Encouraging self-assessment in young learner classes

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self-assessment young learners

How often do you assess your students? Assessment forms a large part of many primary courses and often takes the form of review pages, unit tests, and progress tests. Children are very keen to find out their grade but are not particularly interested in what questions they got right or wrong. This type of assessment can give us useful information about how well a student is doing, but it does not involve the student or show them how to continue their progress.

In order to encourage students to take an active role in their learning and take responsibility for it, other types of assessment are much more beneficial. Assessment for Learning and self-assessment does this by using different types of activities to help students discover what they have or haven’t learned and how they can take action.

So how can we get young learners to assess their own progress?

Set clear objectives

give clear objectives

The first step is to write down the objectives that you want students to reach during the unit of work. Many coursebooks will have Can Do statements in either the Teacher Book or Student Book you can use. Alternatively, you can create your own based on the needs of that particular group. For best results, make these as specific as possible, for example:

  • I can talk about my family
  • I can describe my bedroom
  • I can read and understand a dialogue about shopping
  • I can write sentences and questions using the present progressive

At the beginning of each lesson or unit of work, display these statements on the board so students know what their objectives are. Show them again at the end, and have students think about whether or not they can do each one. You may wish to have them copy the statements they agree with in their notebooks, or provide them with a printout with boxes they can check.

Find out more about setting lesson objectives, success criteria, and continuous assessment in this post about visible learning.

5 fun activities to help primary students reflect on their learning

There are lots of fun ways we can get students to reflect on their learning. Let’s look at a few below.

1. Exit passes

Exit passes are a useful way of encouraging students to think about what they have achieved in a particular lesson. Give each student a slip of paper and have them write down three things they have learned or enjoyed during the class. As they leave the room, ask them to hand in the slips of paper. Use these to find out what students think they learned (this may be different to what you think!), what they enjoyed, and what they need to work on.

2. Stick it!

Young learners love stickers and manual activities can also help them focus.

Hand out a selection of colorful stickers and have students choose a color or smiley face to represent their feelings about their work during the lesson. Depending on their age and ability you might ask them to explain their feelings too.

3. Two stars and a wish

In this activity, students choose two things they think they have worked well on and one thing they would like to improve.

Give each student a card from the template below and have them complete it. They can then hand in the cards, or you could set up a display or area in the classroom for students to keep their cards. At the end of the week, have students look at their cards and check whether or not their wishes have come true.

Download: Two stars and a wish template

4. I’m a star!

For non-writers, this alternative to Two Stars and a Wish is recommended. In this activity students color in the parts of a star using a color code to show how well they think they are doing. You can tailor the areas of learning in the star to what students have been doing in class. For very young learners, you can use pictures instead of words. See the template below for an example of I’m a star!

Download: I’m a star template

5. Reflection journals

To encourage students to evaluate their progress regularly, you could have them make reflection journals. After each lesson or week, have students write or draw the activities they have completed and how they felt about each one. Students can draw emojis to express their feelings about each activity. Reflection journals can be completed during class time or for homework.

Things to remember!

  • Make sure goals and objectives are clear at the beginning of the lesson. Then recap at the end.
  • Encourage honesty. Students may find it difficult to assess their own progress at first. Have them look back at their work and see which activities they found difficult to complete.
  • Self-assessment should be individual and private in order to help prevent students from being influenced by their peers.
  • Encourage a growth mindset by praising effort and persistence during self-assessment tasks. Ask students to think about activities that made them think hard, mistakes they made that helped them learn and what strategies they used when they encountered a problem.

Self-assessment does not have to be limited to areas of study. You can also include attitude and behavioral goals to any of the activities above. This can be a useful classroom management tool for students who may need to try harder with their behavior and work rate.

Take action

Once your students have completed one or more of the self-assessment activities above, why not take independent learning a step further and have students choose how to work on those areas they need to improve? If possible, include some self-access resources for students to choose from, e.g. extra vocabulary exercises, role cards for role plays, etc. If you have tablets or computers in the classroom, you can even include listening activities and online games.

Giving students the responsibility to decide how to take their learning further can have hugely positive effects on student engagement and motivation.

How do you help your students reflect on their learning? Let us know in the comments below.

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