Assess Yourself - How Are You Doing?

Happy Friday, my friends!  This was my first week back after spring break and I have to tell you - it just FLEW by! Before I get started with my real reason for this post, I want to remind you to check back here on Sunday for some super exciting news!  My bloggy friends and I over at iTeachSecond have something special planned for you - so stay tuned!

Now, on to the post!  Are you always looking for ways to assess student understanding on the fly?  Do you have students who seem to be understanding a concept just fine in a whole group, but when you have them work independently, they fall apart? I wanted to share with you something we have been using in my class this year that has really helped me be able to better help my students - self-assessment guides.

Let me back up by first explaining why I chose the wording on the posters that I did.  I saw many posters that used the words "novice, practitioner, etc." and while I do like to expand my students vocabulary as much as possible, I found that having them use those words just added another layer to them trying to tell me how much they understood.  We started the year last year with those words, but I found I was spending way too much time at the beginning of the year teaching my kiddos how to pronounce the words, helping them remember which word went with which level... it kind of defeated the purpose of having a quick and easy self-assessment idea.  I changed the wording in the middle of last year and never looked back! 

Using level numbers instead of words was something every child could connect to.  The descriptors for each level came from brainstorming that we did together.  And the quick sentence at the bottom of each poster made it easy for students to assess themselves quickly.  So, now this is what we use.

I have a full color full page version of these hanging in my room on the front wall where they are visible from anywhere.

I ask students to show 1,2,3, or 4 fingers (on their heart usually, not in the air, so everyone doesn't worry about what their friends are saying) to give me an idea of who understands what is going on.  We spend A LOT of time modeling and talking about this through think-alouds and examples at the beginning of the year so students have a clear understanding of what each level means.  We also chat about how everyone will be at different levels at different times for different concepts, etc.

At this point in the year I just say, "Assess Yourself!" and immediately I can see where my lesson needs to go.  I do this at various times, depending on what we're doing and what my lesson objective is.  I ask for assessment at the beginning of a lesson to check for understanding from the previous day, or to see how much students know about a new topic.  I check during the lesson, when I think things are going well - or when I think things are starting to fall apart!  And, of course, it can be helpful at the end so I know what I need to start thinking about for tomorrow, for small groups later that day, etc.

In addition to the large posters on the wall, I have a sheet of smaller cards I use during small groups.  I have the cards in sheet protectors (not cut out) and will ask my kiddos to point to the level of their understanding on their sheet. I find that it is not as important to have total secrecy in a small group - my students are more comfortable letting others know how they are doing if it's not the whole class looking on.

I also have strips at our tables with the levels.  These are mainly for students to be able to refer to at the beginning of the year so they understand what each level means.  I find I don't use them much as the year goes on, but they are definitely helpful when we start.

My favorite and most helpful way I have students show their self-assessment is by color-coding their name after they complete a task.  It's an easy way for me to see if their self-assessment matches their ability to "show what they know", and to see how THEY think they are doing.  I can quickly look through a stack of papers and see where my students' general understanding is - and it's usually pretty accurate!

If you're interested in using the posters, cards and strips I created, you can download them by clicking on the image below.  They are NOT editable, so they can't be changed.
Self-assessment is such an important skill for students to learn.  It helps them know when they need to ask for help and when they really can do something independently.  By using the posters, cards and strips, students can show how they think they are doing in a non-threatening way and I can gauge the understanding of my group.  If you have any great ideas about student self-assessment, I'd love to hear them!

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1 comment

  1. These are GREAT! I especially love how you have your kiddos highlight their names to see if their thinking matches their level of work. Thank you for creating this in different formats, so they can be displayed all around the room. Aaaannnd....thank you for SHARING!! :)


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