Individually assessing your students before the bell rings! You can do it and they will like it!

Years ago when I taught 8th-grade science students basic chemistry, I had to get creative and find a way to help my students memorize the element name and symbol of the first 20 elements of the periodic table. Some students immediately went to YouTube and played the periodic table songs on repeat until they got it. Of course, I also assigned the standard practice worksheets and frequently reviewed those elements in class, but some students still needed more support from me. This is when I started my now infamous door quizzes.

The way this works is that I put the units highly assessed academic sight words or concepts onto a flashcard. I have had flashcards with just the element name and the student tells me the symbol. I have had cards showing a football flying through the air and the students have had to identify it as kinetic energy. Cell organelle ID? Check, there is a chloroplast card for that. Interpreting speed graphs? Draw a simple acceleration graph on a notecard and ask students about the motion shown. There are so many fun ways to make door flashcards for your unit of study, you just have to remember that whatever you are putting on the card has to be read quickly and not too complex. This is just academic sight word practice.


How do I implement the door quizzes?


I have my students line up by my door and wait for my permission to enter class. This is something that most teachers in my 6th-grade hallway do now, but at schools where this wasn't standard practice, it was still something I made them do on specific days. As soon as my last students from the previous class have left I start showing the first student in line the flashcard I ask them to answer to enter. The first time you do this they will be thrown off, but you can bet that the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th student in line is now super focused on what is going on. You will also notice a hush that overcomes the line chatter of what happened at lunch while students notice something is happening.


Now I have done this in a variety of ways. Most of the time I will just ask the student and either praise their correct answer or kindly remind them of what the answer should be and they still get to go into the room either way. After I have done this a few times and we are getting closer to a unit, I may change it up and correct the student's wrong answer then send them to the back of the line. They now have to answer another question correctly before they can come in. These door quizzes are always done in a light and positive manner. Make it a game by saying something like this: "Ohhh so close, get out your INB quick and try again, if you go to the back of the line you have 5 people to wait for while you review! You've got this!". Students respond to positivity and want to step up to the challenge, and of course, I would never deny a student entry if they are having a hard time. This is a supportive learning activity.


I normally have anywhere from 6-10 card variations for the unit so that there is some variety if you want to repeat the process for multiple days. Having a few card options also makes it so the students don't just memorize the same 3 answers they hear the people before them say. You have to make sure you have good management of your classroom so the hallway and your classroom does not become chaotic. The last thing you want is to be causing a distraction to others. If your door quizzes extend a few seconds after the bell rings a well-managed class will be silently waiting for their turn and working independently on their bell ringer. If other classes are testing around me I will close the door and continue the door quizzing inside of class, but that extra needed time rarely happens. Also, keep in mind this is NOT a daily occurrence rather something I pull out only when I see that students are still struggling with vocab. Often after I grade a real quiz or assignment that exposes learning gaps I need to address. I have also used this activity as another layer of review prior to standardized state testing!


I have had such positive feedback from my students this activity. I love that I complete it before the bell even rings for class to start. I LOVE that each student is getting individual immediate content-related feedback from me and we have already had a positive interaction before they get to their seat. I have had students BEG for me to do door quizzes on days that I am doing the regular entry. If a student gets the same question from a previous day, I laugh at the fact that THEY LET ME KNOW I need to give them another challenge! I also love that the second other students see that my 1st period is getting door quizzes the next classes will be walking toward my room with their INB's out to our most recent page of notes going over what they think I may be asking! When students get through the door I will hear a "yeah!" and see a small fist pump! Also, I do not know how often students from other classes have walked by and told me the answer to the question I have displayed. I love that level of engagement during transition time with students. Some of these shout-outs are not even my students or students that are on their way to science, they just want to show me what they know!


I hope you can use this idea with your students. It does take some practice to make it work efficiently. You definitely need good management skills so that the students aren't waiting in chaos, but it is a fun and valuable activity I love doing when the time is right! I hope you and your students enjoy door quizzes in the future!

Let me know what you think.

Feedback and new ideas always welcome!

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