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Pre-assessment Ideas for the Language Arts Classroom

written by: Kellie Hayden • edited by: Donna Cosmato • updated: 3/2/2012

To not bore middle school students to tears with new reading and writing lessons, try these pre-assessment activities. These pre-assessments will help the lanuage arts teacher to begin at the correct level and to not repeat what has already been learned.

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    Pre-assessment Ideas for the Middle School Language Arts Classroom

    In the middle school language arts classroom, there are many standards and benchmarks. The basic standards or areas are reading and writing. To assess what students know before beginning a lesson will allow the teacher to know where to begin in the lesson. It also helps teachers to not repeat what students already know and bore them, again.

    Reading Pre-assessment Ideas

    For independent reading, it helps if students can be assessed of their reading level so that they can read books that are not too hard or too easy. Accelerated Reader (AR) is one leveled reader program that can help teacher assess the student's reading level and then the students can choose books in the library on their level. Study Island is another software program that can assess a student's reading level. This program is designed to help students be better test takers on the reading achievement tests. Study Island and AR are both programs that are completed on a computer with Internet access.

    Novel Pre-assessment Quiz

    For class novels, it is always good to pre-assess students' knowledge of the book's author, setting, and themes. Before beginning any novel, the teacher can give a quick oral quiz. The quiz can include the three following questions:

    1. What do you know about the author, ____________________________?

    2. Have you ever been to _______________________, which is the setting in the novel? What do you know about the setting?

    3. The theme in the novel is/are _____________________________________. What do you know about the theme(s) from previous books?

    Writing Pre-assessment Activity

    When teaching writing, teacher need to focus on many areas such as organizational structure, writing conventions, overall content, etc. Before planning lessons on writing structure and writing conventions, teachers can assess what students already know by completing the following descriptive writing activity. Students will need a box of colored pencils or markers to complete the rest of this activity.

    To pre-assess students' writing, ask them to write a complete paragraph that describes their school locker. Students must show their ability to use a comma, semi-colon, apostrophe, and period. Once the locker paragraph is complete, ask them to do the following:

    • Underline the topic sentence in blue
    • Underline the concluding sentence in red
    • Underline one detail sentence in yellow
    • Circle the proper use of a comma in purple
    • Circle the proper use of a semi-colon in orange
    • Circle the proper use of an apostrophe in black
    • Circle the proper use of a period in green
    • Make an arrow in blue to show the indent
    • Below the paragraph, write the number of sentences in the paragraph

    If students can correctly identify all of the bulleted items on the list and write at least four sentences in their paragraph, they show that they understand how to write a proper paragraph, and writing convention basics. Now, the teacher can move on to the more advanced issues of grammar and types of essays.

    These are just a few ways that teachers can pre-assess. The key is to make the pre-assessments simple and to consistently do it so that students are not bored and engaged in the lessons.