As I began to research “How to start homeschooling” I was SURROUNDED with information. I found out about different styles of teaching, TOO many different curriculums and that everyone does this very differently.
I reached out to Zoie and asked her, ‘ How do I gauge where they are at academically?’. I wanted to be sure that I was current with what they knew so we could come up with a plan to educate them based on their needs and our family goals. Zoie, founder of Hoffman Tutoring Group wrote this guest blog so we could share how we began our ‘Home-Skoolied’ journey!
When I signed up for my undergrad teaching program many years ago, no one told me that a huge part of being a teacher is data collection. I guess I should’ve taken the statistics course on my schedule as a small sign.
Though sometimes our country can go a little too far with collecting data on student learning (ahem…boatloads of standardized tests), assessing where a child is academically can be extremely helpful for teachers and homeschoolers alike. Knowing where your child stands in a specific subject can give you a definite place to start with their instruction, and can let you know when your child may need an extra boost or academic intervention.
As a tutor, I’m always doing informal assessments with my students to get a better idea of where they are academically and what concepts they need assistance with. Just because an assessment is informal doesn’t mean that it’s not informative.
Try out the tips below for conducting informal assessments to learn where your child is performing in any subject:
- Don’t make it super stressful
You can assess your child while you’re comfortable on the couch, cooking dinner, or by asking questions during everyday activities. Don’t get stuck in thinking that assessments have to look like the paper and pencil tests you took in school.
Your child doesn’t even need to know that you’re testing to see where they’re at! Making your assessment fun and low pressure will also ensure your child’s performance isn’t stunted by anxiety or fear.
- Make a plan
The best thing to do when figuring out where your child is academically is to make a plan. Write down specifically what you want to know, such as, “ I need to know if my child is able to do basic arithmetic” or “I need to know if my child has basic comprehension when reading”. Next, make a plan for how you’re going to assess this skill. This plan can be as simple as a list of bullets or questions that will help you gain an understanding of exactly where your child is at. I’ve written an example of a plan for the comprehension assessment below.
- Read a story out loud and ask my child to answer questions about the text that will increase in difficulty (characters, what happened, setting, main idea, inferences about characters and events).
- Have my child read a different story on their own and then ask oral questions about the text that increase in difficulty.
- Start low and work your way up
Make sure to start at a point where your child will most likely be successful. This will probably be a task or question that you’ve seen them master before. Having your child start out on an “easy” item will help them start the assessment feeling confident and will give you a place to slowly build from.
Start easy and slowly increase the difficulty until your student isn’t able to complete the task or answer the question. This gives a very clear indication on where your child needs to improve.
- Record your findings and use them as a jumping off point
After the assessment, make sure to record your findings. Knowing where your child started will be helpful as you look back throughout the year to see if they’ve made progress. After recording, make a plan for how you will use your findings as a jumping off point. If you found that your child could answer basic questions about a text, but wasn’t able to answer deeper questions, start working on specific reading and thinking skills that will allow them to go deeper and get more out of their reading. If you found that your child is great with addition but struggles with subtraction, get out some manipulatives, games, or worksheets to practice this skill.
Assessment can help you know exactly what you need to work on with your child, and can often take some of the stress and guesswork out of instruction. Do you have a favorite way to gauge where your child is academically? I would love to hear in the comments!
Thanks, Zoie for the insight! To find out more about Zoie & Hoffman Tutoring Group be sure to check them out below.
Zoie is the founder and lead tutor at Hoffman Tutoring Group, an online tutoring company that serves students in K-8th grade. Her passion for personalized learning stems from her own experience as a struggling elementary school student. She dedicates her time to ensuring students get the education and mindset building they need to meet their academic goals by matching them with qualified tutors who plan sessions specifically for each child’s needs, personality, and learning style.