It is important to assess your students in multiple ways so that you are making sure students understand and can apply the knowledge they need to know for each subject and topical academic area.

Teachers should use preassessment tools to gauge students' prior knowledge before entering into a new unit or addressing new topics in the classroom. Teachers can use various forms of preassessment to measure students' understanding so that they know which information they need to cover, introduce, extend, or have students apply throughout the time allotted to the unit. It may be that a teacher can shorten a unit based on the information they receive from conducting forms of preassessment. Examples of preassessment I used during my practica included K-W-L chart and other variations such as T-L-P (what you think you know, what you learned, what you plan to do with the knowledge you learned), T-Q-Q chart, or H-Q-Q (how did this happen? Learn more, what questions do you have more. Learn even more information and ask questions you still have). Another way to do this is give a survey or worksheet to see what students will try or what they can complete depending on the skills involved. I often asked if students had experiences related to the skills or knowledge and had them share their ideas to informally collect information about my students and their understanding. It was a very helpful way to also know the ability level and exposure of my students. I saw patterns of who could answer some of the questions or complete the activities earlier than others.

Formative Assessment:
The following is a writing assessment analysis I completed for my students in my class. This assignment was an independent activity that the students worked on to build independent learning skills and incorporate components of letter writing, information from our author study unit, and use writing for various forms of communication. This assignment became a great opportunity for me to check their writing skills as well as how they understood the directions I gave. I used the directions as well as expectations us teachers have established in the classroom for their writing at this point of the year for various components of the rubric.

In addition to this assignment I helped conduct periodic checks during students' weekly writing journals to give students one-on-one instruction, feedback, and help them edit their writing. Students receive reward tickets for superb work that they completed with all of the required expectations included in their writing. There is a chart in the classroom that we refer to when they are writing to give students the opportunity to double check before we come around to check for them. This is a great way to plan writing workshop lessons or even reading lessons to see which skills students need to improve upon individually as well as holistically as a class.

Formative assessment is a great way to gauge student learning throughout the lesson. Teachers can have informal checks such as a "thumb check" for understanding or have students apply a skill to see how well they know it during a guided read aloud activity.

Summative Assessment:
Teachers should find ways to make sure students have received the knowledge at the end of the unit that is essential to fulfill the Virginia SOL or other county, state, or national standards. This could include a portfolio, a worksheet, a presentation, a creative project, a test or any other form of a summative assessment.

The following explanation details the process for creating a valid and reliable test for first graders on the science SOL topic of Matter:

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Examples of the three states of matter

Assessment Creation: First Grade Matter Test
Overview of Assessment in Classroom:

This assessment is created for a first grade class at Matoaka Elementary School. This class has a diverse group of ability level students and the primary focus in this part of the year is meeting benchmarks for math and literacy in all content areas. This unit does deal with hands on science materials, labs, and projects but with everything that is accomplished, putting the ideas to words are important. This assessment will test key vocabulary terms that students should recognize how to read, how to define, to how use in different situations, and how to articulate in certain cases. Many of the Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs) are assessment formally as well as informally through various activities so students will be able to demonstrate their knowledge in various ways. However, this assessment specifically will illustrate the importance of written language in the context of science for this matter unit. Although the science SOLs are most important in this unit, there are cross-curricular goals addressed from the English SOLs in the unit and assessment too.

Class Specifics:

I am placed in first grade with Lynn Walls at Matoaka Elementary School. My first grade students are a very sweet bunch of students. There are 19 students in the class (10 females and 8 males) many of whom are fairly similar in demographics on a whole. There are a couple bi-racial students as well as students who come from low-income backgrounds (one of which lives in a trailer park). We have many students receiving pull-out services and a couple being evaluated through the Child Study program. A couple students have been previously retained and many are considered performing either average or below grade level standings. The students are very willing and excited to do work on a whole with few exceptions who have minimal behavioral issues. Students who are receiving services may need simplified worksheets or additional support reading materials. One student is receiving motor skill help specifically which will be incorporated into individual lesson accommodations as well as whole class.

Unpacking the Curriculum:

Topic: Matter

Behavioral Objectives: The students will understand the different states of matter: solid, liquid, and gas as well as communicate the relationship between them. Students will work with hands on materials to experience learning first hand to see tangible examples of each as well as seeing the process of changing states of matter.
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Coming up with safety words and terminology to use during lab as a class

Rationale for the Curriculum:
The assessment will be testing the first grade standards of the matter unit. The students will most likely be involved in several experiments supplemented by science journal entries to record their findings as well as use higher Bloom’s Taxonomy levels to synthesize and analyze their findings. Students will make connections between lessons as well as across science units or other disciplines as a result. Out of this unit the class will create a class project for the school science fair in mid-March. The class might also complete some worksheets throughout the unit to practice written examination formats for the final unit assessment.

The larger curricular aims are to build a foundational understanding in matter for these first graders. This is a topic in science that the students will revisit throughout the later grades. In second grade students are expected to learn the basic properties of each state of matter (solid, liquid, and gas), measure mass as well as volume for liquids and solids, in addition to understand the processes when objects change in phases of matter with the removal or addition of energy (VDOE Science Standards, 2010). In first grade, students should be exposed to basic ideas of these concepts as well as master the first grade standards in matter listed in the chart in order to best be prepared for the later grades. Furthermore, this unit will help the next science units be more understandable: force, motion, and energy as well as renewing earth’s resources. Students should start to view science as a discipline of application in their everyday life looking at familiar as well as unfamiliar objects that they discover how to observe and manipulate for scientific purposes.

As a teacher you may limit yourself to giving students exposure to representations of these items without giving them the opportunity to use hands on materials. Students need to see the changes in matter as well as the differences between states of matter themselves. When students can manipulate items, they can better investigate and fully characterize the differences between solids and liquids especially as well as gases, a concept that will further develop in second grade science. This will help with their comprehension of the material which is an important cognitive level for this unit according to the specific language used in the standards. This unit may also appear as simplistic with few ILO’s but as a teacher you need to make the most of your time while also best preparing your students so finding creative ways to bring in practical application is also important for this unit. This is not listed in unpacking the curriculum explicitly however application is an important Bloom’s Taxonomy level for this unit. Also do not limit yourself as a teacher to the item listed in the Virginia SOLS but rather treat them as a minimum and expose students to more materials during the unit.

Table of Specifications:

Intended Uses for Assessment

This test will be used to test several components of the science matter unit as well as inform instruction for other science units in the spring. The following purposes for the assessment will be addressed:
  1. Inform teacher about student learning in relation to the matter unit
  2. Gauge student literacy levels in a testing environment
  3. Inform the teacher what vocabulary students can recall related to the unit
  4. Inform the teacher how well the students could access the curriculum
  5. Discover common areas of misunderstanding
  6. Discover areas of common understanding
  7. Understand what test taking strategies students use
  8. Understand how explicit the teacher needs to be in the next unit
  9. Note which lessons were more effective or informative than others

Elements of Design

Reliability: The test is reliable because the directions are explicit so students should be able to follow them easily. The wording of the test is appropriate for the grade level and ability levels of the class. Additionally the questions rely on direct material covered in the class so systematic error is unlikely to occur with this assessment. Students may mix up terms that begin with the same letter but if they are confused about a term or word they are reading then they can raise their hand and ask me to answer their questions or concerns. The students may also be confused since there are so many different types of questions as well as parts of the test but the directions are laid out before every question. Additionally, I will be monitoring the class as an additional resource they are allowed to use on top of the images or displayed items.

Construct Validity: This test is constructed to test key terms the students should know by the end of this unit. The format is similar to worksheets so it parallels work done in labs and other classwork. This assessment also uses similar formats to other components of their school work such as essay writing (using best practices for self-editing and making quality sentences). Also the students have practiced multiple choice questions before after watching Brain Pop videos. Students have had to use matching skills in a variety of ways as well. The format of the assessment items should be something familiar to them and accurately test their knowledge as well as comprehension from the unit. There is a possibility that certain questions may confuse them but with the directions and myself reinforcing what to do, the students should be able to accomplish the appropriate tasks and answer the items correctly. I made sure to eliminate evidence that might give clues to other questions. The test items line up with the outlined requirements of the TOS balancing the material, type of questions, and cognitive level on the Bloom’s Taxonomy scale.

Content Validity: This assessment accurately tests the content from the curriculum covered as well as required by the SOLs for this unit. Many of the questions are pulled from class worksheets or labs that the students participated in during the unit. The vocabulary definitions are taken nearly word-for-word from lessons covered. The material tested on this assessment is well balanced and represents the instructional emphasis laid out in the TOS to direct the content to the SOLs but in a focused way with purpose and practical application.

Rationale for test items: Most of the items are self-created to personalize the material as well as the content for my intended class of students. The few that were chosen from peer sources incorporated ideas and assessment strategies that I thought would also be appropriate as well as beneficial for my class of students. A test of this capacity can seem a bit lengthy for students at a first grade level so mixing it up and including various ways for students is easier for students to accomplish and remain engaged.

Description of scoring and grading: The essay and coloring test item is the only area for flexible grading which is included below for the essay question. Every other test item only has one correct answer.

Assessment and Answer Key:

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Science Lab Experiments for Dissolving Materials in Water