S'More From The AP

Week Ending December 5, 2014

Different Ways To Assess Learning – Testing With A Twist - by Justin Wendorf

“This test was supposed to be easy!” exclaimed the teacher as he wrote another failing grade in the top, right corner of the paper. This is the tenth one, and from what I’ve previewed, I’m sure there’ll be more, he thought. All that the students had to do was choose the best answer. It was simply a multiple-choice test, no short answer. Not even an essay! “I wouldn’t dare do that to them,” the teacher joked to himself.

Why not? – One of my favorite songs, “Bored of Education” by Propaganda, says this: “Remember when we were in kindergarten, and you had to learn about worms, yeah, you went outside and you played with worms, what a novel idea!” Education has changed over the last 20 years and I don’t believe that you could find anyone that would argue against this point. But we need to ask ourselves, “What about education has changed?” If you were to single out the processes, then yes, they’ve changed drastically. But the purpose has not.

Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way they should go; even when they are old they will not depart from it.” Aside from the biblical implications, there is functional truth to this. We, as educators, are called to “train” our students. That is our purpose, our drive. If a teacher loses sight of this mission, this next part is made almost insurmountable.

Alternative assessments are those in which the students create something as a response to their learning. It is not merely choosing a given response. One forces higher-level thinking, the other tests memorization skills. Some examples of alternative assessments are:

· Essay answers
· Oral presentations and/or demonstrations and exhibitions
· Performance assessment (social skills: assessed on the process)

Now, if we are purpose-driven teachers, then we will do anything possible to ensure that our students learn. That is the passion of teaching. This means possibly allowing our students to choose how they would like to prove their learning, or knowledge, to us. Give options (determined ahead of time) so that students can use their strengths. Allow our “talkative” students to hold a formal discussion with criteria (this is where our grade comes from), or our artistic students to create an iMovie or stop motion film to show us their understanding of a story we’re reading. Let a group of students create a lesson, including an assessment, to teach the rest of the class about a math topic (group performance assessment). This will take original effort on our end, but for the passionate teacher, this is part of the fun. The joy of teaching comes as a result of seeing our students succeed in their own right.

The Principal Ponders

What do you think of when you hear the word assessment? My guess is that the term STARR comes to mind and I bet it doesn’t give you an all over warm, fuzzy feeling. Am I close? This poor word has a bad reputation with teachers, mainly because of all the assessment we are required to give to our students. But assessment is not a dirty word! Just as Justin pointed out in his post above, there is more than one way to assess a student and it doesn’t have to be with the old stand by pencil and scantron. This week I am not going to ramble on, but just give you some examples of alternative assessments you can use immediately in all subject areas! Happy Friday!


  • Create a bookmark to match the theme of the last book read.
  • Summarize the story by designing a business card (this will be harder than it sounds).
  • Create a radio program that is set in the same time as the book.
  • Infomercial - Students will tape a segment that uses persuasion.
  • Students can form teams to create a news program about writing conventions (run-on sentences, spacing, punctuation, etc.)


  • Find a pattern in the current math unit that can be explained.
  • Create a Problem: Here the students find a scenario and develop an authentic problem based upon it.
  • Multimedia Instructions / Tutorials: Start with a sample problem that contains multiple mistakes, or sometimes start with a class brainstorm of potential mistakes. From there, students create videos, podcasts or functional text descriptions on how to avoid the mistake and solve a problem correctly.


  • Pen a diary entry from a famous scientist.
  • Students write advice to an “anonymous friend” who has a scientific problem that needs solved.
  • Design a t-shirt that matches the current science concept
  • Students create the questions (and answers) that will be used in a review game.

Social Studies

  • Documentary - Recreate an important historical event.
  • Research the family tree of a famous historical person.
  • Students create a class timeline as they study different eras. Post the master time line up in the classroom and add as new eras are learned.
  • Students each create a museum “artifact” and set them up in the classroom as a museum, where they will stand next to their artifact to explain and answer questions from visitors.

Worth Reading

Worth Watching

Mastery Learning Alternative Assessment
Dan Meyer: Math class needs a makeover

Tweet of the Week

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Tech Corner

A couple of things for this week's Tech Corner! First, some helpful tips for student collaboration in Google Docs and Slides. Second, some festive holiday instrumental music that you might like to enjoy in the classroom-- All you need to do is create a free Spotify account and then download the playlist!