Ensuring Success: Daily Short-Cycle Assessments
Too often, as teachers, we become frustrated at having spent weeks of study only
to give an exam and find that many of the students have not learned the material,
strategy, or information. We consider the amount of teaching time that we have "wasted."
The real concern, however, is the amount of student learning time that has been
wasted. We are well aware that the number of standards to be met in any content
area does not exactly match a nine-month school-year time frame. It is more important
than ever that we know where each of our students is in the process of understanding
new concepts on a daily basis. Formative short-cycle assessments are imperative
to the learning process.
Are students aware of the daily learning goal?
In our classrooms, we make a daily habit of writing the target objective on the
board so that students are aware of where we are headed with the lesson. Using one
of the state language arts grade-level indicators as the daily target goal enables
us to also introduce some of the language of the indicators, as well as the assessments,
to our students. In their Daily Learning Logs, students copy the daily target objective
prior to taking notes or completing short classroom activities, which also get recorded
on that date in the learning log.
"I think that writing down the daily objective is helpful
because it helps me to try to use the concepts or skills throughout the class. It
also helps me understand how the activity or assignment we are working on relates
to the assessment." [a student in grade 7]
Daily Learning Logs. Students use a composition book divided into three sections.
Section I contains any literary terms that we cover. Section II contains a daily
dated entry consisting of the target goal, notes and information, and some daily
class activities. Section III provides students with a place to document the title,
author, and parent signature for each independent reading book that they complete.
"When I walk out of class everyday, I can feel confident that
I am learning. When I get my report card at the end of the grading period is not
when I find out that I am learning. My learning is all around me. I look on the
board and see our objective. I review my composition learning log to see what I
should know how to do. I clearly know what I am learning, and it gives me confidence."
[a student in grade 7]
"I Can" Statements. Students receive a list of standards to be
learned for any given unit of study. Grade-level indicators are written in "I
can" statement format (i.e., "I can explain how interactions of specific
characters impact the plot of the story"). Because the language arts standards
are strategy-based, the list of "I can" statements serves as an agenda
for the unit and provides parents with the types of strategies that will be assessed
at the end of the unit.
Do students understand the connection between the class activities and assignments
and the learning goal?
In connection to measuring students' understanding of expectations, we have become
more explicit in our explanations of how activities and assignments fit into our
curriculum. We often introduce assignments by explaining to students what the activity
should help them develop. As an example, when we assign a vocabulary list for which
students are to determine meaning from context, we explain to students that the
important skill to develop is the ability to determine the meaning of a word by
the way in which it is used. After students develop their own meaning of the word
from the way it is used, they must work collaboratively in small groups to come
to a consensus about its meaning. It is essential during this discussion that students
be guided to talk about the process they used in coming to a group decision.
When students leave the room, how do we know which ones "got it"?
In order to meet the needs of all students through differentiated instruction, teachers
must implement, on a daily basis, ways to find out where each student is in his
or her understanding of the strategy or concept. Exit slips and checklists are both
helpful in determining this.
Exit Slips. Exit slips or note cards are a quick way to check on student
understanding of the strategy learned that day. The exit slip strategy works this
way: As students are about to leave the class (5-7 minutes remaining), we ask them
a question (put on the board) that deals with the most important idea of the day.
They write their answer on note cards (3 x 5) and hand them to us as they exit the
room. Quickly we sort them into three piles (Gets it, Kind of gets it, Doesn't get
it). Anyone who falls into the Doesn't-get-it category receives intervention, usually
at the beginning of class the next day. If students repeatedly fall into this category,
they must come in early for help; or sometimes they are pulled from study hall and
placed into general support where they have the opportunity to work one-on-one with
a classroom teacher. Students can also use a space in the learning logs to jot down
a quick response to or reflection on the daily lesson. The key here is to keep the
assessment short, concise, and easy to manage.
Checklists. Checklists that follow a given assignment and encourage reflection
are helpful in getting students to recognize what they can do to improve their learning.
We type up checklists that ask the students to evaluate their writing process strategies.
The students receive their checklists when their essays are passed back, prior to
receiving their rubrics that contain their grades. Statements like "I knew
I needed five paragraphs" or "I knew this was a letter so I needed a salutation"
are types of checklist items we include. The students fill their checklists out.
Then they have a conference with the teacher. Next they reread their essay and grade
themselves based on the previous activities. After they receive their rubric with
their grade, they compare their grade to what they anticipated they would receive
based on the checklist and conference. This helps them be aware of what they need
to include in each essay and helps them understand why they received the grade they
did. In essence, this type of formative assessment forces students to think about
the work they have done and to identify what they can do in the future to ensure
A brief summary
Short-cycle assessments―daily knowledge of student understanding―are essential to
the learning process of all students. Gone is the day of neatly prepared units of
study and lessons that can be pulled from the drawer and used over and over again.
Gone is the day of asking students questions about the minute details of a novel.
Strategy-based standards have nudged (or shoved) us into truly educating kids for
the future by making sure that they can apply the knowledge to other situations,
activities, or texts.
Return to top