The past year has brought a whole new style of teaching to the classroom- hello remote learning and virtual assessments for elementary students! Raise your hand if at some point during this school year you have thought to yourself... are my student even learning anything? How can I tell?
You're not alone. We know it can be tricky to measure student progress this year, especially if your school is doing a hybrid or fully-virtual teaching model. To make it easier, we've compiled a list of Dos and Don'ts for assessing learning in elementary grades. These tips will come in handy for both virtual or face-to-face learning.
Ready to find the solution to your assessment worries? Here's a spoiler: more projects, less tests!
Don’t Force Traditional Assessments
One size does not fit all. This has always been true in the field of education, but is extra noticeable during the time of Covid-19 and virtual learning. Now more than ever, we see how tech availability, internet access, and home life impacts our students’ ability to learn.
Traditional tests and quizzes that may have helped us gauge student learning in the past, but that does not mean those tools will be accurate or helpful today. How can we expect a single test to show which students are succeeding, when other students may not all have equal access to resources and supports? Answer: we can't.
If you still feel like tests and quizzes are helpful for you, then keep doing what you’re doing! If they're not working, it is also ok to say goodbye to traditional assessments this year and focus on your students’ personal growth and resilience. There are a lot of alternative assessment options available, so don't give up if you see that tests aren't working.
Do Use Formative Virtual Assessments
There’s nothing worse than presenting a big unit assessment, only to get the results back and realize none of your students grasped the core concepts. Formative assessments are procedures that you can put right into the learning experience. This allow you to monitor student progress as learning is happening so you can fill in knowledge gaps.
These quick Check-for-Understandings, or CFUs, help you identify where one or multiple students might be struggling and give students direct feedback on where they can improve.
The formative assessment ideas listed below are reliable favorites for a reason! Instead of attempting to invent a brand new way to measure virtual learning, try modifying familiar practices to fit your virtual needs first. Here are some ideas:
- Face-to-face- Not all students feel comfortable speaking up when they need more help. Writing journal entries provides a safe place to process and reflect. You may find students are more likely to share where they feel lost.
- Virtual- Try creating a digital journal with Google Slides. Personal reflection exercises are easy to continue online. We love Google Slides, where each slide page can represent a day or week. Invite student to add images as well as written reflections to further personalize their journal.
- Face-to-face- Thumbs-Up. Have students share feedback by prompting them with, "Thumbs-Up if you're at 100%, Thumbs-to-the-Side if you sort of get it, Thumbs-Down if you're not there yet".
- Face-to-face- Number Scale. Maybe you want something a little more detailed, try using numbers! "Show me on a scale of 1-5 fingers where you're at - 5 means I could teach this tomorrow, 1 means I'm totally lost".
- Virtual- Black Out. Visual temperature checks like "Thumbs-Up" will still work over Zoom. However, it can be hard to see all the elementary-sized hands and fingers! With Black Out, students use their thumb to completely cover their webcam to answer the question- much easier for teacher eyes to see quickly!
- Face-to-face- This popular assessment strategy asks students to answer a series of prompts or open-ended questions at the end of class, so you can get a wider view into children's thinking and plan for next class.
- Virtual- Put together a quick Google Form or use Google Classroom's question feature to ask a check-in question at the start of the class and again at the end. Using digital tools like this is a plus for teachers who want to be able to easily compare how students' responses change over time.
Do Be Open to Trying Something New with Virtual Assessments
Surveys are helpful, but they can also get repetitive for your young learners. If you notice that your assessment tools aren’t engaging anymore, try something new! The ultimate goal is to get students excited for assessments. Here's how to do it:
- Games. Add a spark to multiple-choice assessments with game programs like Kahoot or BrainPOP.
- Projects. Creativity and problem solving are important 21st century skills that can't easily be measured with a quiz. Try using projects, like Design a Kodable Fuzz, to see how students apply their newfound knowledge in creative ways.
- Art Exercises. While some students might thrive with written assessments, others might need a more visual outlet. Similar to projects, art activities like Design Your Hero or Create a Comic Strip, encourage personal expression.
Don’t Go Overboard with Virtual Assessments for Elementary Students
Many people are experiencing burnout as a result of the pandemic - that includes students and teachers. Give your students (and yourself!) a break, and stick to 2 or 3 tools for virtual assessments for elementary students. Pick your favorites, and be sure to clearly define the goal and purpose of each different one.
If you're on the hunt for an all-in-one assessment tool, we recommend Showbie. Showbie believes that students learn best when feedback is both unique and personal. They offer some awesome tools for giving feedback, like the ability to add voice memos to student submissions so young students can hear your responses rather than just read them.
Do Modify Your Plans Based On Assessment Results
Responsive educators will adjust what they're teaching based on what they’re seeing from their students. This means that you should look for virtual assessments for elementary students that not only show summative reports at the end of a unit, but also track in-progress learning. This way, you'll easily see the students that need extra support or when you might need to do a class-wide review.
Here at Kodable, we strongly value formative assessment and recently amped up our progress-tracking features! Now you can see class achievements at a glance and track how students are progressing compared to the rest of the class.
Have you heard? Kodable is a fun coding game designed to teach children logical reasoning and creative problem solving skills. Sign up now to use it with your elementary class for free!
Don’t Forget About Non-Tech Options
“Virtual” doesn't automatically have to mean “digital”. It's tempting to stick to the computer screen where we have the most control, but a lot of great alternative assessment strategies are not tech-dependent. Try these:
- Unplugged Projects. Tactile-based projects are a great way to break away from the screens and assess creative problem solving skills of young children. If you're not sure where to start with unplugged activities, our recent blog post has over 15 unplugged STEM projects to choose from.
- Worksheets. Pencils and paper are not just things of the past! Worksheets and handouts can help you gauge progress and fine motor skills while being screen-free.
- Conferencing. Oh, the power of a one-on-one conversation! You can learn so much about how a student is doing by simply speaking with them and asking direct questions about their work. Conferencing can be time-consuming, but the personal connection and deep understanding gained is unmatched.
Do Practice What You Preach
We are asking a lot of our students in this moment. We want them to reflect on their progress, ask for help, and be open to feedback. Let's make sure we meet them with the same openness. Virtual assessments for elementary, like exit tickets and journal prompts are easy to complete yourself! Don't forget, you are making a lot of progress this year too and it's important to acknowledge that. We're proud of you!
Still feel like you need more information on assessments? Check out our guide on assessment tools for elementary teachers.