assessment · checklists · COVID-19 · Google Forms · self-assessment · writing workshop

Three Quick Ways to Know How Students Are Doing

I’m not going to admit all of my pandemic purchases because not only might I be embarrassed, but also I can’t think of them all. A puppy? yes. New leggings? yes. A Peloton? yes.

When you start cycling classes on a Peloton, the instructors suggest “power zones.” At first, I didn’t know what they were talking about. Then, I suspected what they were talking about. Then, I agreed to the torture of an FTP test on the bike… and now I know my power zones.

I’m pretty motivated when it comes to the Peloton thing– more motivated than many students when it comes to writing– and the power zones, once you have them, are concrete and in front of you. They serve as a very clear guide and pathway for progress, even when I’m riding in front of a screen in my basement. How can I make progress pathways for young writers at home clearer for them? I’ve been working on a few ideas. Please know that all three of these ideas work whether you’re teaching live or in a DL model.

Ask Students For Low-Tech Self-Ratings

One practice I’ve been consistently using when I teach a group of writers is self-rating with fist to five. I emphasize honesty and the importance of self-reflection, and I ask students how they think it’s going. Depending on the time I ask for the rating, I change up the questions:

  • How ready do you feel to start writing?
  • How solid do you feel with this skill I just taught?
  • How productive did you feel in this writing session?

Students respond with their hands or in the chat. A fist is the lowest, and five fingers is the highest. This self-assessment is a quick measure that leads to clarification for some students, as well as small group formation for others.

A Shared Google Document to Track Progress

Necessity is the mother of inventions, and in one of the classes I’ve been working in, the teacher lamented that she had no idea what they were even doing. As a result, I created a “Table of Progress” for the class, and I asked them all to fill it in three times a week. At first, I was worried that they’d distract each other or they’d have a hard time finding their names. However, this system has been great. The fifth-graders have no problem being efficient and reflective. This table has served as an accountability measure, a self-assessment opportunity, and a way for students to shift into the mindset of writing. Sometimes when writers think about what they’ve done and write what their plans are, those plans get done.

A Checklist Made Into a Google Form

Again, necessity is the mother of invention, and report cards are looming. How do I really know what they can do? teachers are wondering. Leaning into John Hatties’ research in Visible Learning and the importance of self-assessment and self-grading in learning, I created digital versions of the writing checklists we use that are created by Lucy Calkins and her colleagues for the Writing Pathways and Writing Units of Study that are published by Heinemann. Here is a version of a third-grade information checklist put into the format of a google form. I’ve combined the checklist with other lessons I’ve taught the students, and I’ve prioritized the items; for those of you familiar with this checklist, you won’t see every item. What I’ve included is what I want to know from students as to their knowledge and comfort with information writing.

Admittedly, my Peloton power zones are clearer fitness pathways than any assessment I can think of to evaluate and determine the students’ writing progress, especially when the determinations are through screens and digital work. Inviting students into the evaluation process is helpful, and my hope is that one of these ideas will inspire you. As always, please feel free to share additional ideas!


10 thoughts on “Three Quick Ways to Know How Students Are Doing

  1. Thank you so much for these ideas! I especially want to try out your Google form idea. Would it be possible for you to share a copy that we could make a copy of? Right now I can just open it, but can’t make a copy.


  2. These resources are amazing, and I can’t wait to share these ideas with my colleagues. I especially love the idea of bringing the images in to Google forms as a checklist. Like you, I also use the “fist to five” rating, and I find it to be quite helpful. Of course, some of my whippersnappers always want to try and rate with a decimal, so it’s fun to watch them figure out their rating.


  3. Love this post. Totally connected with it. I am constantly thinking about how to gamify the process more for them. But I don’t know their games. This I could relate to and think through how I could that.


  4. This is valuable information and will be very helpful for the teachers that I work with. I was able to access the “Table of Progress” and this document seems very user friendly for everyone. I was unable to access the Third Grade Information Checklist. I wanted to see if you could adjust the settings on this document so we could access this – thank you so much!

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  5. Great post, Melanie! I like how you structured it (I honestly don’t know what a Peloton is, but I get the idea!) and appreciated the check-in ideas. By the way, I wasn’t able to access the linked checklist document.

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