Pre-Assessment Strategies

September 27, 2007 at 6:30 pm (all, blogging, children, classroom management, Education, Educational Leadership, Elementary, ESOL, Gifted, High School, Middle School, principals, reading, school, school administration, teachers, Thornebrooke, thoughts, Uncategorized)

Are you tired of using a pre-test or KWL chart as your pre-assessment tool?  If so, read on and get more ideas on how to figure out what your students already know (or think that they know) prior to teaching a unit or lesson.


“Assessment is today’s means of modifying tomorrow’s instruction.” Carol Ann Tomlinson

Pre-assessment allows the teacher and student to discover what is already known in a specific topic or subject. It is critical to recognize prior knowledge so students can engage in questioning, formulating, thinking and theorizing in order to construct new knowledge appropriate to their level. Ongoing assessment throughout the learning process is also critical as it directs the teacher and student as to where to go next. Several assessment techniques are described in this section.


Pre-Assessment Techniques

Boxing – On a large piece of paper, students draw a box in the centre and a smaller box inside the first box. In the outside box, answer ‘what do I know?’, in the inside box, answer ‘what do I want to learn?’. Now in the outside box, write ‘what else do I know?’ and ‘how does it fit?’ In the inside box, draw a visual representation to explain the topic. Finally, in the middle of the box, look at all the information and summarize ‘what does that say?’

Graffiti Wall – with colorful markers and large poster paper, have all students creatively design a Graffiti Wall of things they know about a specific topic of study. Students are then encouraged to add to the wall throughout the unit as they gain new knowledge. A colorful way to display what they know and what they have learned.

KWL Charts K-what do the students already know? W-what do the students need and want to know? L-what did the students learn? An effective pre-assessment tool and summative evaluation tool to measure the level of understanding at the end of unit. Many teachers use the L part as an open-ended question on an exam allowing the students to share the depth of knowledge that was gained in the unit of study.

Yes/No Cards – Students make a card with Yes (or Got It) on one side, No (No clue) on the opposite side. Teachers ask an introductory or review question. Students who know the answer hold up the Yes card, if they don’t know the answer they hold the No card. This is very effective to use when introducing vocabulary words that students need as a knowledge base for a specific unit of study.

SA/A/D/SDStudents are given to opportunity to formulate their own views and opinions along a continuum rather than dialectically. Given an issue (similar to those outlined above) students are asked to consider the topic and determine whether they strongly agree (SA), agree (A), disagree (d), or strongly disagree (SD) with the statement. They are then asked to move to the appropriate station in the classroom identified with one of the options. A class discussion follows as students are given the opportunity to outline and defend their positions, refute the arguments of others as well as re-evaluate their own ideas. 

Squaring Off – Place a card in each corner of the room with the following phrases: Dirt Road, Paved Road, Highway and Yellow Brick Road. Instruct the students to go to the corner of the room that matches where they are in the new unit of study. Students go to the corner of the room and as a group, discuss what they know about the topic.

Turn & Talk- During a lesson, there may be opportunities to have the students do a turn & talk activity for a few minutes. This allows students to talk about the information presented or shared and to clarify thoughts or questions. This is an effective alternate strategy to asking questions to the whole group and having the same students responding. All students have a chance to talk in a non-threatening situation for a short period of time.


Preassessment Strategies

“Assessment is today’s means of modifying tomorrow’s instruction.” Carole Tomlinson

Preassessment: a way to determine what students know about a topic before it is taught. It should be
used regularly in all curricular areas. Teachers can use the information gained in preassessment to make
instructional decisions about student strengths and needs. Preassessment will help the teacher determine
flexible grouping patterns as well as which students are ready for advance instruction. Here are a few
examples of preassessment strategies:

Teacher prepared pretests
KWL charts and other graphic organizers
Writing prompts/samples
Guess Box
Picture Interpretation
Teacher observation/checklists
Student demonstrations and discussions
Initiating activities
Informational surveys/Questionnaires/Inventories
Student interviews
Student products and work samples
Portfolio analysis
Game activities
Show of hands to determine understanding: Every Pupil Response
Drawing related to topic or content
Standardized test information
ISM data
Anticipation journals



  1. links for 2009-08-27 « Heather’s Weblog said,

    […] Pre-Assessment Strategies « Principal Kendrick Good strategies and information about pre-assessment (tags: Formative_Assessment Pre-Assessment) […]

  2. links for 2009-08-31 « doug – off the record said,

    […] 2009Web2.0 – Logo Creatr September 1, 2009Hey, Check Out The Future Of Television! September 1, 2009Pre-Assessment Strategies « Principal Kendrick September 1, 2009Super Teacher Worksheets – Free Printable Math Worksheets, Grammar Worksheets, […]

  3. links for 2009-09-01 « Donna Murray said,

    […] Pre-Assessment Strategies « Principal Kendrick (tags: assessment blogpost blogs preassessment professionaldevelopment strategies) […]

  4. Differentiated Instruction « Garneau's Blog of Science! said,

  5. enesojeam said,

    thank you sir for posting this indeed help me

    keep posting educational blogs!!!!

    more power!!!

  6. Tami Madden said,

    Working on my Teacher Work Sample (TWS) here in Colorado and loved the Graffiti Wall idea. It fits great into the project-based learning (PBL) model we use at the school I am doing my student teaching at. Thanks!

  7. Assignment 3 – Lesson Planning | joanmgvcc said,

    […] resource provides an overview of pre-assessment but also provides examples of pre-assessment techniques that […]

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