Prioritizing Your Teaching Life (Part 3) – Assessments

Article by Christy Vacchio

We all have to do them. Assessments are just a part of life when you are a teacher. But they don’t have to be a thing of dread. Assessment can and should be built into every lesson as a way of determining student mastery. So how do you do so much assessment without actually gluing yourself to the couch all weekend and missing out on your family’s life? (When did my 2 year old turn 8?!)

Planning for Assessment

In the last post on Prioritizing Your Teaching Life, we talked about how to plan your lessons by mapping out your year and keeping your own life in mind when it comes to building in activities and projects. The same holds true for planning for assessment. Again, you want to keep the end in mind. When I started my teaching career 20 years ago, I felt like I was always behind and always playing catch up. Often times, I would not even write or plan my students’ tests until after I had taught the lessons. Then I would be frustrated if over half the class failed the test.

To plan ahead for assessment means you will start by giving a pre-assessment BEFORE you teach a lesson. This can be as complicated as a full-fledged 50 question test that coveres every standard they will learn over the whole year, or as simple as a one question probe to figure out where students have misconceptions.

Formative Assessments

This could be the one, most important type of assessment that you administer throughout the year. By definition, to be formative means to influence, so this type of assessment will make a difference in your teaching by influencing which activities you will use to help guide students in their understanding of key concepts and skills in the classroom.

One way to use a formative assessment is as an introduction to a lesson. This type is often used to tease out misconceptions or preconceptions students have before they enter a new lesson or unit of study. I have often seen teachers use the same assessment as both an introduction, and as an exit ticket by using a line of learning where students write what they learned after the lesson under what they wrote at the beginning of the lesson. This not only saves on time, but paper as well. As a teacher, you can then quickly look through the line of learning to see who needs more work and who needs enrichment.

Summative Assessments

These should be at the end of a unit of study or the end of a series of lessons. When possible, to save time, using a software program (often provided through your district) to grade the multiple choice items will save a you lot of time. This will free you up to grade only the extended response questions using a rubric. Many platforms exist around the web to do this like Schoology, Edcite, Edulastic and others. You might even have some online assessments available through your textbook curriculum.

Other Grades

Often, in order to come up with a grade for report cards, one or two Summative Assessments is not enough to show what students are capable of doing. Especially if you have students with disabilities or special needs, a paper and pencil test may not show their true performance. Having students do something like a performance task can be one way to show how

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