Do you cringe at the word “assessment?” Parents and teachers alike are often discouraged by the thought of “assessing” their children, probably because standardized tests have given assessments a bad name. Yet testing remains an integral part of a teacher’s job, and they’re important for us parents, too.
The reality is that teaching isn’t successful unless there’s learning. Assessment is a necessary part of the process. If we don’t assess, we don’t know if the “teaching” did anything for the learners. Did they listen? Did they learn something? Can they do anything with what they learned?
Good assessment is frequent. Assessments are designed to provide a snapshot of a child’s understanding in a given moment, so if we can get more snapshots, we have a more complete picture of their knowledge. As parents, we can assess our children’s learning throughout the year. Whether during informal activities in the summer or projects throughout the year, here are five simple ways to assess your learner so you can identify gaps in their knowledge and learn which ones to address.
- Draw It – Foster the creative spirit in your child by having them draw as a way to show what they know. In this quick assessment, have them draw what they understand, and also what is confusing, about a specific topic. For a small variation, present an image and have them add to it by drawing and labeling.
- Explain What Matters – Can your learner understand the “bigger picture”? Have them explain the most important part about a given topic in two or fewer sentences. To get them started, provide sentence supports, such as “The most important part about _____ is ______.” This allows your child to write down their thoughts in complete sentences before sharing out loud.
- 3-2-1 – The number system in this assessment provides a structured task. Your learner will record 3 things they learned, 2 things they want to know more about, and 1 question they have. They can use words or drawings to demonstrate their understanding. Use this 3-2-1 Assessment worksheet to get your child to reflect on their learning and what questions they still have.
- Hand Signals – The beauty of an assessment like this is that it’s quick, easy, and free. There are several variations to this check-in, and you can put your own spin on them based on your personality and that of your child.
- Thumbs up or thumbs down: This is simple for yes and no questions, as well as for determining if your learner is ready to move on to another step.
- Five Finger Rating Scale: Use 1 finger to show minimum understanding and 5 fingers to show maximum understanding. This is a great activity to use for assessing how comfortable your child is about vocabulary, too.
- Heads and Noses: Have your child put their finger on their head if they agree or their nose if they disagree.
After demonstrating hand signals, ask your child to elaborate on their hand signal.
- Roll the Dice – All you need for this assessment is some dice and some sentence starters. Have your child roll the dice and then respond to a prompt based on the number rolled. If you have more than one learner with you, they can discuss in a group while you observe. If you’re in a one-on-one environment, engage in a discussion with your child and have them roll the dice more than once. Prompts can vary based on subject, topic, and age, but they could include:
- I want to remember…
- Something I learned today…
- One word to sum up what I learned is…
- This reminds me of…
- I’m still confused about…
- An “aha” moment that I had today was…
Frequent assessment gives us a more solid foundation as we figure out what to do next. Assessments don’t need to be time consuming and complicated, and they don’t need to be scary, either. Quick and easy check-ins with your child give you valuable information about their learning, letting you know how to help them be their best.
By Caitlin Hardeman, former third through sixth grade teacher specializing in English Language Arts.