Nintendo DS: An Assessment Tool?

A couple of weeks ago I blogged about our first BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) day.  When I saw the students’ enthusiasm, and what we were able to do with their Nintendo DS at school, I knew that we would have to do it again. And this week we did!

Between half and two-thirds of my students own a Nintendo DS of some kind, which they all brought to school.  Interestingly, a student who had brought his Nintendo 3DS last time left it at home in favour of his younger brother’s regular DS so that he would be able to access the Pictochat feature, which he knew we would be using.

There was nothing earth shatteringly new this time.There was more wonderful oral language as the students talked about their games–something that they were truly interested in sharing with their friends. There was more engagement and more sharing of devices.

Using the DS for Assessment

The best usage of the DS for the day, though, was when we used the devices to help us with spelling. We were working on the long a sound, and ai in particular. In the past, I would say a word such as “rain” and ask the students to “sound it out” and write it on an individually-sized whiteboard, or on our whiteboard-topped tables. Then I would run around checking their words. With the six DS units that I already have in my classroom and the ones that the students themselves brought, every student was able to use a device instead.

They all logged into the same chat room in Pictochat and wrote each word as I said it, but didn’t click on the send button until we counted “1, 2, 3, send”. Although I meandered through the students as they sat on the carpet, checking for students that needed support, watching one of the DS as the chats flew by was a much better way to assess the students’ understanding. Within ten seconds I knew exactly who needed help and with what.

The students helped assess each other as well. “Hey, some people are putting nines instead of p’s”, said one student. I modeled a correct p and that didn’t happen again. “He forgot the i”, commented another. We talked briefly again about how to make the long a sound, and no one forgot to include the i the next time.  Because of all the correct answers flying by, students could instantly self-assess as well. Most did not need to have their peers point out their errors–they could see the mistakes for themselves.  This held true when we later wrote number sentences to go with number stories.

This is the kind of assessment I want to have a lot of in my classrooms–timely, focused and done by peers and the students themselves. I guess I just have to figure out how to have a class set of Nintendo DS!

13 thoughts on “Nintendo DS: An Assessment Tool?

  1. This is brilliant. Simply brilliant. I am so doing this with my 6th graders ASAP. They’ll love test review if they can share the answers in this way. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Incredibly cool. I’ve never used a DS but feel I may need to check one out. Could you do this to check math understandings too?

    1. For sure. We use it that way as well. It has a space that you can write in with a stylus, or you can use the stylus to type messages. When my students writing skills have developed a bit more, we’ll be able to write ideas. We’ve used it in pairs for number before, number after, making patterns, etc.

  3. Thanks Kathy, this is great. I did mention to my students a while back that I think we should have a DS game day. Now I need to actually do it! Thanks for getting me motivated to do it. Karen

  4. Love this idea. I did this in the Fall during our Canadian symbols unit. Students recorded the Canadian symbols that they recognized in a video we were watching. We then compared “notes” and learned from each other. Most students brought their devices from home and those that didn’t have one borrowed one or used a whiteboard. It was very powerful.

  5. Ms. Kathy, you never cease to amaze me with the activities you do with your class! I’m just 20 years old and I could never imagine learning with a Nintendo DS when I was in school. By the time I become a teacher, there will be something bigger and better to do! I’m glad that all the children were able to participate and have fun learning. Did the school pay for the 6 DS units or did you have to find a way to get them on your own?

    1. The school bought me six Nintendo DS a few years ago. The rest were brought by the students.
      I’m always on the lookout for more devices, so if you have one you want to donate…:-)

  6. Hi!
    I thought this was an amazing idea. I did not know the Nintendo DS could do the stuff you did with it. I work with children, and I know they all love their DS’. I think people do not realize the potential of technology made for kids. I know I would have never thought that a child could do all this on a DS. When I think of DS’, I think of games (and not educational games at that). I really enjoyed reading your blog!

    I am a student at the University of South Alabama in a class called EDM310. The class blog site isEDM310 Blog
    Jessica Scarpa

  7. What a fascinating story! I’m teaching here in Kansai, Japan, the home of Nintendo and over the past year, have been doing some interesting work on an experimental basis with students using the Nintendo DS at the middle school level. Sharp and another company, Uchida, have collaborated with Nintendo to create a system that allows teachers to create their own content for the DS simply using Excel. Teachers enter whatever information, graphics, etc. into an Excel sheet, then the data is automatically transferred to the DS where students can interact with it. Not sure if there are plans to bring the system to North America, but it has been fascinating working on it here.

    This page is all in Japanese, but some of the images may give you an idea of what is possible.

    http://www.sharp-ssp.co.jp/ds/

  8. Hi, my name is Tina Smith and I’m a student in EDM310 at the University of South Alabama. I think this is an awesome idea! my kids have both the DS and the DSi and I had no idea that you could use it in this way. It has me to thinking this might be a good way for them to quiz each other at home! Thanks so much for sharing!

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