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Assessment Strategies and Definitions

Book Response Journals

Similar to a learning log, the book response journal is a place for students to express personal reactions and to wonder about events, themes, and ideas in a book. Children are encouraged to react to everything they read. Teachers may use these journals to respond to each child individually, sharing their questions, feelings, and ideas about literature and making suggestions for further reading or related activities. Some teachers hold individual reading conferences with their students and use these book response journals as part of the conferences.

Comparison Charts

Comparison charts are one of a number of graphic organizers. They involve the examinations of similarities and differences among ideas, events, characteristics, etc. Comparison charts may take a number of forms and are an excellent way to engage students individually or in groups as they seek to focus characters, events, or themes within a single story or compare books, events, or properties within a given theme.


There are many types of conferences including reading, writing, goal-setting, evaluation, and coaching. The major purposes are to collaborate, assess, and guide.

Cooperative Learning Activities

Cooperative learning involves students working together in groups (often following a teacher presented lesson), with group goals and individual accountability. Critical to the process are two factors: 1) how to help another student without giving the answer; and 2) how to work together toward a common goal.


A demonstration transforms ideas into something concrete and observable through visual, audio, art, drama, movement, and/or music. This could also include opportunities to demonstrate and explain procedures and strategies such as a science experiment or a solution to a non-routine math problem.


A discussion provides a safe, open forum where children are encouraged to speak, listen, and respond to opinions, feelings, and ideas regarding the designated topic.

Goal Setting

Setting goals with children provides the basis for monitoring student performance through collaboration and self reflection.

Graffiti Walls

Graffiti walls are free form spaces for brainstorming or communicating words, phrases, or ideas on a topic. These are often used as evolving records. A teacher may use them to facilitate brainstorming on a particular theme at the beginning of a unit, as well as encourage students to add new words or phrases relating to the theme as the unit progresses. In addition to encouraging children to search for new and interesting words, the graffiti wall serves as a class dictionary/thesaurus as students need novel words to enrich their writing.

"I Learned" Statements

"I Learned" statements may be in either written or oral form. Their purpose is merely to give students a chance to self-select one or more of the things they learned during a class session, an investigation, or a series of lessons.


An interview is structured or unstructured dialogue with students in which the student reports his/her reaction or response to a single question or a series of questions. This typically provides an opportunity for the teacher to determine the student's depth of understanding rather than whether the student can provide the "correct" answer. Questioning may follow a period of observation to discover if the student's perception of a situation is the same as the observer's.


Investigations may be related to a specific subject area or may involve several areas, integrating curriculum. The most typical form of investigation is a collection of student writing, diagrams, graphs, tables, charts, posters, experiments and other products. When students become involved in practical or mathematic investigations, assessment activities and/or questions can be presented to students without their awareness of any difference between the assessment and instruction.


A KWL is a technique used by teachers to assess what students "know," "wish to know," and "have learned about a particular topic," using a sheet divided into three columns labeled K, W, L. At the beginning of a lesson, the KWL serves as a written record of the students prior knowledge (K) on the topic, and allows the opportunity for the student to note what they desire (W) to know about the topic. Following the lesson, the student can self-assess what has actually been learned (L) about the topic.

Learning Logs

A learning log is a kind of journal that enables students to write across the curriculum. The major reason for using them is to encourage children to be in control of their own learning and to promote thinking through writing.

Oral Attitude Surveys

Attitude surveys note in a systematic manner students' self reflections regarding group and individual performance and affective characteristics such as effort, values, and interest. Providing an oral survey allows students to share their ideas, learn from others, and deepen the way they think about the topics being discussed.

Oral Presentations

Oral presentations include speeches, storytelling, retellings, recitations, drama, videos, debates, and oral interpretation and are evaluated according to a predetermined criteria.

Peer Evaluations

Peer evaluations consist of student analysis and assessment of peer proficiency using either established or self-generated criteria. An activity must be very carefully structured if students are to receive valid feedback from their peers.

Problem Solving Activities

In a problem solving activity, students must search for a means to find a solution, as well as for a solution to the problem. A good evaluation of the problem solving activity requires consideration of both the thinking process and the final product.


Student products represent completed student work in a variety of forms; writing, videotapes, audiotapes, computer demonstrations, dramatic performances, bulletin boards, debates, etc. Students can demonstrate understanding, application, originality, organizational skills, growth in social and academic skills and attitudes, and success in meeting other criteria.

Response Groups

Response groups are opportunities for small numbers of children to discuss books or events in depth with one another. Often these groups are organized and run by children themselves because they all have read the same book or experienced the same event and want to discuss it. Teachers participating in a response group will gain insight into their students' thinking skills, group behaviors, and affective characteristics.


A key concept in alternative assessment is having the student learn to recognize his/her own progress by taking the time to reflect. Those who are able to review their own performance, explain the reasons for choosing the processes they used, and identify the next step, develop insight and self-involvement. Self-reflection, an important concept in any form of assessment, is a particularly important component of a student portfolio.

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File Updated August 25, 2005
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