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If You Know, You Know...But Do You Know?

As a parent teaching from home, one of the things you are probably most unfamiliar with is how to assess your child's understanding of the content being taught. Whether you are doing the teaching, or your child is participating in a version of a virtual learning program through their school, it may land on you to determine whether or not your child is keeping up with the concepts.

First, it is important to understand how teachers assess for understanding in Ontario. The document, Growing Success is the foundation for assessment for Ontario teachers. It covers assessments, evaluations, interim and progress reports, and grading scales. I highly recommend looking this over for a good place to start!

A key part of this document is the coverage of Learning Skills and Work Habits. Without these skills, students will have great difficulty mastering curriculum areas. Take a look at the chart below (Page 11 of the document) for more information!

Next, take an opportunity to look at the Levels of Achievement. Ontario uses a 4-level scale to evaluate learning. If you've ever wondered what differentiates Level 3 work from Level 4 work, take a look at the charts in this document. In Ontario, Level 3 range work means your child is meeting grade level expectations (and this is wonderful!).

Then, we arrive at assessment and evaluation. As educators, we assess FOR, AS and OF learning.

Assessing FOR learning is equivalent to doing a diagnostic assessment at the start of a new unit. Where is the child at currently? Do they need review of previously taught concepts before beginning?

Why? We do this type of assessment to get an idea of where each child is starting and if they (individually, as a small group or the whole class) need review of the topic before jumping in.

How? Through quick diagnostic tasks (e.g. 3 basic addition questions and 2 addition word problems on a page), brainstorms or mind maps (e.g. what are all of the things that come to mind when you think about plants? write key words or sentences, draw, etc.). The key is that these are not meant to be tough or scary - just a way to get a sense of what the child remembers from previous years or what prior knowledge they have already!

Assessment AS learning is ongoing or formative assessment that takes place throughout the course of a unit or strand. How are they moving through the concepts? Are they able to continue forward while building on? Do they need further review?

Why? We do this type of assessment to catch students as they move through the a unit or strand to ensure that concepts are being grasped and if they aren't, this gives us a chance to give extra practice or review.

How? Exit Tickets are a great way to efficiently ensure that students grasped a concept at the end of a lesson. These are 1-2 questions that the student must answer on their way out the door that demonstrate the knowledge learned in class that day. They are easy to look through and you can quickly see if a student missed a concept and needs further review. I also like to do Mid-way Check-ins, especially for math units. Part way through a unit, I do a check-in on all of the skills learned up to that point in the unit. This is like a mini-quiz but without the pressure. This way, I can easily communicate with parents if there is a big idea that the child needs extra help with.

Assessment OF learning is equivalent to a final or summative task that allows the student to demonstrate all they have learned. What did they learn? Were they able to apply it? Were the learning objectives achieved and to what extent?

Why? We do this type of assessment to determine how well a child grasped a concept, and what, if any, next steps they could take to further consolidate the knowledge on their own once the unit is over.

How? Your assessments of learning can take place in a number of ways and students should have a number of opportunities to show what they know. Gone are the days of unit tests being the ONLY way of demonstrating understanding. While tests have an important role to play in education, they are not the be all and end all of assessment. In addition to tests, students can write out their thoughts, present orally, make a poster, build a diorama, complete something through an artistic lens, draw a comic, do a slideshow, work individually, with a partner, etc. The possibilities are endless! The key is to give plenty of opportunities to show their knowledge in a variety of ways to tap into those different types of learners.

By taking the time to assess FOR, AS and OF learning, you will be on the ball with ensuring your child is grasping concepts. It will help you to clearly see if your child needs further review of certain units or strands and can help them to become more reflective about their own strengths and areas of growth.

All of these types of assessments combined help to determine levels of achievement for interim and progress report cards.

If you have questions about how to assess your child for understanding, please don't hesitate to reach out!

Happy Assessing!



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