We all need to use assessments in our classroom to determine how our students are doing with the content, but if you are like me, you get a little bored with the same old thing every time. I mean, just how many times can you do the ticket out the door? And if you are getting bored, you know your kiddos are, too! So, that’s why I thought I’d put together this collection of informal assessment ideas for you (and me)!
To be a bit creative, they are in alphabetical order. Some you may have heard of, while others may be new to you. I am claiming none of these ideas to be mine! These are all ideas I have collected and compiled for you. The overall goal is to build your toolkit and to help you come up with some new ideas the next time you need an informal assessment. At the end I have all these ideas in a PDF form for you to download and to reference later.
Informal Assessments: A to Z Ideas
So, let’s get started! For some of these, there are pictures to make it easier for you to see. For others, there is just a description.
A – Anticipatory Guides
Before the start of a unit, you would provide students with a few statements related to the unit. Students check if they agree with the statement or not. This helps you get an idea of their prior knowledge. Then, after you have taught the unit, you can go back and reassess to see if their thinking has changed any.
B – Bump in the Road
In this informal assessment, students write down something from the lesson that they found confusing or difficult. Then, the teacher can either collect the responses and review with the students, or students can form groups and have students share their “bumps in the road” to seek clarification.
C – The Crumpled Question Toss
I love this one, but I have always enjoyed a good snowball fight! Each student writes a question about something that was discussed during the unit. Then, students will crumple up their paper and GENTLY toss it – you know, not attack blast toss – to another student. Then, students will open the crumpled paper and answer the question. If desired, you can then re-crumple and toss it again. Have the next student who opens it add any additional information. You can continue one more time and have students add anything, make changes, or even present the class with a new question or answer.
C (Again) – Chain Link
In this activity, you would present the class with a question and have them write a response on a strip of paper. Then, students begin passing around a stapler and add their link to a chain that begins forming. At the end you can either review the entire chain’s answers with the class or after class is over. Just make sure you have the students’ names on each link.
D – Dry Erase Back-to-Back Boards
Have students pair up and both have mini-white boards. They will stand back-to-back. The teacher will ask a question while they both respond on their white boards. After a few minutes, the students both turn around and show their answers. Discussion then occurs.
E – Entrance/Exit Cards
Students write a response to a question posed by a teacher on either a sticky note or a slip of paper provided by the teacher. This can be provided when students enter the classroom, related to something prior to the learning, or after students have learned the content, it can be given to them on the way out. Some teachers have done both. This has been used as a method to help teachers assess whether they need to review or reteach.
F – Four Corners
In this assessment the teacher places terms, answers to questions, or concepts in each of the corners of the room. Then, students begin in a corner and discuss or complete work related the corner’s concepts and eventually move to the next corner until all four corners have been completed. An alternative is to place a multiple choice question on a doc cam and have students move to the labeled corner that they think is the answer. Watch for students who “follow the crowd.”
G – Graphic Organizers
I imagine you are thinking right now, “Come on, Tammy, all teachers know about graphic organizers! Were you just desperate for the letter ‘G?'” No. Well, I mean, I needed a ‘G’ to make this alphabet thing work, but I think there is some real value to graphic organizers, and I think there are waaaaaaaaaayyy more than just the overused ones. We all know about the Venn diagrams, the cause and effect charts, the KWL charts(have I mentioned I don’t like them?), and the T-charts, but there are others out there that are really great. Like this one:
What I’m saying is, don’t be afraid to swim upstream and find something better!
H – Human Graphs
Creating a human graph in your classroom is definitely engaging with your students, and it’s not just for math. It’s a great way to assess your students’ understanding. Ask your students a question such as, “Which animal do you think is most likely endangered?” and place labels on the ground. Then, students will form lines behind the labels. They don’t necessarily need to lay down. An alternative to the human graph is using sticky notes…because we are teachers, and we use them for everything…and kids LOVE them.
I – Idea Spinner
In this informal assessment, the teacher creates a spinner with about five quadrants that are labeled like the picture below. After a lesson the teacher spins the spinner and asks students a question based on the location of where the spinner landed. Another idea is to have students partner up and have them ask their partners a question based on where it landed and then discuss!
J – Journal Entries
I think we have all done this a time or two in our classrooms, but its value cannot be underestimated. Anytime you can get your students to reflect, you are definitely creating learning. Journaling can be done in nearly all subjects and encourages exploration of ideas.
K – Key Concepts
For reviewing a topic, have students try out this methodology. Have them explain a key concept by giving the definition (in their own words), drawing a picture, giving an example, and explaining the big idea that goes along with the key concept. It’s close to the Frayer Model, if you are familiar with it.
L – Letter
I would have my students write a letter to their mom or dad, but not as an assessment. It was often as an early finisher activity. However, it does make a perfect assessment for you. Have students express what they have learned in a short letter. An alternative is to explain using kid-friendly terms to a first grader what they learned.
M – Most Valuable Point
Ticket out the door informal assessments are not bad. It’s just sometimes they can get boring if you are always doing them. That’s why it’s nice when there is something different – when you can mix it up a little. In this alternative, Most Valuable Point, students list three new ideas they have learned, two connections they have made, one question they have, and a one-sentence summary related to the lesson they have learned. Since MVP is also a basketball term, why not create a cute little basketball slip, right?
N – Note Taking Experts
Have students take notes throughout the lesson. Then, at the end have them pair up and switch notes. They will then look at their partner’s notes and add important notations, such as underlining, pictures, and other key words to help their partner become an expert at the material.
O – Onion Circle
Have students form two circles – inside and outside circles facing one another. Students should line up and face one another as partners. They will then quiz each other using questions they have created themselves ahead of time. Then, after a designated amount of time, have one of the circles (outside, for example) move to create a new pair and repeat the action.
On a Roll
Provide pairs or groups with a die and have them roll it. On the doc cam, provide them with a table that has a question that corresponds to the number rolled. For instance, if students rolled a 1, then they have to explain what a sedimentary rock is.
P – P-M-Is
These letters stand for Plus/Positives about the topic, Minuses/Negatives about the topic, Intriguing/interesting things about the topic, and Suggestions for further study on the topic. These could all be used as a ticket out the door activity.
Q – Quick Write/Quick Draw
In this activity students quickly write everything that comes to their head related to the concepts on one side and then draw on the other side. This example can be found in the book 25 Quick Formative Assessments for a Differentiated Classroom.
R – Rock, Paper, Scissors
In this activity the teacher asks a question and then students discuss it with a group or a partner. After a few minutes, the teacher will call, “Rock, Paper, Scissors.” The winner stands, and the teacher then chooses a few winners to answer the questions.
S – Synetics (Forced Analogies)
I have talked about synetics before, except I called them forced analogies. I wrote an entire post expressing my love for these critical thinking activities. They can also be used for assessment because they can help you discover what your students know.
T- Tear & Share
In this activity you have a group of four in a team. Assign each student in the team a number, 1-4. The teacher provides students with a four square sheet with four questions on it. All four students respond to the questions on their sheet. After a few minutes, each student tears their sheet into the four pieces (so each question is now its own mini-sheet). One student collects all the ones, another collects all the twos, and so on. Then, with their stack of responses, each student reads the responses, looks for a common theme, and prepares a summary. Then, students provide an oral summary to the class.
Another fun but challenging activity that could be used as a ticket out the door is to have students summarize what they learned “Twitter-style,” meaning using no more than 140 characters. There are many variations to this, such as the 20-word summary, and so on. This helps students learn that they have to get right down to the most important information.
U – Use Signaling
I imagine every teacher uses these to some degree in their classroom. “Give me a thumbs up if you totally understand and are ready to move on.” I frequently used the thumbs up, thumbs down activity, but again, it’s still nice to have some new ideas. I have also used the windshield signals, where students place their right arm on top of their left and move it up creating angles to indicate if things are clear to them. Below are a few more ideas.
V – Venn Diagram
Alright, so technically this falls under the letter “G” with graphic organizers. I struggled a bit coming up with a “V.” I suppose I could have said “Video.” Have students create a video. Either way, the Venn diagram is a higher-order thinking skill by comparing and contrasting – especially if it’s a triple Venn!
W – Whiteboard Relays
I’m a huge fan of relays – yes, even in the classroom. They just have to be monitored and done carefully. The students love them. While there are many variations to the Whiteboard Relays (I’ll save that for another post!), in this one students run to the board together and create symbols or words to represent their topic. At the end each group presents.
X – X Marks the Spot
Provide students with checklists or other sheets to help students track their progress. They can mark them off with an X (see what I did there?) as they go. You can assess their independence along with how they are meeting their goals.
Y – Yes/No Cards
Provide students with an index card and have them label one side “Yes” and the other side “No.” When you ask a review question, students show you the side to answer it. Again, there are many variations to these type of response cards.
Z – Zap Game
The Zap game is similar to the game Password. On the doc cam, place a vocabulary word. Have teams divided, some looking at the screen, some not. One student gives clues while the other guesses. As soon as someone gets the word, the team raises their hands. The other team will quietly say, “Zap.”
That is it! I hope that there is something here that you can enjoy and use! As promised, I have all of this in a PDF format for you to download.
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Happy (informally) assessing!