Question: How many times a day are you assessing your students? 

Answer: Constantly.  (If you said anything less than this, I’m glad you’re here.  Read on.)

Recently in my Method course at a local university, I had students turning in lesson plans without assessment in them.  Confused by this, I asked them why most of them had left out such a crucial piece of every lesson.  Their answer?  Well it wasn’t the end of the unit.  I wanted to fall off my chair, BUT, I realized that that is so often what we associate assessment with.  And if you’ve never been in the classroom full time or have been there very recently, that may be what you think you should do.  Teach a lesson/unit.  Give a test.  Repeat.  And I realized that it is still that way for most teachers who are in the classroom right this minute.  This is one of the very reasons why I created the Teacher Anchor to included student data as a crucial piece.  Teachers I know and have worked with needed this piece of the planning puzzle.  They were only using assessment to see if their students got it.  And even if some didn’t, they moved on anyway.  So, let’s talk about why assessment is so important and let’s get you on the right path (if you aren’t already there).


When do you pre-test?

  • At the end of the previous day’s lesson
  • For Morning Work
  • Any time that will give you accurate time to review the results
  • If the skill is a reviewed skill, you may pre-test in the beginning of a lesson.

For every Common Core standard you teach, you should be pre-testing your students to see what they already know.  For example, if one of my standards is CCSS.Math.Content.2.NBT.A.2 Count within 1000; skip-count by 5s, 10s, and 100s and I’m tackling skip counting by 5’s (5, 10, 15, 20…) and my students already know how to do that, I’d be wasting precious school time of theirs and mine going over it again, right?  But how would I know if they can skip count without a pre-test?  You can’t.  So let’s start there.  When I was in the classroom, everything I did included a pre-test.  Once I had my standard(s) laid out, I’d create an assessment to evaluate how many of my students had mastered* this skill already.  So before I’d even begin to teach, I’d give a pre-test.

*Mastered means just that.  They know it front, back, and sideways.  Not just every once in awhile or just on this day.

Types of pre-tests

Now if you are thinking of a “test” being with pencil and paper, that’s not what I mean. There are various types of formal and informal measures.  Here are just a few that I would use:

  • Formal: Written assessment (multiple choice, fill in the blank, open response), Digital Data Collection system (Student Response system by SMART, Clickers, Survey Monkey, Socrative)
  • Informal: Oral assessment (white boards, thumbs up/thumbs down), Entry Tickets, Checklists* (whole group, small group, or individually)

*I used checklists most often.  And if you have the Teacher Anchor or you’ve purchased one of the Student Data sheet sets (which are still available even though the Anchor sold out), then you already have these checklists built into your planning system.

So let’s walk through a pre-test.  Let’s say I’m teaching skip counting by 5’s, as I mentioned before.  (CCSS.Math.Content.2.NBT.A.2 Count within 1000; skip-count by 5s, 10s, and 100s.)  I may pre-test by using my SMART response system, by asking students a variety of skip counting questions and have them weigh in with their clickers (only allowing me to see their results).  Don’t have a fancy system?  Let’s go old school and ask them to skip count one at a time.  I’ll call them up to my desk as they come in in the morning, ask them to count by 5’s to 100 and mark my checklist with a yes they did it or no they couldn’t do it.  Easy as pie.

I pre-tested.  Now what?

Now you proceed with your whole group lesson (unless every single person in class has mastered it.  Then you put your checklist in your Anchor and move on to the next standard).  As you teach your whole group lesson, be aware that some students are above and below target.  When you break up to do an independent activity, plan to pull out or provide differentiated activities for those students who are above/below target.  The student sheet set also has these differentiated anecdotal notation forms available too.  Or you can purchase an anecdotal notepad right here in the shop.  It’s important to make sure you are enriching for your high learners and scaffolding for those who are below target.  This is why planning and differentiation is a crucial part of the assessment process.  You have to meet each student at their level.  Bloom’s Taxonomy and Higher Order Thinking skills are SO SO important to help you meet each students needs.  Visit those links listed there to help you differentiate via various levels of questioning.


So you’ve finished your lesson.  You’re done differentiating.  Now what?  Time to see what they’ve learned!  This can be done on the same day or the following day.  Or even when you’re done with the standard.  Here’s are some guidelines to post-testing:

  • You must give the SAME post-test as you did pre-test in order to show growth.
  • You can add questions to the post-test, but you must keep all of the original pre-test questions on there too.
  • Post-test at the end of each skill lesson or at the end of your unit. (For example, if your skip counting lesson is just part of a bigger unit, you may choose to pre-test at the end of this skip-counting lesson to assess this particular skill but then give a overall “unit test” where you pull questions from each post-test throughout the unit to gauge their overall learning of the unit.  Make sense?)

How did your students do?  Did they show mastery?  If yes, then wonderful!  File individual student data in your Anchor and move on!  If no, re-teach the standard in a different way.  Provide enrichment for those who have mastered and assistance for those still below target.

Want a summary of this entire post?

I created a flow chart to give to my Methods students and wanted to make it available to you, for FREE!  Hole-punch it and stick it in the front of your Anchor.  You can also find it in my TpT shop for free download as well.

Download the Assessment Flow Chart here.  Or click on the graphic below.


Why does assessment matter?


Your data should drive what you teach.  The way your student perform on each pre/post test should determine how you proceed with your plans.  No more testing and moving on.  If you do that, then stop it right now.  If you don’t use the data to drive the instruction, then you are wasting everyone’s time.  Most importantly, your students aren’t learning and what good is that?  You should pre-test and post-test for every single standard and objective that comes across your plans.  Use the flow chart to help you.

And as always, if you have questions, please contact me or email me at  And if you feel like you need a little extra help, the student data sheet sets are still available.  They come with a complete explanation on how to use them and how to best benefit your students learning.  Trust me, they’ll make you a better teacher.  And your students will thank you.  🙂