20 Simple Assessment Strategies You Can Use Every Day
contributed by Saga Briggs
This post has been updated from a previous version
The ultimate goal of teaching is understanding.
But sometimes it’s easier to talk than to teach, as we all know, especially when we need to cover a lot of material in a short amount of time. We hope students will understand, if not now then before test time, and we keep our fingers crossed that their results will indicate we’ve done our job.
The problem is, we often rely on these tests to measure understanding and then we move on. There isn’t always time to address weaknesses and misunderstandings after the tests have been graded, and the time to help students learn through strategies to ask great questions is gone.
Below are 22 simple assessment strategies and tips to help you become more frequent in your teaching, planning, and curriculum design.
Book TeachThought Professional Development for training on assessment practices that grow teachers
22 Simple Assessment Strategies & Tips You Can Use Every Day
1. An open-ended question that gets them writing/talking
Avoid yes/no questions and phrases like “Does this make sense?” In response to these questions, students usually answer ‘yes.’ So, of course, it’s surprising when several students later admit that they’re lost.
To help students grasp ideas in class, ask open-ended questions that require students that get students writing/talking. They will undoubtedly reveal more than you would’ve thought to ask directly.
2. Ask students to reflect
During the last five minutes of class ask students to reflect on the lesson and write down what they’ve learned. Then, ask them to consider how they would apply this concept or skill in a practical setting.
3. Use quizzes
Give a short quiz at the end of class to check for comprehension.
4. Ask students to summarize
Have students summarize or paraphrase important concepts and lessons. This can be done orally, visually, or otherwise.
5. Hand signals
Hand signals can be used to rate or indicate students’ understanding of content. Students can show anywhere from five fingers to signal maximum understanding to one finger to signal minimal understanding. This strategy requires engagement by all students and allows the teacher to check for understanding within a large group.
6. Response cards
Index cards, signs, whiteboards, magnetic boards, or other items are simultaneously held up by all students in class to indicate their response to a question or problem presented by the teacher. Using response devices, the teacher can easily note the responses of individual students while teaching the whole group.
7. Four corners
A quick and easy snapshot of student understanding, Four Corners provides an opportunity for student movement while permitting the teacher to monitor and assess understanding.
The teacher poses a question or makes a statement. Students then move to the appropriate corner of the classroom to indicate their response to the prompt. For example, the corner choices might include “I strongly agree,” “I strongly disagree,” “I agree somewhat,” and “I’m not sure.”
Students take a few minutes to think about the question or prompt. Next, they pair with a designated partner to compare thoughts before sharing with the whole class.
9. Choral reading
Students mark text to identify a particular concept and chime in, reading the marked text aloud in unison with the teacher. This strategy helps students develop fluency; differentiate between the reading of statements and questions; and practice phrasing, pacing, and reading dialogue.
10. One question quiz
Ask a single focused question with a specific goal that can be answered within a minute or two. You can quickly scan the written responses to assess student understanding.
11. Socratic seminar
Students ask questions of one another about an essential question, topic, or selected text. The questions initiate a conversation that continues with a series of responses and additional questions. Students learn to formulate questions that address issues to facilitate their own discussion and arrive at a new understanding.
Students consider what they have learned by responding to the following prompt at the end of the lesson: 3) things they learned from your lesson; 2) things they want to know more about; and 1) questions they have. The prompt stimulates student reflection on the lesson and helps to process the learning.
13. Ticket out the door
Students write in response to a specific prompt for a short period of time. Teachers collect their responses as a “ticket out the door” to check for students’ understanding of a concept taught. This exercise quickly generates multiple ideas that could be turned into longer pieces of writing at a later time.
14. Journal reflections
Students write their reflections on a lesson, such as what they learned, what caused them difficulty, strategies they found helpful, or other lesson-related topics. Students can reflect on and process lessons. By reading student work–especially —types of learning journals that help students think–teachers can identify class and individual misconceptions and successes. (See also
15. Formative pencil–paper assessment
Students respond individually to short, pencil–paper formative assessments of skills and knowledge taught in the lesson. Teachers may elect to have students self-correct. The teacher collects assessment results to monitor individual student progress and to inform future instruction.
Both student and teacher can quickly assess whether the student acquired the intended knowledge and skills. This is a formative assessment, so a grade is not the intended purpose.
16. Misconception check
Present students with common or predictable misconceptions about a concept you’re covering. Ask them whether they agree or disagree and to explain why.
17. Analogy prompt
Teaching with analogies can be powerful. Periodically, present students with an analogy prompt: “the concept being covered is like ____ because ____.”
18. Practice frequency
Check for understanding at least three times a lesson, minimum.
19. Use variety
Teachers should use enough different individual and whole group techniques to check understanding that they accurately know what all students know. More than likely, this means during a single class the same technique should not be repeated.
20. Make it useful
The true test is whether or not you can adjust your course or continue as planned based on the information received in each check. Do you need to stop and start over? Pull a few students aside for three minutes to re-teach? Or move on?
21. Peer instruction
Perhaps the most accurate way to check for understanding is to have one student try to teach another student what she’s learned. If she can do that successfully, it’s clear she understood your lesson.
22. “Separate what you do and don’t understand”
Whether making a t-chart, drawing a concept map, or using some other means, have the students not simply list what they think they know, but what they don’t know as well. This won’t be as simple as it sounds–we’re usually not aware of what we don’t know.
They’ll also often know more or less than they can identify themselves, which makes this strategy a bit crude. But that’s okay–the goal isn’t for them to be precise and complete in their self-evaluation the goal is for you to gain insight as to what they do and don’t know.
And seeing what they can even begin to articulate on their own is an excellent starting point here.