This was the first time I gave a pre-assessment. In the past I didn’t gave much thought to prerequisite skills and understanding. By giving a pre-assessment, I forced myself to consider what students needed to know to learn the new material. I also sent students the message that I was serious about helping them be successful, and not just blindly following some curriculum.

Following the pre-assessment I collected student work and used the document camera at the front of the room to briefly flip through student responses. It’s important that this process is anonymous, as the point is to display the range of ideas and not single out students for their mistakes. The teacher may also want to slip in his or her own work to make a particular point (whether it’s a common misunderstanding, a correct solution, or a controversial answer). For example, this student’s solution prompted an interesting discussion.

After giving a pre-assessment it’s important to put the data to use. I found that students had a lot of trouble multiplying decimals and converting between fractions, decimals, and percents. So I planned a station activity the next day where students could practice two skills. Each station was led by a teacher or pair of students who had demonstrated mastery of that particular skill. In this particular instance I allowed students to decide which skill to practice, but you could also assign groups.