I get a lot of questions about the practical details of running pre-assessments and setting up multiple groups in a classroom. I brainstormed a big ol’ list of tips I learned from my own experiments and those of my colleagues:
- If you give a pre-assessment, and a student passes it, you must (must must must) honor the pre-assessment. They’re done with that unit, chapter, lesson, etc. No homework, quizzes, tests on the material. This is, like, the point of giving the pre-assessment.
- 100% is not a reasonable expectation. Students should be able to miss one or two. 85% or 90% is reasonable.
- If, while grading, you realize that a student had just a small misunderstanding that kept them from passing, I’d let them pass and then give them a quick micro-lesson on their mistake. The more students passing the better.
- Let your students know about the pre-assessment a day or two early. Then they can study. More students passing is better.
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Use What You’ve Got
- As much as possible, use pre-built assessments from your curriculum.
- But avoid multiple choice tests as pre-assessments. You don’t want students guessing their way past a pre-assessment. They must earn it.
- If you don’t have an open-ended test, just cover up the “multiple choices” with a post-it and photocopy. Voila! Instant open-ended version!
- If your pre-built assessments are too long, then pick the hardest questions and just use those. If students can nail the hardest questions, then it’s reasonable to assume they know the easy ones too.
Keep It Quick
- Grading is fast since you don’t have to go through most tests all the way. As soon as someone misses two or so, you can move on.
- Grading is fast since not everyone will even take the test. Only those who want to should take the pre-assessment.
- If a student realizes the test is way too hard, they can just give it back. No sense in finishing it.
- Pre-assessment grades don’t go in the gradebook and don’t go home to parents unless they’re passing. Then count them as an A, a 4, or whatever your highest grade is.
- Want to save class time? Offer the pre-assessment at recess or lunch.
Set Up Routines
- If students pass the pre-assessment, they should know where to do their alternate work, when it’s due, what to do if they have questions, and their parents should also know what’s up.
- Here are some relevant documents that might help with this.
- Check in at least once every day to see how the alternate work is going. This means you’re switching back and forth between groups. It’s work, but it’s worth it.
Of course, you still need to determine what the passers will be doing, but that’s a topic for many other posts on the site.
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