Informal assessments, or formative assessments, are a staple of any modern classroom. Unlike standardized tests such as the SAT, informal assessments can take on any creative form the teachers chooses. Unique informal assessments for the classroom take into account different learning styles to help the teacher better gauge each student’s understanding of the material.
Informal assessment examples for preschoolers and kindergarteners often involve oral, visual, and active techniques since kids this age haven’t yet mastered reading and writing. Look for assessments that give you information about a child’s observational learning and latent learning, which are both important at this age.
Once you’ve finished your lesson on a specific topic, give a brief summary to the entire class. Immediately after your summary, ask students to participate in a special Show and Tell all about that topic. The activity will give you an idea of what each child took away from the lesson.
- Kids will have five minutes to explore the classroom and find any three things that remind them of the chosen topic.
- At the end of five minutes, students can bring the items back with them, or simply remember them.
- Give each child a turn to come in front of the class and present their three items and explain how each relates to the chosen topic.
Make a recording of yourself explaining the steps in a simple process, such as counting to ten or a sequence of actions like “Find three blocks. Stack the blocks. Find three more blocks. Stack those blocks.”
Each student will have a chance to listen to your directive and copy what you’ve said in some active way. This activity illustrates each child’s learning style, ability to follow directions, and what they know about the topic.
If you’ve explained a process, like counting to ten, kids could:
- Come over to you and count to ten verbally.
- Draw an image showing the numbers one through ten in text or pictures.
- Sort blocks into ten groups, with each group showing a number from one to ten.
Give kids an anonymous chance to let you know how they feel about a specific topic with a fun chart. You’ll see who feels great about it and who is lost, but the rest of the class won’t see this individual information.
- Create a chart on a bulletin board that has three columns.
- One column should be labeled something like “I Get It!” Another would be “I Need a Little More Practice.” And the last would be “I Don’t Understand.”
- Give each child a smiley face with a sticky back and their name written on the back. It’s best if all the faces are identical.
- Have the whole class put their heads down with their eyes closed.
- Call kids up to the board for each column by saying something like “If you feel like you are great at adding single digits and totally understand addition, put your face up.”
- Kids who agree with your directive would keep their head down and hold up their smiley face.
- You then collect the faces and put them in the matching column.
- At the end, kids can see how many people matched each column, but not who matched each one.
Kids in grades one through five are better equipped for more creative and novel forms of informal assessment. Look for unique activities that will be fun and informative on topics like how to assess vocabulary without asking for definitions or social studies assessments that aren’t just tests and essays.
You can either use a brick-based building video game like Minecraft or actual brick blocks like LEGO for this activity. Give kids time to create a building block representation of a specific topic. This works especially well for math, science, and social studies.
- Give each student access to their own building blocks.
- Set a time limit of about a half hour.
- Ask each student to create a display showing the most important parts of the subject. For example, if you’re talking about the solar system, they could build each planet and the sun.
- For tangible brick projects, display them and let the kids explore each other’s creations.
- For a video game brick project, let kids take turns looking at each other’s virtual creations.
Give students a chance to self-reflect on what elements of the topic they know well and which ones are giving them the most trouble with a simple craft project.
- Each student will create a small paper chain using construction paper.
- They should start by cutting strips of paper for their chain.
- On each piece of the chain, the student should write one thing they are doing well or understand well about the topic. For example, if you’re working on sentence structure, they might say “I understand what a noun is.”
- Challenge students to come up with at least four “what’s going well” links and attach those together in two separate chains.
- Now students should use at least one piece of the chain for something they’re struggling with. For example, they might say “I don’t understand what a proper noun is.”
- Students can display or turn in their connected chains and the missing link pieces that are not attached to the chain.
Kids in this age group can be really self-conscious about asking for help, so finding creative and secretive ways they can ask for help is important.
- Create several hidden compartment books by cutting out a rectangular section from the middle of the interior pages. You’ll want one per subject.
- Add a new paper cover to each book with the subject clearly written on the spine. Hide the books in plain view on your classroom bookshelf amongst other unrelated books.
- If a student feels like they’ve mastered a skill at any time during class, they can write that skill and their name on a small folded piece of paper. The student can then try to secretly hide their note in the appropriate hidden book.
- If a student feels like they really need extra help on a skill, they can write that skill and their name on a small folded piece of paper. The student can then try to secretly hide their note in the appropriate hidden book.
- Before or after school each day, you can look at your hidden books to see who needs help and which other students might be able to help them. Since the two won’t know the other put in a note, they won’t know they’re being paired up for a lesson, assignment, or project on purpose.
By middle school, kids should be well-versed in standard assessment practices like tests and reports. There’s a tendency to remove some of the elementary school fun from these grade levels, but adding cool informal assessment methods can help keep middle schoolers engaged and excited about learning.
After you’ve finished a study unit, give kids the chance to dictate your lesson plans for a few days or even a week. Hang your lesson plans from the unit in a central location. Ask students to find time during the day to add a tally mark to any lesson plan they’d like you to teach again. Take the lesson plans with the most votes and re-teach them or teach those same topics in a new way.
Free online programs and game sites like ROBLOX give users the opportunity to create original games using a specific set of tools. Let students show you what they know about a science or social studies unit with an original topic themed video game they create. Kids should be instructed to be creative, but incorporate important elements from the subject matter.
Assess what students already know about a topic with a quick informal assessment technique called keyword counting. Students should come up with a list of five or more keywords related to the topic you’re about to present. During the presentation, whether it’s a guest speaker, video, or lecture, kids should keep a tally count of all the times their keywords are mentioned.
Children will try to one-up each other with knowledge in this progressive activity. You’ll call out or write a topic on the board. Then, students will raise their hand to volunteer. Each volunteer will come up and state one fact about the subject, and then write it on the board.
Kids keep volunteering information until no one can think of anything new to add. The last student to add a unique piece of information is the winner. This serves as a topic review for the whole group and shows you which students know the most and the least about the subject.
High schoolers should be able to showcase their knowledge in a variety of ways. Look for assessments that tie in elements of pop culture or give teens the chance to take the lead.
Teens will share what they know about any given topic in this whole group exercise. Since each student will be represented by a different colored ink, you’ll be able to see individual contributions at the end.
- Split the group into teams of two. One team member will be the Talker, the other will be the Writer. Each student needs to write with a different color ink.
- Set a two-minute time limit.
- The Talker says everything they know about the subject while the Writer writes it down. Writers can’t speak during the exercise.
- At the end of allotted time, all teams pass their paper to the left. Partners switch roles.
- Set the same time limit and the same task, only students now have to add unique information to the paper in front of them.
- Keep passing papers until teams get their own back.
Mnemonic devices are made to help you remember specific things like equations, related objects, or dates. Ask each student to create an original mnemonic device for a given topic or one of their choosing. Present all mnemonic devices to the class.
Give teens a chance to teach a lesson in class so you can see how well they understand the information. Set up one-on-one time with each student to guide them through the lesson planning process and let them choose their own topic so it’s something they feel good about.
An assessment is a test or analysis while informal means something that is casual or relaxed. Therefore, an informal assessment could be defined as a test or analysis that is casual in nature. Informal classroom assessments can be used to assess prior knowledge, determine mastered skills, monitor progress, or provide feedback. They can be graded or ungraded.
Common examples of informal assessments include:
- Self-questionnaire or checklist
- Writing sample
- Tests and quizzes made by the teacher
- Grading assignments
- Student created quizzes
- Demonstration stations
- Exit slips
- Graphic organizers
Informal assessments are an important part of any teacher’s student evaluations because they gather different types of information and gather it in a less stressful way than formal assessments.
Informal assessments can be great because they:
- Provide immediate data
- Don’t require much planning or class time
- Don’t require documentation
- Account for different learning and testing styles
- Alleviate stress from students
- Give students the chance to self-assess and report
As with any teaching strategy, there are also disadvantages to using informal methods, such as:
- No proof it assesses what you intended
- No control for hidden biases
- Students don’t necessarily receive feedback
- Teachers can’t report data to administrators
Teachers at any grade level can gauge a student’s understanding of any topic through informal assessments, especially those that speak to a child’s unique skill set. Check out rubric examples for teachers to see how you can document informal assessments and create your own custom rubric.