Using Pretests to Inform your Instruction

3:22 PM

Pretests. “Why bother?”

That was my first thought when my math coach told us during preplanning that we’d be using them all year. What’s the point of one more assessment? Even after she explained how we’d use them as pretests AND posttests, I was still skeptical. Then the year began, and we jumped into our first math unit. Day one, pretest. Short, sweet, and to the point. Ten questions (for easy grading). Use the data from the pretests to make your small groups. Boom, immediate feedback that informs instruction. If you’re already doing this, way to go you!! I could never have anticipated how easy pretest implementation would be and how informative the data would be! 

In creating pretests, we look at the unit’s standards and create questions to address each one. A pretest question should address mastery of the standard. When writing a pretest question, ask yourself, “What should students be able to do to show mastery of this standard?” The same question that you would put on a posttest should go on a pretest. For standards that are more involved, we include multiple questions to address it. 

This is a 3rd grade Number & Operations in Base Ten standard. 

Fluently add and subtract within 1000 using strategies and algorithms based on place value, properties of operations, and/or the relationship between addition and subtraction.

There are a lot of expectations packed into that one sentence! Common Core Math Standards do introduce the idea of adding and subtracting using models and properties in second grade. But we all know that many topics need to be reintroduced and retaught anyway-a pretest can help you know exactly which areas to focus on! 

Here is an example of the first page of a pretest to address this 3rd grade NBT standard. Students might guess their way through the whole thing or they might ace it. Either way, you as a teacher can start from a more informed position.

Especially as we move into more unknowns than knowns this year, consider trying pretests to inform your instruction. Try them in one subject to dip your toe in and see how they work for you. Give yourself time to monitor and adjust your pretests as the year goes on. And remember, if you already have a posttest, give the same one as a pretest! You’ll be amazed at how much information pretests can give! 

by Robyn from The Snodgrass Smart Store

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