Classroom Comprehension: Some Verification Techniques

31 July, 2019
Teachers often find that they have to cover a lot of material in a short amount of time. They expect students to understand what they're being told and to retain it without any issue. To this end, there are some useful strategies to verify effective classroom comprehension.

One of the fundamental goals of classroom education is to ensure learning. In order for teachers to assess if the students are understanding the material being taught, there are some useful classroom comprehension strategies they can use.

With these strategies, teachers won’t have to keep their fingers crossed while awaiting their students’ exam results. They’ll be able to know in advance whether they’ve been doing their job correctly, and if the material has been properly understood.

Normally, the problem stems from the reliance on tests to measure classroom comprehension once the material has already been covered. Regardless of the outcome, the teachers have to move on from there.

Few teachers take enough time to focus on students’ weaknesses and misunderstandings until after the tests are in. By then, it’s too late, and the students may lose interest. Therefore, it’s necessary to rethink the focus of classroom evaluation.

In this sense, it’s important to seize the moment. To reach students, it isn’t enough to simply explain things well. You need to track their understanding closely. Whenever doubts arise, or even if a student frowns slightly, you have to take control of the situation immediately.

Classroom Comprehension: Some Verification Techniques

To maximize classroom comprehension, here are some useful verification strategies:

Avoid “yes or no” questions

It’s essential to avoid asking the class questions that can only be answered with a “yes” or “no.” You should also avoid using open-ended questions like, “Is that clear?” Normally, students will always answer these questions with a “yes.”

As a result, when students later admit to being lost, the teacher is often surprised. To avoid these developments and ensure that students are understanding the material, you need to ask very specific questions that require them to use their newly acquired knowledge.

Classroom comprehension: ask students to reflect

This means asking the students to take the last five minutes of the class to reflect on the topic covered and write down a few lines about what they learned. Then, collect these written reflections and review them.

In addition, you can have them explain how they would apply the theme, concept or skill learned in a practical setting.

Using hand signals

Another option to verify classroom comprehension or not is to use preset hand signals to rate the understanding of the material covered. This strategy requires commitment from all the students, and allows the teacher to assess the comprehension level of a large group.

For example, you can establish hand signals whereby the students hold up all their fingers, some of their fingers, or just one finger. They should show five fingers when they believe they’ve understood the material fully, with the scale descending to one finger, indicating minimal understanding.

Answer posters

With this method, the students create answer posters in the classroom, to be used throughout the course. They should use the materials they have available (individual blackboards, cards, sheets of paper), or permanent posters featuring possible answers can be created.

Using these tools, the teacher can easily check individual student responses as the group displays their posters. These can be, for example, a green sign indicating everything has been understood, orange to indicate partial understanding, and red to indicate that more work needs to be done.

Classroom Comprehension: Some Verification Techniques

Classroom comprehension: Socratic Seminars

The Socratic Seminar is a technique that consists of exploring ideas in an open dialogue among students. Teachers base the seminars on the reading and analysis of a specific text. They can also apply this technique using an image, a song, or a video.

Students then ask one another questions about an important topic related to the chosen text, image, or song. These questions open up a conversation that will lead to additional questions and answers.

As a result, the students learn to ask questions that address specific issues to facilitate their own discussion. This allows them to achieve a new level of understanding of the subject matter.

In summary, the most effective way to verify classroom comprehension is to do so as the material is being taught. Asking students to take tests on covered material and later trying to address mistakes and misunderstandings won’t work. Students will have already turned the page.

  • Carlos Lomas. Aprender a comunicar (se) en las aulas. 2003. Ágora digital 5.1.
  • Lorrie Shepard. La evaluación en el aula. 2006. Educational Mesasurement.