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Using Aggressive Active Monitoring to Maximize Student Learning

by Model Teaching | March 18, 2019.

It is now independent practice time for your lesson, and to an outside observer it appears that students are silent, working hard, and grappling with task at hand. All looks well, but how do know that students are actually mastering the material they are working on and will be ready for your planned exit ticket or mini assessment?

This is where Active Monitoring comes in. One of the major responsibilities of a teacher during independent work is to actively gather real-time, objective-aligned data that will enable direct action when student misconceptions are identified. A more focused, strategic example of Active Monitoring, Aggressive Monitoring, can be highly effective in catching student misunderstandings and ensuring student mastery prior to the actually assessment. In this article, we will provide a detailed overview of how to use Aggressive Monitoring in your classroom.

Using Aggressive Active Monitoring to Maximize Student Learning

What Aggressive Monitoring Looks Like

During the Independent Practice of any lesson there are two things that should be happening at once. Students should be completing a given task with clear expectations and a criteria for success, while the teacher should be circulating, monitoring, collecting and responding to student data. The actions of the teacher during this time can seem overwhelming! This is why additional planning for this part of the lesson is so essential. By responding to data this early you can minimize the need to “re-teach a lesson” later on.

Here is snapshot of a lesson plan that outlines student versus teacher actions during independent practice:

After crafting a strong plan for what students should be doing and what the teacher will be doing, this teacher would be able to transpose this plan onto an Aggressive Monitoring Tracker to use when teaching the lesson for the day.

How to Plan for Aggressive Monitoring in your Classroom

There 4 steps to planning for Aggressive Monitoring in your lessons:

Step One: Identify what you are monitoring for in your lesson. 
The monitoring focus should aligned to the lesson objective an enable you to clearly determine the students who grasp the material and the students who need more support. It is important to consider what key concepts students need to understand in order to produce an exemplar answer.

Step Two: Create an exemplar response. 
When creating your exemplar, consider what you expect to see from students work. What strategies should be shown? What key take away should every student write? Write exemplar using student friendly or grade-level appropriate language.

Step Three: Determine potential student misconceptions or misunderstandings. 
Think about where students may get confused. Consider all the students in your classroom and individual needs for exceptional learners.

Step Four- Create targeted questions in response to student misunderstandings.
Consider what you will ask students to ensure they are developing an understanding the lesson objective. These are the questions that you are going to ask students when you are circulating the room. You may need to create “break it down” questions (BIDS) or foundational questions to support students.

Break it down” Strategies for conferring with individual students:

  • Teach Back: “What did Auggie say about school when we were reading together again?”
    • Ask students to repeat what they already know from the content or from the lesson.
  • Word on the Street: “As I was walking around, I noticed that Cesar circled this sentence. Why do you think he did that?”
    • Highlight the action of a successful student and then ask why they think they chose that action.
  • Skill-based questions: “Today we have talked a lot about character feelings. What does Auggie say that tells us how he feels?”
    • Remind the student of the lesson focus or a key skill in order to spark their thinking.
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Strategic Monitoring Tracker Template

After crafting a strong plan for what students should be doing and what the teacher will be doing, this teacher would be able to transpose this plan onto an Aggressive Monitoring Tracker to use when teaching the lesson for the day.

Strategic Monitoring Tracker Template – Sample

An example Aggressive Monitoring Tracker Template that teachers can use to identify the daily objective, monitoring focus, exemplar answer(s) to independent practice, break it down questions and additional scaffolding plan.


  1. Using the provided aggressive monitoring template, create a daily tracker that can used to track student mastery in an upcoming lesson. You can choose to organize your tracker in the way that works best for you, either group names by class alphabetically, by tables or by students you want to target first.
  2. Identify and write on your tracker the lesson objective and monitoring focus that you will be checking for during your laps around the room. Remember to craft your exemplar first so you know what you are looking for. Also script out the actual language you will use in the moment. This will help you begin to build a muscle memory for this skill.
  3. Plan and script your scaffold and break-it-down questions to address student misconceptions.
  4. Finally, plan out what students you will target Realistically, you won’t be able to check all students, so select 5-8 students that you want to target. Remember that you can still monitor other students, but you will focus more attention on your selected students.
  5. Plan and map how you will quickly check in with your targeted students. Pay attention to the layout in your room and where these students sit. Mark your Aggressive Monitoring Tracking with who you will check in with 1st, 2nd, 3rd and so on.
  6. Implement this tracker for the upcoming lesson during your independent practice. Mark your tracker which students who have successfully accomplished the independent practice focus and those who did not.
  7. Reflect on the data you pulled and make a plan for how you will respond to data. Either respond in real time to individual students or whole group or pull a small group at a later time.
  8. Over the course of the next week continue making an aggressive monitoring plan making changes to the focus questions, laps and questions to address student misconceptions. Modify students you want to check in with based on what you learn about your students in a given day. Be sure to develop a plan to respond to data.


  • National Center on Student Progress Monitoring: What Is Scientifically-Based Research on Progress Monitoring?; Lynn S. Fuchs and Douglas Fuchs
  • Doug Lemov et al., Jossey-Bass. “Teaching, Not Watching”. Teach like a Champion Field Guide 2.0: A a Practical Resource to Make the 62 Techniques Your Own. 2016.

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