Learning Resources, Reading & Literacy

5 Assessments That Will Rock Your Entire Homeschool Curriculum

When you hear the term assessment in the general public it is often associated with the term standardized, which over the years has become quite the dirty word.  No student wants to think of themselves as ‘standard’. No parents want their child judged solely on the results of a single morning’s exam.  And, no teacher wants their entire curriculum overrun by a single standardized script.   

The process of ‘assessment’ though does not and should not be one all-encompassing exam.  It definitely does not have to be a hefty source of anxiety for our students.  In fact, considering each individual is not standard, and not every student is the same type of learner, there should be the practice of a variety of assessments maintained throughout the year.  This will better track the learner’s personal progress from a variety of approaches.

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So, What are Assessments?

There are two major types of assessments, there are summative (i.e. a final or a midterm) and formative (on-going).  Summative exams most commonly are what first comes to mind when we consider assessment.  They are formal, obvious, and the results are generally easy to measure ‘right or wrong’ answer exam.  Standardized tests are used to provide the necessary statistical data to communicate the effectiveness of public school administration as well as the standards set by the district, state, and the federal government.  While the teacher created tests in the classroom provide a more direct tool to measure a student’s understanding because it can be based on the direct curriculum practiced in the classroom.

Formative Assessment is an ongoing log of progress kept as students actually practice the skills.  Although the results of these must be considered judgment based, they are perhaps the most vital tool in any classroom.  A failed summative assessment means a lack of mastery, but a failed formative assessment means more opportunity for the student to improve.  

Why & How Should I Use Them?

It is vital, for the sake of our students, that we are effective in instruction.  To do that we must be able to measure their understanding of the content we present in our lesson plans.  But their basic understanding is not the only thing we can measure.   With these assessments, other observations are:

  • Effective Learning Styles Per Student
  • Strengths and Weaknesses of Each Student
  • Student’s Abilities
  • Allows students an opportunity of personal reflection on progress
  • Necessary curriculum adjustments for future

It’s not enough to just simply collect assessments, an effective teacher must be flexible.  The results must be read for patterns of shortcomings, and measurements of the student’s abilities in order to adjust teaching methods to achieve mastery.

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What Assessments Should I Use?

There are so many different forms of assessment out there from self-evaluations, to sticker charts, and onto writing sample portfolios that I could not list them all in this article.  Keep in mind that there is no real right or wrong in choosing assessments style so long as they are consistent, measurable, and most importantly acted on.

Cloze Reading

In this assessment a brief passage is presented on a subject matter, leaving 25-50 blanks throughout at every nth word (5,7, or 10).  Be sure though to leave the first sentence without blanks so the student can gain footing of the purpose of the passage before diving in. 

Students must use their knowledge of sentence structure, understanding of a subject matter, and reading ability to fill in the blanks with the most appropriate terms possible.  If words that could communicate the same meaning are placed in the blank, like “The hours ticked by” as opposed to “the hours went by,” this would be considered correct.

What This Can Measure:

  • Reading Comprehension
  • Vocabulary Understanding
  • Fluency on a Topic
  • Understanding of Sentence Structure
  • Understanding of a topic

How to Measure Your Student’s Growth:

This is not an assessment where we are looking for 100% correctly filled in blanks, that is a highly unreasonable expectation.  Instead, 50% is considered acceptable.  It’s not until the results are somewhere around 20-30% that we should have any red flag concern of a child’s frustration and disconnect.

Download a Free Sample of a Cloze Reading Here:  The Human Nose- Cloze Reading

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Interest and Attitude Inventories

How much information will your student absorb if they have zero interest in the topic?  How much will your student comprehend if they do not feel a connection to what they are reading?  This is the opportunity for a student to have a voice and take ownership of their own learning experience.  Ownership inspires interest, and interest leads to that sometimes difficult to achieve student engagement.

This can be done in the form of an interview or an evaluation form.  Questions can be an open response, multiple choice, or by a rated scale.  The questions can revolve around regular learning preferences, interests, spare time activities, and confidence level of the learner.

What This Can Measure:

  • Effectiveness of Curriculum
  • Student’s perception of their own strengths and weaknesses
  • Student’s Perspective on curriculum

How to Use:

With the results of this it is easy: tailor your curriculum.  For multiple student classrooms this can help to easily pair students with various strengths that may balance one another.

Running Records

Although this is more frequently used by primarily ELA teachers, a running record is a practice that will give great insight to the level of understanding a student has when it comes to any class that requires reading from textbooks or other non-fiction sources.  If George always seems to miss the point when it comes to our physics labs and homework, a running record of his reading will give us a better understanding of where his disconnect is in taking in the subject matter.

The student is presented with a short passage on the topic.  As they orally read the selection the teacher holds a form that breaks down the reading line by line.  They can use shorthand to mark issues like word omission, substitution, repetition, reversal, insertion or words that required the teacher’s assistant.  When reading is completed the student is asked to retell a summary of what they’ve read.

What This Can Measure:

  • Comprehension of text and concepts
  • Fluency of reading
  • Intake of information

How to Measure Your Student’s Growth:

Running records are not a one and done process.  These can be done as frequently as necessary with a record kept of the student’s progress.  With these results, you can continuously alter your curriculum and lessons based on the solid knowledge of exactly where your student’s previously mystifying disconnect is.

Download a Free Sample of a Running Record Here:  The Human Skin- Running Record

K-W-L Charts

K-W-L is an acronym for Already Know, Want to Know, and What I Learned.  Create a chart on a poster board with three columns labeled K-W-L.  Before teaching anything on an upcoming topic, lesson, or unit ask the student(s) to list everything they already know about a topic.  Then ask what they would like to learn about it?  Can curating your curriculum get any simpler than that?!

At the completion of the lesson ask the student(s) what they have learned.  This will reinforce the learning, spark conversation, and create a solid feeling of closure to the unit.

What This Can Measure:

  • Pre-existing knowledge
  • Interests and curiosities
  • Comprehension of curriculum
  • Effectiveness of lesson plans

How to Measure Your Student’s Growth:

As I said earlier, can the answer to this get any easier with a K-W-L chart?  There is no better visual than to see what your student knew beforehand, what they wanted to know, and what they gained from the lesson.

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Gamification

What if those hours spent Oregon Trail had accumulated data that communicated to our teachers our problem-solving skills, hand-eye coordination, and any other hidden algorithms on our math and literary fluency within its coding?  How much more would our teachers have understood about us?  How much less stressful would our assessment processes have been as a whole?

Gamification is the hot new buzzword taking the education market by storm.  Look online, there are resources galore from ABC Mouse, Room Recess, Play Brighter, ClassDojo, and now the Minecraft Educational Edition!

Classic assessments, like the ones we discussed today, will always have a large margin for error, as they are:

  • subjective
  • limited in scope
  • time-consuming
  • put the student on the spot

Gamification allows for a more natural, fun, and encouraging process of collecting educational data and information.  Students are more comfortable, more engaged, and the results are more measurable.

What This Can Measure:

The measurement results will vary depending on the game and program, but the opportunities are literally endless.

How to Measure Your Student’s Growth:

Although gamification is a fantastic tool, it should never stand alone.   Setting numbers and data from the games together with the numbers and data from cloze reading, or running record results will make for a more well-rounded understanding of your student.  You will understand everything from their learning strengths and weaknesses, comprehension level, and abilities to learn.

To learn more about Gamification click here.


 

The internet is full of options when it comes to a homeschool curriculum, and I thank you for taking the time to visit this one.

 

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5 thoughts on “5 Assessments That Will Rock Your Entire Homeschool Curriculum”

  1. I’m not a homeschooling mom (not yet at least) but I love the concept of the KWL chart. I can think of a ton of different ways to utilize that around the house already.

  2. My children absolutely love to read but I find myself questioning their reading compression. I’m curious to try a few of these ideas to see how well they would do!

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