Do your students meet your test announcements with an audible groan?
You probably want to be more creative, but there’s just so much content you have to explore with your students and so little time. It may seem impossible to break away from those boring but efficient paper-and-pencil tests. But what if I told you that creativity and efficient, effective assessment are not mutually exclusive?
There are many creative and exciting ways to assess student learning and measure applied proficiency beyond the traditional paper-and-pencil tests.
Take some of these great ideas for a spin in your classroom sometime soon.
Creative Checks for Understanding
Teachers don’t have enough time in a class period to have multiple one-on-one conversations with every student, every day, so checking in efficiently requires a little creativity.
- Show Your Cards: In this video, students use colored cards — red, yellow, and green — throughout a lesson to communicate understanding. If you’re looking for an end-of-lesson assessment, check out a similar strategy in The Stoplight Method.
- Word Sort: In this video, Loredana Wicketts asks students to determine the big idea of the lesson by categorizing words, discovering themes, and accessing prior knowledge. Students repeat the activity at the conclusion of the lesson to check their progress.
- Make it Click: If you’re looking to add a bit of technology to your toolbox, clickers are an excellent tool for teachers to collect valuable formative data about an entire class at the same time.
- Text It: Student smartphones can be a powerful tool in the classroom. In this video, Sarah Brown Wessling asks students to text formative data to Poll Everywhere, allowing her to collect instant feedback. If a poll doesn’t keep your students engaged, make it a game with Kahoot!
- Journal It: Ask students to journal about the five most interesting ideas they discover during a lesson. Next, they can identify five facts or details that resonate with them about each idea and explain why. In My Thinking Logs, students use journals as a place to explain their mathematical thinking. And journals aren’t just for literacy. Watch how students use journals in math and to support learning in science.
- Tweet it Out: Watch how Tch Laureate Maria Perry uses Twitter-style exit slips to quickly assess learning at the end of a lesson. For older students, you might choose a hashtag for your class and ask students to tweet a live response to make this activity even more authentic.
Learn Out Loud
Sometimes the best way for students to show what they know is through writing about it or discussing it in a fun and engaging way. Go beyond informational essays and reports and have them try commentaries, which can be a great exercise for media knowledge and creativity — not to mention deeper learning — in writing, as well as oral and video production skills.
Commentaries require students to form a position or opinion grounded in research, and one that targets an authentic audience. You might also encourage your students to include some form of vetted data and to anticipate counterarguments, as they may get some push-back from readers or listeners who disagree with or doubt their experiences or points of view. As the teacher, if you identify the criteria in advance, the commentary is a powerful way to assess the depth of students' understanding, their capacity to make connections, and how well they can form a case and narrative that resonates with their audience.
- Radio Show: Students can create a radio program that’s set in the same time as the book they’re reading or the time period they're studying in social studies class.
- Podcasting: Tools like Garageband, Audacity, Anchor, DjPod, Podbean, Podomatic, SoundCloud, or Audioboom make it easy. Students can speak as the expert on a topic with a podcast.
- Newscast: Students can form teams to create a news program about their unit of study.
- Documentary: Students can recreate an important historical event.
- Top Ten Lists: Students can write out their ten most important takeaways from a lesson or a class discussion. Encourage them to create lists that are humorous and fun, modeling their work after a satirical late night talk show segment.
Make it a Performance
When students demonstrate understanding through performance, they're able to apply their knowledge in a new and creative context.
- Talk Show Panel: In this video, students write and perform a Greek mythology talk show. Alternatively, you can assign students a position about a topic (whether they agree or disagree). They must internalize the position and then discuss it in a panel, debate-style.
- Dramatic Interpretation: In this video, students pair their new knowledge with their active imaginations to enact scenes from a book, or any concept for that matter. Imagination is key, but students must also demonstrate mastery.
- Portfolio Defense: Sometimes a performance activity is a little less performance and a little more presentation. Watch as one student defends her college success portfolio. Students can defend their learning at every step of the process, so there's no need to reserve a great strategy like this for a milestone assessment. And if you're worried about how to accurately assess proficiency with alternative assessments, we've got you covered!
A Work of Art as a Culminating Activity
When students create art for display, they’re doing authentic work, making it public, and communicating what they’ve learned. Check out this middle school that’s been transformed into a living museum.
- Museum Exhibit: Students can each create a museum “artifact” and set them up in the classroom as a museum where they’ll explain and answer questions from visitors. In this video, students had an opportunity to present and share their art at the Getty Museum!
- Living Wax Museum: Learn how Ryan Devlin’s students research an influential person and deliver a monologue based on that research.
- Graphic Organizers: Graphic organizers are creative ways of organizing thoughts and concepts connected to learning, and can take a number of different forms. Sarah Brown Wessling uses a life-size graphic organizer to help students understand and synthesize new information.
- Comic Books: Comics offer many teaching opportunities for educators who want to take advantage of their broad appeal and themes. You can either use comics as a teaching resource, or students can use tools like Storyboard That or Comic Life to illustrate a concept. Or, students can go old-school and simply draw freehand. If your students are into Bitmoji, you can follow the lead of Sylvia Duckworth and have students create comics with Bitmoji and Google Slides to communicate their learning. Sarah Brown Wessling uses comic book templates to help her students analyze the structure of informational, nonfiction texts.
What creative assessment strategies work best in your classroom? Which of these strategies will you try out? Let us know in the comments.
Lisa Hollenbach is Editorial Content Manager for Teaching Channel. She’s a former high school Social Studies teacher and Department Chair, an adjunct professor, working with pre-service social studies teachers and behavioral science students, and serves as a mentor for the Teacher Leadership program at Mt. Holyoke College. Lisa is passionate about storytelling, teacher voice and leadership, collaboration, innovative instruction, social learning, and redefining professional development. Lisa is a member of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Teacher Advisory Council, several ECET2 Steering Committees, and is a Co-Founder, Director, and Writing Coach for the National Blogging Collaborative, a non-profit organization that cultivates and supports the capacity of all educators to use their unique voice to elevate the craft of teaching and learning. Lisa leads the Collaborative in engagement and social media storytelling. Connect with Lisa on Teaching Channel, on her blog, or on Twitter: @lisa_hollenbach.