ways to teach concepts in new and interesting ways. Checking for understanding is just as important as the lesson itself. You can check for understanding in formal and informal ways, and it certainly does not have to be the same each time. This is where the challenge arises, yet again, for teachers. How do you check for understanding and keep it creative?

Why It Is Important to Change It Up?

Though routine is necessary, checking for understanding the same way each and every time is boring and will not hold student interest. There are simple ways to informally assess learning such as ‘thumbs up and thumbs down’, as well as other types of hand signals and more complex ways to formally assess such as rubrics with writings/projects and scoring formal assessments such as tests. It is important to create a routine and expectation within the classroom environment, but you want to add variety into the ways you check for student understanding to keep students engaged in the learning process.

Ways to Check for Understanding

Technology Helps – It is 2021.

A great way to check for understanding is to use different tools (games) online such as Blooket, Kahoot, and Quizlet. These are three of the sites that my students enjoy best, and I have to say, Blooket was the class favorite this year. This helps to check for understanding while mixing in a bit of fun.

I find Blooket great for review at the end of topics or lessons. My class was so into it that I had various students creating Blookets for the class to use. The students would create the Blooket which was tailored to a specific lesson, and I would look it over before we utilized it. This gives students ownership of their learning and the class loved playing games that they created on their own! Blooket can be used at any grade level, as you can create your own and make it as challenging as you wish. If you are in a pinch, there is a database of all games created and you can play ones that were created by other users on topics that you are studying.

Questioning Techniques

Asking critical-thinking and open-ended questions are an easy way to check for understanding. As educators, it is important that we are aware of our questioning techniques. You can ask students how they were able to come up with their answer or show why they feel the solution to the math problem is correct. When you encourage students to think more critically, it helps to create more depth to their understanding without using a ton of extra time (which we all know is so valuable). The more you use higher level questioning techniques, the more it will encourage students to think outside-the-box, or think more critically about their responses. Simple changes to the way you ask students questions can help you to better observe student’s understanding of various topics and skills. More in-depth questioning techniques can be utilized at any grade level.

Socratic Seminar

Socratic seminars can be modified to use at any grade level, but are especially beneficial at upper levels. This is a formal type of discussion where a leader asks open-ended questions based on a text. Critical thinking is encouraged as students must evaluate others’ comments and formulate responses. These student-led discussions build the classroom community, improve communication skills, and provide opportunity for reflection. It is the belief that one question will lead to a variety of responses and discussion, and then more questions will stem from the original question. This is a way to have students take ownership of their learning for teachers to observe learning in action.


Polls are another simple, informal way to check for understanding. As we have all become Google Classroom experts throughout the past year and a half, polls are available via a few different avenues. You can create a poll on a Google Meet where students can respond in real-time. You can also create questions in Google Classroom with multiple-choice or open-ended responses. You can informally poll students for understanding when determining the direction to go with a lesson for the next day. This is an easy way to assess understanding and most students think responding to a poll is fun! This can be used at any grade level.

Get Up and Move!

Having students give a physical response is another creative way to check for understanding. This is best utilized with younger students, but depending on your classroom make-up, it could be used in upper grade levels also. You can ask students questions and have a directive such as if it is true, jump on one foot, and if it is false, wave your hands in the air. This type of informal assessment is great for your kinesthetic learners and will give the class a few good laughs along the way.

Curtain Call

There are so many creative ways to check for understanding. Though students in each grade level differ in many aspects, one common thread is the need for feedback. Understanding your class dynamic is a big piece to the puzzle. Keeping students engaged and intrigued is a great way to maintain their attention to the lesson. A great lesson is nothing without  students’ understanding of the content. Maintaining creative ways to check for understanding will create a better classroom environment and morale among the students.

As Edward de Bono stated, “There is no doubt that creativity is the most important human resource of all. Without creativity, there would be no progress, and we would be forever repeating the same patterns.” Creativity is the spice of life and the spark that ignites better, more meaningful learning in the classroom!