Using Images in the Science Classroom for Formative Assessment

One of our 8th grade science teachers, Mr. Steve Hersh, recently shared a successful lesson that he prepared for his science classes to wrap up the topic of electrical circuits. This lesson followed several labs where students used Snap Circuit kits provided by Gettysburg College’s Advancing Science Program. In these labs, students had built several types of circuits and made observations on the differences between series and parallel circuits. His students then used their classroom iPads to complete some content reading, review content using video, and constructing a response comparing series and parallel circuits.

Mr. Hersh has been using his teacher webpage as a digital home-base for his students. He will post a class agenda on his website for the students to follow when completing their assignments with the iPads. This accomplishes several things: the students can work at their own pace to complete the assignments, absent students can access the assignments easily later on, the students do not waste time trying to “find” each needed item, and a variety of resources can be provided (web links, images, videos). The screenshots below display his webpage for class that day:



The students started out with reading for content from KS3 Bitesize. After answering a few questions from the reading, which basically served as notes from the reading section, the students viewed a video on series and parallel circuits. Once these two items were completed, it was time for the students to show what they know.

Show What You Know

Students were asked to demonstrate their understanding by performing the task outlined below:

Save each picture into your camera roll. Use the app Skitch or 30 Hands to draw on each picture. Put your name on each picture.

1. Label each picture either series circuit or parallel circuit.
2. Trace the path of electricity in each circuit.
3. Briefly explain why the bulb is either dim or bright.
4. Save the annotated pictures into your camera roll. Upload the picture to dropbox. Delete the pictures from your camera roll.

Here is a sample submission from a high performing student for both circuits:

Student uses Skitch app to explain a series circuit.

Student uses Skitch app to explain a series circuit.

Student uses Skitch app to explain a parallel circuit.

Student uses Skitch app to explain a parallel circuit.

Here is an example from a lower performing student:

While this submission is a bit rough, the main idea of the response is correct.

While this submission is a bit rough, the main idea of the response is correct.

So What’s the Big Deal?

Students sometimes have a hard time applying the concepts they learn in science to the observations they make during science labs. Many times, this is because they are learning abstract concepts and are asked to apply these concepts to models, diagrams, and actual observations. In the example above, the pictures that students were asked to label and annotate were circuits built with the Snap Circuit Kits, the exact same kits they had worked with previously for several days. They do not have to try to decode a diagram like the one below.

So the X's are lights, which part is the battery? What's the question I'm answering?

So the X’s are lights, which part is the battery?
What’s the question I’m answering?

This would help the students to more readily apply their observations from those lab activities to the task at hand since they are working in familiar territory, and will help them to understand how several concepts work together.


About John Sengia

Instructional Technology Specialist for a school district in York County, PA. Former science teacher. Looking to help teachers use technology naturally with their teaching instead of trying to "add it in" .
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