Unique Assessments: Beyond Multiple Choice

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While paper-and-pencil assessments have their place, children also need authentic, hands-on opportunities to showcase their learning. This three-part series will share some unique assessment ideas that might breathe fresh life into your classroom with surprising results.

Part One: Anchor Charts

An anchor chart is simply a piece of chart paper (or bulletin board paper or poster board) on which students create graphic organizers or make lists to display their thinking.

How Anchor Charts Work:

While reading a book or studying a concept in history or science, give students a sheet of chart paper to complete one of the ideas, below. The chart can be made either individually or in a small group. Just make sure you scaffold student learning by completing a chart as a whole class, first.

Anchor Chart Ideas:

  • Venn Diagrams. We all know and love the handy Venn diagram: a great way for students to compare and contrast information. Draw two large concentric circles that overlap. In the separate circles, students can compare two characters (Wilbur vs. Templeton), two concepts (fiction vs. nonfiction), two settings, two books, etc. In the middle where the circles overlap, students write what the two ideas have in common.
  • Synthesis. Synthesis, or high-level critical thinking, occurs anytime students’ thinking about a concept changes. A simple synthesis anchor chart might look like this:

I used to think… (about a character, an idea, a theme, etc)

But now I know… (how has your thinking changed, now? What do you know that’s different from before?)

  • Thinking Web. In a thinking web, students write one word, phrase or name in the middle of the chart, and then they draw spokes or lines out from the middle. On the spokes, they write supporting details about the word, phrase or name. For example, they might write “Charlotte” in the middle of the chart and then, on the lines or spokes, they might write “spider,” “kind friend,” “good writer.”
  • T-Chart. A T-chart is simply a two-columned chart. In the two columns, students can list Causes and Effects, details about two different characters, Before and After details, My Predictions and What Actually Happened, etc.
  • Other ideas for anchor charts include plot charts, K-W-L charts, acrostic poems, lists of questions students have while reading, and lists of main events with small illustrations.

Students enjoy showcasing their learning on a large piece of chart paper, and they feel even more validated when their charts are displayed in the classroom for all to see!

Unique Assessments Part Two (coming soon!): Bringing Learning to Life with 3-D Projects.

submitted by Elizabeth Cossick, M.Ed.



Filed under Academic Success, Assessments

3 responses to “Unique Assessments: Beyond Multiple Choice

  1. Kristin

    This is a great concept that I use often in my classroom! As an added bonus, we do a “poster walk” where students walk from one display to the next and leave comments (either on self stick notes or directly on the display) with additional information or encouraging words.

    Great job, Elizabeth!

  2. Anchor Charts are very helpful, and I need to incorporate them more with my struggling readers.
    Thanks for the encouragement. They really like them to be displayed. What I have really found effective is when I make a direct, specific comment on the chart or in their folder to let them know I am “connecting ” with their thoughts and ideas. Dianne Ridgell

  3. Pingback: Unique Assessments III: Reader’s Theater « A Learning Experience