Student Self-Assessment in the Classroom: A Powerful Tool Before, During, and After Assignments

Text reads, "Student Self-Assessment" with a child looking at the clipboard and selecting a green smiley face for understanding.

Student self-assessment in the classroom can be a powerful tool for students to monitor their own understanding and ask for help when they need it. However, self-assessment is not a skill that students naturally have. They need it modeled. They need to practice. And, they need feedback. 

When students make their self-assessment in the classroom visible, it allows the teacher to help students develop their skills. For instance, it could look like a conference between students when the teacher goes over mistakes the student is making even though the student thought he/she understood the material. Opposite conferences happen, too, when a student doesn’t think he/she understands a concept, but in fact, can do it quite well. 

Text says, "Conference with students about their self-assessment" with a picture that shows a teacher and young boy talking together to check student self-assessment in the classroom
Help students improve their ability to self-assess on their own. Share your assessment and see how well they line up.

Once when students can accurately self-assess, teachers can use that information to change instruction or directions on the fly. If everyone seems confused before, during, or after an assignment, the teacher can reteach a certain lesson. If just a few students need help, the teacher can pull a small group or provide further scaffolding. 

Students can check their understanding throughout instruction, but this blog focuses on how students can self-assess before, during, and after an assignment after instruction. Here are a few ways to incorporate self-assessment throughout an assignment. I use these strategies for practice, graded assignments, and even tests. Helping students understand what they know or don’t know is critical to building their academic skills. 

A quote from the student self-assessment in the classroom blog post that states, "Helping students understand what they know or don't know is critical to building their academic skills."

Student Self-Assessment in the Classroom: Before An Assignment

  1. Review concepts for the needed instruction: Do a quick review of the content covered the day before and have students think about their own understanding of the content. They can ask questions or share what they are still wondering about. 
  2. (Electronic) Entrance ticket: Use an electronic entrance slip to check students’ understanding of the needed content. One of the questions should include students’ own understanding of the topic. Using something like Google Forms(TM) gives instant feedback for the teacher and the student depending on the settings. 
  3. Fist to Five | Thumbs up or Down: Before starting the assignment, ask students to show a symbol based on their own understanding. Students can do a fist to five which has students hold up a certain number of fingers based on their confidence. For example, if students are completely confused they hold up a fist (no fingers) but if they are feeling pretty good, but want some more practice they can hold up 3 fingers, while 5 fingers means they understand the content so well they could teach it. A simpler version of fist to five is to have students give a thumbs up or thumbs down to see how well they understand a concept. I talk with my class about how this answer is for them and for me, the teacher, and that it isn’t anyone else’s business to know. We also talk about how sometimes all of us have something we don’t understand. Depending on the question or your class, you can always have them put their heads down when they show their self-assessment.
  4. Pencil down partner talk: Before starting an assignment, sometimes I give students time to discuss the assignment together. I hand out the assignment to students, have them put their pencils down, and set the time for a couple of minutes. Students are able to look through the assignment and talk to their classmates about the questions. Once students get good at identifying where they need help, they can go over targeted areas of the assessment with their classmates and double check their thinking before beginning. 
Text says, "Let Students talk before a test" with a picture of 2 students sitting in a desk. If students are good at self-assessing, they will be able to  to ask for clarification before a test.
If you use student self-assessment in the classroom frequently, students will know what areas to study first or get clarification on before starting a test.

Student Self Assessment in the Classroom: During An Assignment

  1. Mark questions as they work: Teach students to mark questions as they are working. A star means they feel confident about it,  a circle around the number means they need to go back and check and an exclamation means they are really unsure. Even if they are unsure, teach students how to make an educated guess, but these symbols help the teacher know how students self-assessed each question. Depending on the type of assignment, you might stop by and coach or redirect students with exclamation mark questions. You could also have students color the number of each question with green (strong understanding), yellow (go back and check), and red (needs help). 
Text reads, "Have students mark their level of confidence" with a picture of an assignment. Some numbers are starred, circled or marked with an exclamation point.
Marking on an assignment like this community assignment helps teachers see how accurate student self-assessment is. Students can also compare their own ratings with their graded assignments.
  1. Status of the class: In the middle of an assignment, you can stop students to get a feeling of their understanding. You can use the fist to five / thumbs up or thumbs down suggestion from above. I also ask questions like, “What question has been the easiest so far?” “What question is the most difficult?” This can give me an idea of areas I should go over quickly before students continue working on the assignment. 
  2. Color coded way to ask for help: As students are working, you can use cards or cups that students flip on their desks. Students all start on green, but if they need some help they can flip their cards to yellow. If they are unable to go on until they get some clarification, they flip cards to red. This does not need to be high-tech. Take 3 notecards and color a line on each card–one green, one yellow, and one red. These cards can be stacked in the corner of the desk and changed as needed. This visual can help the teacher prioritize what students to check in on first, and gives students a chance to get help when most needed. 
Text reads, "Students show their level of understanding while working" with a picture of colored notecards as a way to incorporate student self-assessment in the classroom
Notes cards are an easy way to incorporate student self-assessment in the classroom. Teachers can direct their attention to students who most need it.

Student Self-Assessment in the Classroom: After an Assignment

  1. Justify answers: Have you ever taken a test and thought that two answers made sense? Or thought that an answer would be different depending on how you thought about the question. Our students have this happen too. Allow students to explain or justify their answers on a test. I give partial credit to students when explanations make sense, even if it was not the answer that was intended. This higher-level thinking skill allows students to think about what they know and use it to justify their answers. 
  2. Self-Assessment by selecting an emoji face: I like students to rate their overall understanding of an assignment. When I create an assignment, I add a box to the top with 3 different emojis (a happy face, in the middle face, and sad face). Students color in the face to show how they feel about the concepts. I have started printing these faces on mailing labels so that I can put them on any original before making copies. This allows me to use this self-assessment on any assignment I give my students. Grab a template of the labels by clicking here
  3. Turn in bin based on level of understanding: Instead of using an emoji code, you can also have 3 turn-in trays. Students turn in their assignment into a green tray or folder if they feel confident about it, a yellow tray if they feel ok about the assignment, and a red tray if they don’t understand a topic. 
Text reads, "Labels for self-assessment" with a picture of a telling time assignment and a label with 3 smiley faces to rate student's understanding.
Add these labels before you copy to provide an easy way to incorporate student self-assessment in the classroom. Students color in the face that best represents their understanding of the topic.

Student Self-Assessment in the Classroom is a powerful skill that is easy to incorporate

Helping students develop the ability to accurately self-assess their understanding of the material is a powerful academic skill. Once when students can hone in on what they don’t understand, they know what to study and what to ask for help with. When students can accurately describe what they need help with, student groups easily fall into place. It is easy to quickly pull a group of students in real time to give a quick mini-lesson or additional support. 

Depending on the nature of the assignment, you can use ideas before, during, and after an assignment. 

I would love to hear how you use student self-assessment in the classroom! Tell me in the comments if you have another idea you love.

Make every teaching moment count, 

Signature that says, "Love, Julie from Llama with Class"

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