Effective assessment tools for busy elementary teachers

Imagine the following situation: You finally get a chance to sit down at the end of a long day and you are ready to put the classroom behind you. But wait - what’s that on your desk? It’s a stack of assignments ready to be graded that are blocking you from leaving.

Sound familiar? 

You got into teaching to help foster a life-long love of learning in students…not to be drowned in paperwork. But the paperwork and the assessments are important steps in helping your students learn and you teach more effectively. 

Everyday in an elementary school classroom is a balancing act and finding time to fit everything in can be a challenge. That’s why in this blog post we’ve compiled a few time-saving assessment tools for busy teachers. But before that let’s talk about just why student assessments are so important and the types of assessments around today.

The Importance of assessment in K-5 education

Why student assessments are important

Assessment allows you to track student progress, identify strengths and weaknesses, provide valuable feedback, and evaluate the effectiveness of your teaching. Without assessments it's difficult to see if students are grasping the concepts and making progress toward desired learning outcomes.

Assessments benefit both teachers and students

Grading assignments can feel like busywork at times but in actuality it's a very valuable part of the teaching process. Assessments give you data on student performance which can be used to adjust your teaching approach to an individual student or entire class. This data also helps facilitate conversation with parents to bring them in on their child’s achievements or challenges. Data helps take the guesswork out of learning and provides measurable results for everyone involved.

While students may groan when thinking about tests, quizzes, or homework, assessments are beneficial to them as well. These benefits include encouraging students to reflect on their progress and take ownership of their learning. Assessments also help facilitate differentiated instruction which can help students by letting teachers provide targeted support based on individual student needs.

Challenges that busy teachers face when assessing student learning

So assessments are great for everyone from students to teachers to administrators and parents. End of story right? Well, not exactly. As an elementary teacher there are only so many hours you have with your class and you have a lot to cover. 

In addition to time constraints you have to design assessments, grade and provide feedback to students, and keep track of data to effectively use your assessments. At times this can feel like a job onto your normal job, especially for busy teachers. While there are clear benefits to teachers, there are also common challenges. Later in this post we’ll take a look at best practices to help overcome these.

3 Types of Student Assessment Tools

The three most common assessments are formative, summative, and diagnostic. Learn about the differences between these assessment types in the table below.

Type of assessment


When it’s used

Formative assessment

Assessments that are used to guide instruction and provide ongoing feedback.

Used during the learning process to monitor student progress and provide feedback.

Summative assessment

Assessments that are used to evaluate a student’s overall understanding.

Used at the end of a unit, course, or school year.

Diagnostic assessment

Assessments that are used to evaluate a student’s knowledge and understanding of a subject.

Used at the beginning of a unit or course.

Formative assessment tools

One way to use formative assessment tools in the classroom is to give out frequent, low-take assessments. These brief assessments can be quizzes, exit tickets, or journaling on a subject. By keeping these activities fun and the stakes low it can make your students feel more comfortable and more likely to take risks or make mistakes, which can help you understand how everyone is learning the material.

After giving these low-stake assessments it’s important to use the data you gather to help you make decisions on who needs additional support, what feedback to give, and when to give it.

Formative assessment tools include, but are not limited to:

  • Quizzes
  • Homework or classwork
  • Exit surveys

Summative assessment tools

Because summative assessments are used at the end of a unit it’s important to make sure your assessment aligns with what your learning objectives are. You can also consider adding in a review opportunity for students to not only help prepare them for the assessment but also to help you understand how well they have absorbed the material. Lastly, after the summative assessment, be sure to use the data to see if you need to recover any material that students struggled with or to change your teaching tactic for this unit next time you cover it.

Summative assessment tools include, but are not limited to:

  • Final examination or test
  • Chapter or unit tests
  • Group projects
  • Book reports

Diagnostic assessment tools

Compared to the other two assessment types, diagnostic assessments are really used to help you be more informed about your students instead of gauging student performance. It’s important to keep this in mind when using these assessments because they can help you personalize teaching through differentiated instruction and inform your curriculum design.

Diagnostic assessment tools include, but are not limited to:

  • Journals
  • Quizzes or tests
  • Performance tasks
  • Student surveys

Best Practices for using assessment tools to save time

Elementary School Students Playing Kodable Programming Code

All three types of assessments can be used to help you and your students, but there is only so much time in one day so here are a few tactical ways you can use assessment tools to save time.

  • Rubrics: Grading with a rubric allows you to easily and quickly determine right and wrong answers. This makes the grading process much more efficient and easier for you, even if it takes a little more upfront work. Consider using single-point rubrics to make it easy for students to understand what is expected of them.
  • Self-assessments: Depending on the activity or assessment type, allowing students to grade each other’s work can be a way to save yourself time. This usually requires a rubric for students to use and needs to be implemented carefully so as to avoid students harshly criticizing each other's work.
  • Digital assignments: Online quizzes or games where grading happens instantaneously is another great time saving assessment tool. This allows you to skip the grading and go straight to understanding student performance and learning. An example of this is Kodable’s programming game for kids which lets you see student progress to see who needs assistance with which levels. Our free educator plan lets you try out all Kodable has to offer to give you another time saving teaching and assessment tool. Digital assignment tools also often store everything you need online in one place, making it easier to reference going forward.
  • Exit tickets: Just like an exit survey, exit tickets are for when students respond to a prompt at the end of a class or period. These are meant to be short in nature for you to review quickly between periods to gauge student progress and understanding.

Choosing the right assessment tools for your classroom

At the end of the day the right assessment tool and strategy is one that works for you. There are several factors to consider when picking an assessment tool including your grade level, the purpose of the assessment, and the needs and abilities of your students. Additionally you have to consider if your assessment is going to be in person, or an online or virtual assessment. Depending on what type of flexibility you need from your assessment will help you decide which type and tools are right for your classroom and your desired learning objectives.


Student assessments are a powerful way for you to gauge student performance, identify areas for improvement, and better improve your teaching to match learning outcomes. But these assessments can take time to design, implement, grade, and review so you need to match your desired outcome with the right type of assessment to ensure you are spending your time wisely. Assessment tools like rubrics, self-assessments, digital assignments, and exit tickets are just a few examples of the ways you can save time in implementing assessments in your classroom.

Looking for more ways to save time and keep students engaged and learning? Kodable provides a great way for teachers to help students learn the basics of computer science in a fun and engaging way through interactive and self-paced games. Try our Kodable for free today!