Assessment Using Chain Notes

Here is a quick and easy low-tech assessment strategy that is well worth a try.

It’s called ‘Chain Notes’ and involves writing a question on a large envelope and then passing it to students to write their response on a piece of paper and place inside.

When the envelope reaches a student they take a moment to reflect and response, write their feedback, place their paper inside the envelope and pass it on.

The idea is that students read previous comments and ideas and then add to them building a chain of responses. Obviously it wouldn’t be a good idea to always start with the same students as they wouldn’t get to see a chain of responses so always start with different students each time.

Chain Notes gives every student an opportunity to look at others’ ideas and compare them to their own thinking. They can naturally prompt an extraction of different ideas and they are particularly good for checking for understanding.

Chain Notes reveal the level of sophistication children are working at, the language they use and any common misconceptions they might hold and share.

After the students have all responded to a Chain Note exercise, go through their responses and make notes on how you can support next steps by editing your approach.

What to do:
  1. Select a question focused on a particular concept relevant to your lesson.
  2. Write the question at the top of a long sheet of paper and place it in an envelope. Write the question on the envelope too and also on the whiteboard so everyone can see it.
  3. Pass the envelope around the class from student to student, having each student add their response.
  4. Remind everyone that they must read all the prior responses before adding their own note.
  5. Encourage children to be brief and take no longer than a minute to write their own ideas.
  6. Collect the Chain Note in at the end and read aloud the responses so everyone can share what has been written.
  7. Provide students with opportunities to reply to any responses made by their peers.

This isn’t the only way you can employ the Chain Notes strategy. Take a look at the following video to explore a different approach:

Chain notes encourage students to be evaluative, reflective and active commentators. They elicit feedback from every class member and generate a collage of snapshots of the class and what students are thinking and feeling.

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