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Informal Assessment Activities

Instructor: Matthew Hamel

Matt has degrees in Journalism and Business and has taught a variety of courses at high schools and universities around the world.

While quizzes and exams have their advantages, there are other ways to assess your students. This lesson provides teachers with informal assessments designed to engage students in a relaxed and positive manner.

Keep it Informal

Students of all ages and levels face a variety of standardized assessments throughout their time in school. Because of this, it can sometimes be helpful to relieve the pressure by assessing your students through informal means. However, just because an assessment is informal, doesn't mean you can't assign a score or letter grade.

How you introduce these assessments to your students is up to you, but you may want to consider the possibility that some students perform better when they don't know they are being assessed. Informal assessments can be helpful in a variety of situations.

  • When you are short on time/testing materials
  • When you want to spontaneously check student comprehension
  • When students need help refocusing on a topic

Paired Discussions

This type of informal assessment is particularly helpful when you feel some of the students are understanding the content of the lesson and others are not. Begin by dividing students into pairs. Next, write a few discussion questions on the board. For example:

  • What are a few key points from this lesson?
  • What, if anything, confused you about this lesson?
  • How would you improve this lesson?

You can also ask content-specific questions. Give the pairs a few minutes to discuss the questions among themselves and then ask one person from each pair to share at least two points he/she discussed with his/her partner. Alternatively, you can ask each partner to share one point. If you don't have time for everyone to speak, have students write down a short summary of their discussions and collect these papers to review.

Brainstorm Summaries

At the end of a unit or lesson, give students approximately five minutes to brainstorm their key points and takeaways. The brainstorm writing can take a variety of forms:

  • Freewriting
  • A diagram (pictogram, web)
  • A list
  • An outline

Finally, collect the brainstorm summaries and post them up around the classroom. Give students time to browse their classmates' ideas and have a class discussion about the significant commonalities and differences among the brainstorms.

Preview Predictions

This informal assessment is a great way to preview an upcoming lesson by getting students to actively engage with an approaching topic.

  1. Give students the topic of the next lesson, but provide no details.
  2. Ask them to write down or orally predict what content they believe will be included in the lesson.
  3. Discuss why certain expectations emerged and why other aspects of the topic may have been ignored.

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