Looking back at your elementary, middle, and high school years – what was your very favorite test? I’ve asked many educators that question over the years, and usually I get that tell-tale cricket-chirping silence.
Sometimes an educator will look at me as if I have two heads, and asked, “What do you mean, ‘favorite?’ You mean a test I enjoyed?” Usually, if I get an answer at all, it is some variation of “I once got an ‘A’ on test I was sure I failed or that I studied really hard for.”
Unfortunately, traditional tests don’t inspire further learning. They don’t reinforce knowledge (unless one counts cramming information that will be forgotten in a week or two as “reinforcing”). And they don’t accurately reflect a full understanding of the content or an expertise of skills that were taught.
So, what is a better alternative? Authentic and creative assessments are perfect, and here’s why.
A well-thought-out assessment:
- Provides a comprehensive view of students' understanding
- Gives students and opportunity to exercise critical thinking skills
- Reinforces or furthers knowledge
- Allows a range of intelligences to be expressed
- Helps students create meaningful connections
Thinking creatively, you can adapt these ideas to fit any curriculum or subject. As you look through them, keep in mind (especially you STEM teachers!) that non-animated objects can be anthropomorphized to great and clever effect in some of these examples:
Here are 10 quick assessment ideas to use or inspire you.
Students create a newscast around events. I even have them come up with a sports and weather report from that time or that match the event. History seems like the most obvious place to use this assessment because student can create a whole newscast around events. But in literature it works as well with events that happen, such as the ones my students created after reading Frankenstein. It could also revolve around new scientific or technological discovery. Flipgrid is a great tool for a project like this.
2. Talk Show
Whether the “guests” of this talk show are historical or literary figures, elements of the periodic table, positive and negative integers, or anything else in your curriculum, a talk show is a great way to check for understanding. Students can write the whole thing and perform it, or you can be the host and call up guests to “interview”.
3. Mix Tape
What songs would make a great soundtrack for a historical event or novel you are teaching? What would be a great mix tape for Newton’s Laws of Physics or the process of photosynthesis? Have students compile a Spotify list. I’ve had students compile liner notes (for those of you who are old enough to remember those!) to explain their choices.
Resource: Spotify playlist template
What would a character from a book, historical figure or even an “ordinary” person experiencing an important event or era curate in their scrapbook? As students go through the scientific method in an experiment they can create a scrapbook of the process. The scrapbooks can be tangible or digital using tools like Padlet, Thinglink, Wakelet or Google Slides.
Resource: Scrapbook template from Slides Mania #26 in this post
5. Social Media Fakes
What would a character or historical person Tweet? What would Galileo’s, Elizabeth Bennet’s or Tita’s (from Like Water for Chocolate) Instagram look like? How would a dating app for chemical elements work and what would their profiles be? Social media is such a pervasive part of our and our students’ lives, it’s easy to create a fun, critical thinking assessment based on a social media app. Students can also create fake (or real if its permissible) Tik Tok videos about something they’ve learned.
For math, give a recipe and have students use multiplication/division to make a smaller or larger amount. Give their bake goods the taste test – did their math work? I created the Midsummer Night’s Dreamy Desert Challenge when I noticed that all of my students that year were into baking and cooking. They had to come up with a new dessert recipe that reflected the play, with a written description along with the recipe. They then baked them and presented them for the judges – two other teachers and one student. Science teachers can have students create fake “recipes” based on processes like photosynthesis.
7. Museum Tour
Using Thinglink, Wakelet or Padlet students can create a virtual museum on any topic, subject, person, era, or idea. They can also make a museum in the classroom where each student or group of students curate a specific part of the museum. Make sure to invite others to see and interact with the museums.
Resource: Museum tour template from Slides Mania #10 in this post
Have students summarize anything they’ve been learning in a song. They can change words to a song they already know or make up their own. I’ve had some great rap songs from students about novels we’ve read, including some from specific characters’ points of view. Do students understand the order of operations in math or all the accomplishments of the Aztecs? Have them create and sing a song about them. Songs are a great way to remember information, so make sure to have students perform them for others in the class to reinforce the learning as well as assess for it.
Have students create a multi-panel cartoon of anything that entails process or order of events. Or have them create a one panel cartoon that sums up something they have just learned. Instead of a “ticket to leave” they can create a “cartoon to leave”. If you teach ancient history, have students imagine what a political cartoon would have looked like from all the different cultures.
One key to success for any authentic or creative assessment is to think carefully about what your learning goals are and create an assessment that not only helps you know where your students are at, but also how you can help them. Along with your feedback, ask students to reflect on their own work, and the other students’.
Feeling daring? Ask your students to help you come up with the assessment and bring them into the process!
Do you have a favorite assessment to contribute or have you been inspired with a new idea? Please share on Twitter by tagging me @OverthrowingEducation along with the #Ditchbook hashtag.
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