Should I really be using pre-assessment with my students?
You might be thinking…
I haven’t taught this information yet, so why would I assess my students when they aren’t ready?
As a veteran teacher in the classroom, I have discovered many benefits of pre-assessments.
Pre-assessments are great for differentiation and monitoring student progress, but there are many more benefits to using this tool as well!
Keep reading to see how you can make the most of your pre-assessments!
Pre-assessment helps you determine your students’ prior knowledge and skills in order to create instructional groupings.
One concept might be difficult for some students, and then other concepts they might grasp right away.
That student that comes to your mind that usually needs extra support in class, might not need a small group reteach on EVERY skill. This is why pre-assessments are so valuable.
If a student already understands the concept, you can extend the lesson and make it more beneficial for them.
At the beginning of each new concept I’ll give my students a pre-assessment.
From there, I look at the data to make instructional groups.
I tend to make three different student learning pathways.
The students who had a lot of misunderstanding will be in my small group, and then I’ll pair up students in the other two groups based on their current knowledge of the skill.
The second group is for students who have a basic grasp of the skill.
I then extend the learning for the third group that already have a good understanding of the skill. These students will have extensions in their pathway so they don’t get bored.
I still monitor and meet with each group, but in using the data of the pre-assessment I’m able to make sure each individual student’s needs are met.
Monitoring Student Progress
Baselines are necessary in understanding student growth.
Have you ever gone into a parent teacher conference and the parent wants to know exactly how they can help at home with their child’s understanding of a subject?
I know this has been a question I get regularly, but I feel so much more confident with my answer now that I use pre-assessments.
I collect each student’s data by skill and am able to tell their parents exactly where they are excelling and which skills need further reinforcement.
Instead of just saying their child is struggling in “math”, the parents will have a specific skill in mind as they work with their student to improve their grade.
Introducing a New Lesson
Pre-assessments can introduce students to the material or concepts they’ll soon be expected to learn.
In giving a preassessment, students are previewing new material in a non-threatening way.
This isn’t used as a grade in the gradebook, but simply used to get an understanding of the students’ knowledge on the new concept.
It gives you information to guide their learning.
You’re sure to get a good understanding of what your students know without the stress of having it taken for a grade. I know my students are much more relaxed and eager to complete an assignment when there isn’t the pressure of a grade attached to it!
Focus and Anchors
Pre-assessments can help focus students on the major pillars of the content.
When students have these anchors, they’re able to better progress into new and deeper understandings.
We want our students to have the correct information when being introduced to a new concept.
For example, when I teach summarizing, my pre-assessment specifically addresses the fact that a summary is not a direct copy of the whole text. That is plagiarism. In knowing this, the students will write their summaries from the start with this in mind.
By starting off a new concept with a pre-assessment, student misconceptions can be identified and alleviated.
Instead of waiting until the unit or benchmark test to realize your students need additional support, you can intervene from the start.
The pre-assessment gives me insight to student misunderstandings, and it guides how I teach my introductory lesson.
This data also shows me who will need more of my support during the learning process and who will need more time practicing with me in a small group.
For example, I bet we can all think of that one skill that we teach every year that students struggle to master.
For my class, it has been forgetting to borrow in math. So now, I am intentional on building a question with borrowing in it to see which students who might struggle with this.
Instead of continuing to practice the incorrect way, these students will get additional small group intervention time to master this skill right from the start!
John Hattie defines self-efficacy as “The confidence or strength of belief that we have in ourselves that we can make our learning happen.”
Research has shown that self-efficacy has one of the highest influences on student achievement.
Pre-assessment can identify how students are feelings in relation to a topic so that a lack of confidence can be addressed.
If a student is having a lack of confidence about a topic, it’s probably because they don’t understand it YET.
Another benefit to the pre-assessment is asking students how they feel about this topic.
It is a safe place for them to be honest with themselves and with you as their teacher.
Confidence will build as the students understand and practice the new skill.
I make it a point to check in on the students who were more hesitant to learn something new.
I’ve noticed that with checkins, and having those hesitant students practice with me in small groups, that their confidence builds and it shows in their demeanor.
As you can see, pre-assessments are not only great for differentiation and monitoring student progress. Pre-assessments will help you focus on each student’s needs while building their confidence at the same time as it relates to new content.
Did you know our Math Kits include pre-assessment?
If you are interested in making pre-assessments a regular part of your instruction?
You might enjoy our math kits!
Each math kit starts with a pre-assessment, and from there, has small group materials, station work, independent practice, task cards, and even a summative assessment.
CLICK HERE TO TRY A FREE MATH KIT TODAY!
About the Author
Ashley has taught 4th grade English Language Arts for 13 years in Houston, Texas. She has a passion for incorporating technology into the ELA curriculum. Ashley strives to help every student find books that will challenge and interest them to grow in their love for reading. Follow along through her Twitter @Vara1Ashley.