Friday, March 8, 2013

With Liberty and Assessment for All...

Well, it's assessment season.  At least the standardized variety.  What do you think about assessments?  It seems like right now we all detest assessments.  It seems like every week we are giving some type of mandatory standardized test.  Right now in our school district, we are giving the D2SC.  And that just seems like a practice test for the biggie around here--benchmark testing and the ITBS.

For the past couple of days, I've been off work for recuperating from oral surgery.  Today, I participated in a webinar about assessment, given by Carolyn Coil.  Have you heard of her?  She is an amazing author who strives to help all of us with differentiation.  Differentiation is so necessary for the growth of all students, but it is sooooo much work, right?  Ms. Coil has written several books on easy differentiation for students, both high and low ability.  As I watched the webinar, I knew that I wanted to review the high points for you.

One of the pillars of true differentiation is in assessing our students.  The first step is the pre-test.  In my opinion, this is the most important place to start.  There are several ways to easily do this, either formally or informally.  Formally, you can do several different assessments in order to see individually where your students are in their learning readiness.  Are they ready to learn?  Do they need some remediation before beginning something new?  Or do they already know everything you are about to teach??  Yikes!  You probably already realize that several of your students DO already know.  How do you know for sure?

I want to share some of her ideas that really seem simple.  Ya ready?  Here we go:

  • Give your final exam on a topic as a pre-assessment.  This would be a fairly simple method of pre-testing, particularly since you probably already have a test created for that purpose.
  • Have students fill out a web or concept map.  This is a super-simple idea.  Use a pre-printed concept map with nothing filled out except the topic written in the center.  They can even create their own web, if you like.  This will give you great information on your students' knowledge level!
  • I thought this one was interesting, and so easy!  In math, normally the last few problems on an assignment are the most difficult.  So, as a pre-test, have students complete the last 3-5 problems.  If they get them all right (prior to any instruction) why in the world would they have to do the easier one?  That would be such a motivator for them!  
Over the next week or two, I'll be giving some ideas for how to use the information you've gathered on student knowledge and skills.  Let's work together to make teaching easier and better for us AND our students!  Please share your ideas as well!

Be sure to check out Carolyn Coil's resources at 

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