Every teacher is required to constantly assess her students. Endless tests can get boring, so let’s mix it up with some painless ways to assess your students.
Formative vs Summative
This is really crucial to understanding assessments in general, and to figuring out HOW to assess. Formative means that this data is helping to create the direction of your teaching. It is forming it. Summative represents the end result of a unit or cycle of teaching. It is the sum total off the student’s learning.
First, let’s tackle formative assessment.
This is pretty self-explanatory, and I bet you already do it. First, have the students close their eyes. No peeking! Next, tell them that they will signal how they feel about each statement you make with their right thumb. Thumb up means I agree; thumb down means I disagree; thumb in the middle means I’m not sure.
Then, make your statements. I use positive statements. EX: I feel confident about my 12 times table facts. Students would give a thumbs up if they DO feel confident, a thumbs down if they don’t, and a thumbs in the middle if they sort of have it. As students signal their feeling, mark down students who are in the negative category for targeted intervention and small group instruction.
White Boards Up
You can use this in a small group or for individuals. I like to use it for math, mostly, but it could be used for any subject.
First, pass out individual white boards and markers to each child or group. Next, ask a question. If you can write in on the big board or project it, even better. Students work the problem on their boards as directed. On your signal, they all raise them overhead for you to check.
When the boards are up, do a quick check to see if the class mostly has the concept or if they are mostly struggling. If they are struggling, it’s time to reteach in a different way. If just a few kids are off track, work with them quietly on the next problem while the rest of the class works independently.
This is great because the kids think it’s “against the rules” and you get to see their entire thinking process. You will need to start slow and controlled, but loosen up over time.
First, give every kid a white board marker and eraser or paper towel. Then, give them a problem. This works best for math in the beginning. Tell them that in order to keep “writing on the desk” every person needs to show ALL of their work. Walk around the room and watch the kids work. As you walk, you should be able to see where kids are getting off track or making mistakes. Gently correct along the way. Show the entire class the correct answer using a few different methods.
After the kids learn the reasons that writing on the desk is allowed, give them some more freedom. As my class got comfortable with the responsibility, I let them write anything academic related on their desks. Students created intricate timelines, thought webs, cartoons of the Civil War, and math games to play with a seatmate. And I got to see how their brains were working and tailor instruction to meet those needs.
Yes, these are boring and routine, but also useful. They are a familiar format to everyone, and relatively easy to grade from a numbers standpoint. However, you can make it interesting by adding in essay questions, drawing/visual problems, or real world examples.
You can really use these as assessments at any point in the lesson. Since each response is added to the sum total of responses, you could in theory track a student’s growth over time (pre-test, formative assessments, post-test) and create a beautiful graph to show progress!
I mainly like these because they do the grunt work for me. Be on the lookout for a post later this week about my love affair with Google Forms for assessing.
This is perfect for a project based classroom or anything where students are creating work over time. At the end of a unit or cycle, the student selects work that shows growth over time, with the final work sample being representative of her current knowledge.
This is more time consuming for teachers since you will need to meet with each child throughout the process. But you will get to see concrete growth in every student, as well as an honest, on-going assessment of how your teaching techniques are working across the class.
Projects, Reports, Presentations
These are awesome ways to get students working together (or apart) to create a final something that shows all of their knowledge on a topic. These are awesome for standards based learning classrooms, or those classrooms that operate without traditional number/letter grades. Students are evaluated on their mastery of a given set of standards and the effort that they put into the project.
I use these routinely in my classroom to help students explore different leadership roles, learn self-management, and work on cooperative learning.
How to do check your students’ knowledge?