Amping up Agency Blog Series · assessment · self-assessment

Empowering Students with a Kid-Friendly Tool for Self-Assessment: Amping up Agency Blog Series

To many, taking time to reflect is not something they have the luxury of doing, yet to me, it is one of the cornerstones of our classroom, of our community, of our learning journey. Allowing time to think. Allowing time to process who we are as human beings and what our education is doing to us is indeed a luxury, but a necessary one. We do not want students who pass through our halls never stopping to think about the power of education to change them” ~ 

~ Pernille Ripp, in Larry Ferlazzo’s article ‘Student Reflection Needs to Be a Habit” Edweek, October 15, 2019

How do we teach students to self-reflect and self-assess? How do we help them be aware of what they are learning–all the things they are learning?

When students can articulate how they have grown as writers and can name the strategies they’ve used, we help see that they can do it again next time. Teaching students to self-assess intuitively makes sense. There is also a lot of research on the positive impact of self-assessment or what Hattie calls student expectations (originally named “self-reported grades but no longer). In fact it has the biggest positive impact of all, according to Hattie’s research, with a whopping 1.44 effect size. Effect size tells you the relationship between the groups who experienced self-assessment, and those who did not. An effect size of 0.8 is considered significant.

We know that self-assessment has a significant impact on learning. A sliding scale “Rate Yourself” tool provides visual support and allows students to physically place a sticker or post-it on the scale.

Be mindful about introducing any self-assessment tool slowly and cautiously. There may be students who experience severe criticism in other parts of the life, and might find this activity extremely stressful. They may or may not display this feeling overtly – many kids hold this stress inside, while appearing “just fine” on the outside.

With every “Rate Yourself” prompt, you’ll want to consider the social-emotional readiness for this activity. There may be some students who will feel uncomfortable about publicly placing their sticker on a scale–even without their name attached. You can always prompt students to do this privately with individual copies, or gather their responses and display them (anonymously) the following day.

After time has been spent building a safe and supportive community, and students are ready for whole class reflections, I pose a question or a prompt generated from my observations and notes.

For example: “I can write for the ENTIRE writing workshop.”

On one end of the scale might be “never” and on the other “always” and each student places a post-it or a sticker anywhere on the line to represent how close to “never” or “always” they believe their work to be.


On the whiteboard, kids can add a dot to the scale to show where they are.

You can color code the dots or post-its for more visual support – maybe a red dot for always, a green dot for sometimes, and a yellow dot for never.

Once all the stickers are on display, you can use a few questions to prompt a class discussion on this information. For example:

This might be a written reflection, or perhaps students turn and talk to a neighbor, or have a whole class conversation about their next steps with their thoughts recorded on chart paper.

Some other prompts you might use, for each part of the workshop routine:

You might also generate questions based on the minilesson you taught that day, or how they feel about the plans you have for the next day’s minilesson.

You might also asked your students what questions they might ask about the independent writing time – especially if the routine of a “Rate Yourself” tool is familiar.

Strong partner work is taught explicitly – in minilessons, partner conferences, general coach and reminders — and lots of modeling. Writing partners are key to teaching students one of the most important parts of writing – having an audience. Additionally, partner work provides a context for the other most important parts of classroom work that cut across all content areas, and life: developing relationships, listening and speaking effectively, and executive functioning (working memory, flexible thinking, self-regulation).

I’ve moved away from calling the final part of the workshop a “Share” and instead I name it “Reflection and Goal Setting.” Knowing that self-assessment has such a high impact on student learning, making it a daily routine makes room to use a range of tools for students to practice this and make it a habit in writing workshop — and in life.

This post focuses on a sliding scale as one tool for self-assessment, but there are many other tools:

  • Quick writes, students writing short written reflections
  • Student-created checklists of what to look for in their writing (based on teacher-created checklists and anchor charts)
  • Mini-progressions where a skill is divided into three or four categories and students place themselves where they believe themselves to be (Example: Category 1) I used dialogue, Category 2) I used dialogue to show how a character feels Category 3)The dialogue in my stories matches the different character’s personalities)
  • Sorting their own work into beginning, improved, and best/favorite pieces of wriring
  • And so many more

Being a Reflective Practitioner

One the most important things you can do is to be a reflective practitioner, sharing your own reflections on how the year of writing has gone so far. You can start by reflecting alongside your students. As you think back across the year, to each unit of study, each type of writing you taught: What patterns emerge? What seem to be the common threads? Was there a recurring success, mistake, issue, or highlight? What can you do to make the successes and highlights happen more often? What can you do differently to avoid repeating the same mistakes and issues?

My own current writing workshop goal? To make sure to leave five or ten minutes every time I’m teaching writing for the reflecting and goal setting time!

Here are several more resources on self-reflection and self-assessment:


Throughout the week, we’d love to hear your thoughts. We even have a book giveaway for those of you who share comments! 

  • This giveaway is for a copy of Engaging Literate Minds: Developing Children’s Social, Emotional, and Intellectual Lives, K–3 by Peter H. Johnston, Kathy Champeau, Andrea Hartwig, Sarah Helmer, Merry Komar, Tara Krueger, and Laurie McCarthy. Many thanks to Stenhouse Publishers for donating a copy for one reader.
  • For a chance to win this copy of Engaging Literate Minds, please comment on any of our blog series posts by Noon EST on Sunday, February 12. Leah Koch will use a random number generator to pick the winner whose name will be announced in the blog series wrap-up post on Monday, February 13. You must have a U.S. mailing address to enter the giveaway.
  • Please be sure to leave a valid e-mail address when you post your comment, so Leah can contact you to obtain your mailing address if you win. From there, our contact at Stenhouse will ship the book to you. 
  • If you are the book winner, Leah will email you the subject line of TWO WRITING TEACHERS – AMPING UP AGENCY BLOG SERIES. Please respond to her e-mail with your mailing address within five days of receipt. Unfortunately, a new winner will be chosen if a response isn’t received within five days of the giveaway announcement.

3 thoughts on “Empowering Students with a Kid-Friendly Tool for Self-Assessment: Amping up Agency Blog Series

  1. I’ve saved this post as a resource for myself and hopefully my team. So many ideas verbalized that I hadn’t had the opportunity to flesh out when I saw a need in my classroom. Thank you for this.


  2. Reflecting as the practitioner is so important. It is especially important to focus on what went well and why. The prompts that you listed will be very helpful.


  3. I’m especially intrigued by the sliding scale with follow-up questions. This is a great post that has me reflecting and envisioning opportunities for growth in my practice and in my classroom. Thanks!


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